My grandmother once told her neighbor the following story: She was on a train during the war, and a woman was seated across from her. After staring her down for a few minutes, the woman said, “I know you! You’re a Jew. When the Germans come, I’m going to tell them you are Jewish.” My grandmother arose from her seat, walked the length of the train, and found German soldiers checking IDs. “There’s a Jewish girl in my car,” she told them, referring to the seat mate who had just threatened to turn her in. My grandmother described the woman, told the Germans where to find her, and exited the train at the next stop.
It’s an amazing story — if it was true. My grandmother survived the war working on a farm and, later, in the woods with the partisans. It’s not clear when she would have been on a train alone interacting with German soldiers. She once told us that after the war she had an incident on a train with Russian soldiers, whereby she pretended to be Russian so they would leave her alone. Did she conflate the two stories? Did the German incident happen to someone else? Or were there entire chapters to my grandmother’s story that we knew nothing about? We never found out.