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Charlotte was offered the opportunity to come to the United States to study mental health treatment centers and new therapeutic disciplines, including art, dance and drama therapy, and to aid a group of French doctors who planned to build a treatment center outside Paris, modeled on the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kan. She boarded the shop the Ile de France and headed toward New York. The lengthy and rough trip caused many to become ill; however, she and a few others weathered it well. Among her companions were Ernest Hemingway and the folk singer Josh White.
“You want a screwdriver?” Hemingway asked her. She had no idea what it was!
“A Bloody Mary?” A strange name to this young Resistance fighter!
“We had a wonderful few days together,” she said.
Joseph Noshpitz and Charlotte Sorkine met at the Menninger Clinic. They eventually married in Paris. When it came time for him to say, “I do,” a chorus of her Resistance compatriots, concerned that his French was not sufficient, chimed in, “Oui, Monsieur le Maire!”
“I married them all!” Charlotte Sorkine Noshpitz told me.
Now in her 88th year, Charlotte Sorkine Noshpitz carries with her the knowledge of how one makes the decision to take action when human beings step across the line in their treatment of one another, and she reminds us of our own obligation to stop injustice when we are aware of it.
“What kind of a tree do you want to be when you die?” Charlotte asks me. “A rosebush? There is no conclusion. It is a circle. It will start again. Always there will be people who do these things. No end. As in Vietnam, young people were taught to be aggressive. The military teaches the young. Look at today. We are still doing it today. We must transmit to our children, not by example, not directly, but to mold character, the role of a grown-up. I will evaporate one day. Floating around like waves and clouds over the houses. All my world. You will see me. Like a Chagall. That’s my conclusion.”
Myra Sklarew is emerita professor of literature at American University. From 1987 to 1991 she served as president of the Yaddo artists community, and in 1977 she won the National Jewish Book Award for poetry. She is the author of the forthcoming “A Survivor Named Trauma: Holocaust and the Construction of Memory“ (SUNY Press).