Obviously that’s not possible,” she replies.
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
I focus my attention on the road. “The German people have paid billions of dollars of reparations. To individuals. To Israel. But you know what? It’s been nearly seventy years and they’ve never held a public forum to apologize to Jews for the crimes of the Holocaust. It’s happened elsewhere—South Africa, for example. But the Germans? They had to be dragged by the Allies into the Nuremberg Trials. Officials who had helped build the Third Reich stayed on in government after the war, just by denying they were ever Nazis, and the German people accepted it. Young people today in Germany who are taught about the Holocaust brush it off, saying it’s ancient history. So, no, I don’t think you can forgive Josef Weber. I don’t think you can forgive anyone who was involved. I think you can only hold them accountable, and try to look their children and grandchildren in the eye without blaming them for what their ancestors did.”
Sage shakes her head. “Surely there were some Germans who were better than others, some who didn’t want to go along with what Hitler said. If you can’t see them as individuals—if you can’t forgive the ones who ask for it—doesn’t that make you just as bad as any Nazi?”
“No,” I admit. “It makes me human.”
• • •
Minka Singer is a tiny woman with the same snapping blue eyes as her granddaughter. She lives in a small assisted-living condo and has a part-time caretaker who moves like a shadow around her employer, handing her reading glasses and her cane and a sweater before she can seemingly even think to ask for them. Contrary to what Sage indicated, she is absolutely thrilled to be introduced to me.
“So tell me again,” she says, as we settle on the couch in her living room. “Where did you meet my granddaughter?”
Through work,” I answer carefully.
“Then you know how she bakes, yes? A person could get used to that kind of food all the time.”
You’d have to have a lifetime deal with Jenny Craig,” I reply, and then I realize why Minka has been so happy to meet me. She wants me to date her granddaughter.
I’m not gonna lie: the thought of that makes me feel like I’ve been zapped by a bolt of electricity.
“Grandma,” Sage interrupts. “Leo didn’t come all this way to talk about my bread.”
“You know what my father used to say? True love is like bread. It needs the right ingredients, a little heat, and some magic to rise.”
Sage turns beet red. I cough into my hand. “Ms. Singer, I’ve come here today because I’m hoping you’ll tell me your story.”
“Ach, Sage, that was meant for your eyes only! The silly fairy tale of a young girl, that’s all.”