- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2000

It occurred to me just before I began writing this column that for the rest of my life I will look at a certain photograph given to me a few weeks ago.

Every day I will look at it, as I do now, when I am in the room where I work. The picture is on the third bookshelf from the bottom, just to the left of my computer. Every day, I think, I will also look at the picture when I am away from New York, or even from the country. I will grasp and embrace the picture in my mind as I do the one on the shelf totally, not with just a glance.

The picture will continue to lighten and lift my soul with the realization that the 17 children in the photograph were each conceived, born, and joyously given a place on Earth, to affirm the right of life for them, and for other children, all those from whom life had been taken in evil denial, all the children murdered during the Holocaust.

I am taking the picture off the shelf, for a moment or two, to bring the faces closer. In the back row is Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat, the only Holocaust survivor in Congress.

Two sons-in-law flank him, one is Richard Swett, U.S. ambassador to Denmark, husband of Katrina Swett, and father to their seven children. Also in the men's row is Timberland Dick, an inventor, husband to Annette Tillemann-Dick. His wife says her favorite invention is his children's auto seat that turns easily into a stroller, no small thing for a family of 10 children; they are the Denver branch.

Tom's wife, Annette Tillemann, and their two daughters are seated in the middle row, each with a small person on her lap. The daughters look about 20 years old, maybe a couple of years older; the mother looks about 28, maybe a couple of years younger. Standing and sitting around them on a hill in Colorado is a bouquet of happy living human beings, from 21 to three; all lovely as the day is long. The Colorado branch children have hyphenated last names their father's and their grandmother's, Tillemann.

Among the Tillemann-Dick children: Tomicah just got his Yale degree, Kimber Rainbow is on to Oxford. Levi is at Yale, Chelsea Britanya at Stanford, and so on like that.

Swett children: Sebastian and Chanteclair Esprit are deep into Danish, Keaton Parkhurst is a gifted pianist, Atticus Omega deep in Harry Potter, and Zenith Wisdom into computer studies at the age of 3. Mr. Lantos is a Hungarian-born Jew, swept up for labor camps by the Germans. He escaped and found refuge in a Budapest building protected by the diplomatic standing of the great Swedish savior of refugees, Raoul Wallenberg. When the Allies won, young Tom Lantos found his immediate family had been killed but his sweetheart Annette was alive and in Switzerland. In August, they will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

I met Mr. Lantos a decade or so ago, when I was hunting around for human-rights supporters in Congress. On one issue Mr. Lantos and I disagreed, and as I recall his wife supported my side. I was right, but I forget about what.

We were talking, as usual, about human rights when we left lunch at the official residence of Richard Holbrooke, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. At the corner, Mr. Lantos reached into his briefcase and showed me the picture of his family. He told me the reason for the large families: the daughters wanted to put on Earth as many children as they could, because so many more had been annihilated by the Nazis. On the corner, I asked Tom Lantos if I could have the picture, forever. I have no sense of humor about the Holocaust and disliked the comedy in an Italian movie about the Holocaust. There were no jokes at Auschwitz. I see no good, none, that came out of what the Germans wrought, only evil.

The photograph did not change that. But when I talked to Annette Tillemann-Dick, the one with the 10 children, she told me she and her sister wanted to give a gift to their parents by "rekindling a light" for the murdered children; I felt the gift was for me too. When I look at the picture I remembered what the Germans had wanted mankind to forget: Jews are not meant for tears and death but laughter and life, just like the rest of the world.

A.M. Rosenthal, the former executive editor of the New York Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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