The old man frequently had too much to drink. But I was happy to indulge him for he was the most absolute gentleman. His eyes widened as he recounted to me fantastic stories of World War II when he was a child. Stories of strife, courage, raw with the full range of human insouciance and indifference. Accounts told to me first hand from someone who actually was there and lived to tell about it. I eagerly listened, giving my full attention. Salivating at every morsel he uttered. His stories seemed more like fables or fairy tales rather than historical events and personal accounts of someone’s life.
I ordered another round of beers.
It occurred to me that those of his generation who lived through that turbulent time would not be around too much longer to retell these experiences. Most people outside of the Netherlands are familiar with the story of gentle Anne Frank and the horrendous conditions under which she lived. And ultimately died. But living in Amsterdam you come to understand that there were so many Anne Franks. Millions of them with their own stories of human tragedy and cruelty. Not only in the Netherlands but all across Europe. I was privy to receive these stories and deeply honored the old man entrusted me with them. This was the gift he gave to me for the price of a beer. And for that I am eternally grateful. It is a debt I can never repay.~ZT, From My Amsterdam