A look back: life in the ghettos of Europe

Your grandfather was limping. I was completely shocked by this startling piece of information that I heard one day from my Aunt Gisella while sitting in her apartment at 3600 North Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.

It was around 1998 and Aunt Gisella (my mother’s older sister) was in her 90s. As usual, she was sitting in front of the panoramic window of her 17th-floor apartment overlooking Chicago’s Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan. And, as usual, his hands were full. He could no longer create wonders with his knitting needles, crochet or scissors and thread as he had done all his life. His hands and fingers were now crooked from arthritis and his eyesight was poor.

But this did not stop her. He simply switched to larger needles, thicker threads, and patterns that allowed him to create beautiful Afghan quilts and blankets that he gifted to family members and that remain prized possessions in different households today.

In all the years that I had talked to my parents and other family members about my grandfather, the fact that he had a pronounced limp was never mentioned. “Yes, my father was limping,” Uncle Alfred, his youngest son, confirmed years later when I asked him. To my surprise, Alfred couldn’t tell me why.

Alfred ‘Aharon’ Ticho: the youngest of 11 children born to the grandfather of writer Itzchak Zvi Ticho (credit: Ticho family file)

Alfred continued: “We had too much respect for our father to question him on this matter. He limped, and that was it. It could have been a childhood deformity, an injury (don’t forget, a broken bone in those days without X-rays was a major problem), or actually it could have been a self-inflicted wound to avoid service in the Austrian Army during the war. 1866. We just never talked about it, we didn’t even mention it. “

Ignatz Zvi Ticho, my paternal grandfather, born in 1846, was 20 years old when the war between Prussia and Austria broke out and was undoubtedly a candidate for the army. A limp would excuse him from serving. Also, many Jews opposed the German military forces in this war.

At one point, a German army officer asked Ignaz’s friend, Mr. Vogel, the secretary of the Jewish community in Boskovice: “What is the road to Kunstat?” Vogel proudly replied: “I will not help our enemy. Find your own way. “

“Very well,” the officer ordered, “now you will travel with us until we get there, and then you can walk back home.” Vogel stubbornly stayed in position and spent three days walking home. From then on, the Czechs, as well as the Jews of Boskovice, considered Vogel a patriot and a hero.

THE 13 living children of Ignatz Ticho treated their father and mother with the utmost respect. They spoke German at home, and when they addressed their parents they never used the familiar form du, but always addressed them in the honorific form sie in the third person.

Even Dr. Isidor Reiniger, who had married Sarah, the eldest of the children, and who was familiar with the cause of his father-in-law’s lameness, never spoke of it. He didn’t even discuss it when I asked him, decades after Ignaz passed away.

The children also respected their father’s wish not to be photographed. However, during a spa visit with her sister Nettie, she sat on a park bench and rested her eyes as she read and wore a cap as usual. Aunt Nettie got a street photographer to take a picture of him while he was in this pose.

Years later, the family hired the artist Gustave Boehm to make a drawing of Ignatz based on this photograph. Boehm selected Victor, from among Ignatz’s 11 children, as the most suitable model to sit in his place, so that he could replace closed eyes with open ones. This portrait, and another of his wife Laura (Esther), and the many copies are in the hands of family members; they are the only photographs that have been taken of my paternal grandparents.

The Ticho house in Boskovice was an enlightened Orthodox Jewish home. The kitchen was kosher, Saturdays were strictly observed, Ignatz always had his head covered, and the holidays were important events in the family’s life. (My father, Nathan, could recite all the daily prayers in Hebrew by heart.)

Ignaz’s father Abraham (my great-grandfather) was the dayan (assistant rabbi) of the congregation, and Laura Baer’s father was the Holesov Rabbi. Children were raised in this atmosphere of Jewish learning and traditions, and at the same time exposed to the outside world in their dealings with non-Jews in commerce and in everyday contact.

The life of the Ticho family centered on house number 56 and house 18 on U Templu street (“near the temple”) 10, which the Ticho family shared with the Fuchs family. The Fuchs family lived in that house when my great-grandfather Abraham Ticho first married Esther (Rezi) Fuchs.

Mr. Fuchs was the shame (caretaker) of the synagogue. One of his tasks was to visit Jewish families and offer aliyot (recitations of the Torah) for “sale” for each service. The proceeds from these donations paid for the upkeep of the synagogue, as well as Fuchs’s salary and the salaries of the rabbi and cantor.

Contributions were voluntary, but certain minimums were generally suggested. These often changed according to the economic level of the individual approached, as well as the current needs of the congregation. The price of these honors increased from time to time, and when Fuchs was asked who decided the price increases, his short answer was often, “I held a meeting with myself.”

BOSKOVICE, a respectable and prestigious city in the Czech Republic, prided itself on the way religious services were conducted. However, after an addition to the synagogue was completed, the community invited the cantor from the synagogue of Brno, the second largest city in the country, to come to Boskovice and officiate during the festive and joyous inauguration of the completed and expanded temple. .

After the services, a large crowd remained around the building and many commented on the beautiful performance and voice of the imported Brno singer.

These comments, overheard by the local singer, turned into a great irritation that eventually caused the injured local singer to burst out saying: “Do you have any idea how much we paid the singer from Brno to sing here tonight? If I got that salary, I too could sing as well as him! ”


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