As I was preparing to write another blog post, I received the sad news of the passing of my French cousin, André Zarembowitch. This is a matter of importance only to myself and of course to his family in Paris but I would like to take a few moments to say something about André. The Zarembowitch clan came to Paris from Sulwaki, a small town in northeast Poland, in the latter part of the 19th century, moving as I understand it to escape a famine. My great grandfather, Abram Zarembowitch, decided to leave Paris and emigrate to the United States with his wife and one-year-old son Barnet. An unsympathetic immigration official at Castle Garden in New York changed the name to Wolff, and with that name change the American branch of the family lost touch with their Parisian relatives. After my father’s death, during a trip that Susie and I took to Paris, I looked through the Paris phone book and found a listing for André and Jacqueline Zarembowitch. Once we had our Paris apartment, I got up the courage to write to them and during our next visit invited them to our apartment. It turned out that my great grandfather and André’s grandfather had been brothers so that we were indeed related. My Paris cousins were both retired science professors living in the 13th arrondissement. Our meeting began with a bit of tension because my cousins, it turned out, were both people of the left and they were fearful that their new American relatives were Reaganites, but when it turned out that I was if anything farther to the left than they, we became good friends. Over a period of years, when we went to Paris we would have dinner with André and Jacqueline. As I recall, I only put my foot in my mouth once when I asked rather ignorantly whether they had graduated from the Sorbonne. With exquisite grace, they indicated that they had both gone to one of les grandes écoles, as the elite institutions of higher education are called in France.
It was through André that I learned that 30 of my relatives died in Auschwitz, a fact that had been completely lost to my parents and perhaps even to my grandparents.
André was a sweet, humorous, charming man and Susie and I will miss him. He was 89 years old, two years older than I.