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Chapter One

from And the Shark, He Has Teeth

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 September 2018

Benjamin Bloch
Affiliation:
Oberlin College
Marc Silberman
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin
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Summary

I was born at the end of last century in Beuthen, Upper Silesia, in the Bahnhofstrasse, where the first grenades of the Second World War fell, according to military reports. From my early childhood I remember this single incident: I was jumping on my parents’ bed, and I came down on one of the edges with my nose. I buried my face in a pillow. When I lifted my head, I saw a bloodstain. I tried it again, touched my head lightly here and there on the white pillowcase, saw several bloodstains, was struck with revulsion, and began to cry. Since then, blood has always terrified me.

Probably with the idea of overcoming this fear, I once went to the slaughterhouse and watched as a cow was hit with a hammer and stabbed to death. Horrified, I dropped my Gaius Julius Caesar (I was carrying my schoolbooks under my arm) in a puddle of blood. I fi shed it out quickly; the fear that I'd ruined a schoolbook was greater than the disgust. I washed it off at a fountain, and, as all schoolbooks at that time were wrapped in blue wax paper, I replaced the cover at home.

When I was four years old, we moved to the neighboring town of Gleiwitz. Two more brothers were born there. Each birth was connected with the appearance of another wet nurse. The wet nurses came from the country and were dressed in peasant clothing. They wore several skirts one on top of the other, with long jackets over them, buttoned in front, three-quarters length in bright calico. On Sundays their jackets were silk, trimmed with a hand's breadth of lace at the bottom. The wet nurses were young and buxom. One often saw them drinking large quantities of milk and malt beer, a practice required for the increase of their milk. Their smell was sweet and womanly. They stayed and nursed the infants from three to six months, and came to each of the children's birthdays afterwards, where they received a gift of a gold piece. My wet nurse's name was Valeska Kroker. With her earnings she bought herself gold eyeteeth.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2018

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