Until I end my ink-on-the-fingers daily newspaper subscription in favor of purely online news (save Sunday, which calls for feet on ottoman, cat asleep on ankles, chocolate chip bagel from Einstein’s and hours spent perusing), my morning ritual is to scan page one while coffee percolates. An AP piece made the front page of my Denver daily.
A girl tossed an apple a day to a prisoner of Nazis. Years after the war, they met again.
In the few paragraphs I skimmed, a story unfolded of a teenage boy held in a concentration camp in Nazi-controlled Germany. A somewhat younger girl, living outside the camp with family, hiding true identities, would throw an apple to him each day over the barb-wire fence. This went on for months. They never spoke, only said quick goodbyes, but would meet again.
Just aches Spielberg project with Dakota Fanning in the lead, yes?
I pulled the section and set it aside to finish the article later, but the gist stayed with me through a full work day, hour of spinning and late dinner. That apple. That simple act. How often does someone throw you an apple over the fence? How often do you throw first? When Molly Ringwald’s Claire asked basket case Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy), “What do your parents do to you?” and she replied “They ignore me,” she got an apple. The apple analogy I couldn’t shake all day.
After dinner, I returned to the story to flesh out details. I believed the tale would find that teenage boy and somewhat younger girl connecting years later, perhaps found online or via archives, now cherished friends bound by a story of survival and human kindness. Turns out that boy meet up with that girl a decade later and a continent away, on a blind date no less. Neither realized they’d meet before. During casual dinner conversation it was revealed.
She spoke of a boy she would visit, of the apples she would bring, how he was sent away. And then, the words that would change their lives forever: "That was me," he said.
Marriage was proposed that night. Two months later she accepted. Herman and Roma Rosenblat have been married 50 years and their story has inspired a children's book and film plans (hope Fanning hasn’t budded into wondrous female adulthood just yet).
It all seems too remarkable to be believed. Rosenblat insists it is all true.
I want to believe it’s 100%, solidly, love is a many splendored thing true. Epic, sometimes seemingly unbelievable stories are often born as quiet folklore to soften hard blows and allow us to believe good endures under the shroud of bad.
Michael Berenbaum, Holocaust scholar, has read Rosenblatt's memoir and sees no reason to question it; "I wasn't born then so I can't say I was an eyewitness. But it's credible. Crazier things have happened."
And you know, true or imagined or embellished by time, the apple analogy I couldn’t shake all day.