Ham Enters The Soul in Pre-War Germany

Yoni Ploni // Arizona

I was a child in a large town in Germany before the Second World War, when the cloud of danger for us Jews was rapidly descending. My family was an average Jewish family, observant of kosher laws and the Sabbath and holidays, but we were not fanatic; we lead a normal life. My grandfather from Poland lived with us. He was the religious one in the family, and everyone tried to avoid displeasing him with deviations from religious observance.

I was a five-year-old skinny boy who was not thriving, despite being fed vast quantities of good food by a worried mother. One day, my desperate mother called me into the bedroom. In her hands was a small package of greasy paper. She unfolded it, revealing a small supply of a food I did not recognize, though soon learned was a pink and fragrant sliced ham.

“The doctor said it will be good for you, the fat will make you grow,” my mother said to me. “Only don’t tell your grandfather.”

I sensed this was forbidden food, but I took a taste to please her. It was delicious! I finished all the slices, and Mom and I now shared a special secret. I have always been convinced that this delicious snack was at the root of all my future rebellions against the rabbis and the rules and the obsessions of Judaism. But I never ate ham since then. Some vaccinations don’t always take.

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