I would not be

I would not be had I not not I I too but not even at all if.

I would not be only not I I too I would not be. I am because. I am I too I because if.


I would not be if my mother had not met my father I naturally by the nature of things would not be iIwould not be.


my mother from Paris take flight flee must my mother refugee. my mother daughter sister and her younger sister brother from Paris to the south must flee. my mother put by her parents my grandparents in panic on a child refugee transport on a child train in panic from Paris to south of france in panic at the german enemies their own children alone on a child refugee transport to the south to an uncle in panic. my mother eldest daughter alone for her sister brother must care my mother with her sister brother swiss refugees in child refugee transport. my mother born grew up in Paris panic at the enemies germans my mother foreigner swiss girl. in panic my grandparents put their children in panic their own foreign children only children on the child train to south of france in panic.


I would not be if my grandparents had not in panic sent their children in panic to the south panic. I would not be if my mother not been my mother. if she daughter sister niece had not been sent to south of france panic sent freighted transported to an uncle to a farmer to southern france I would not be.


my mother takes high school diploma teaches child refugees earns a little money draws paints makes music swims in the sea happy the young woman in war in southern france at her uncle’s. but but I would not be if my mother had not should had to go back to Switzerland for family reunion as Swiss girl back must as daughter sister must ought as foreign swiss girl from France back to Switzerland so-called home suddenly. live in Basel as refugees or suchlike or how or so as swiss refugees in Switzerland in Basel in mid-war not much money. my mother daughter sister has to work so that her only son can should must study in Switzerland. my mother becomes a secretary in my father’s business.


I would not be.


I would not be if my grandmother my father’s mother had not said in 1933:

—either Hitler or me!—

and has to take flight flee with her sons from Germany to Switzerland not to the USA my father son much prefer flee to the USA want much much more to the USA but no surety so Switzerland so flee must should to Switzerland and transfer the firm in tiny little bits etc or so or howsoever to Switzerland. to have should let be assigned in Switzerland as stateless german with J passport to that city that still has no antiques dealer. Basel then here in Basel friends of my father’s friends found a firm so that my grandmother + her sons here in Basel fled here can stay here with their firm here during the war here in Basel precarious due to refugee status precarious but all the same. very precarious above all in 1941 but to be able to be here able to live here in Basel able to do even a little business modest but all the same.


I would not be if my father boss of the firm not had my mother employed i would not be. I would not be if my father, boss, married, had not fallen in love with my mother, secretary. he courted her for a very long time a very very long long time. there was someone else, he was married. she my mother was not a jew he my father a jew had a jewish wife. she my mother young woman wanted to become an artist a musician, he wanted to start a family children without fail I would not be I would not be.


after the war my grandparents back to Paris my mother daughter artist in Paris want to be after the war maybe artist maybe musician in Paris want to be but but but my mother my father now love now want to have now want to marry.


I would not be if my father not divorce and not want should marry his beloved my father my mother both now want start family have children in the nature of things naturally iI am I too I and also not I because if.



miriam cahn     Palü 2015

(Translated from German by Christopher Jenkin-Jones)