In the Zabar’s café on 80th St., beneath signs for knish and pastrami, a young Brazilian tourist wipes tears from her eyes as she poses for a selfie on her iPad with Paula Weissman, who is 87. “Thank you,” she says, rising to leave and placing a hand on Weissman’s sloping shoulder.
Every Saturday and Sunday, Weissman walks the three blocks from her house to Zabar’s and sits for hours, sipping through a plastic straw on hot coffee with milk and copious packets of sugar. “You’re English?” she says, overhearing a stranger’s accent. “I remember when the English soldiers liberated us from the camp. Their little red berets…”
In the 60 years she has lived in New York, 30 of which she spent working as a waitress at the kosher restaurant Fine & Shapiro, Weissman says she never spoke of her past—of losing her entire family to the Holocaust, or the time she spent in Auschwitz. “People would say, ‘Oh, you have an accent,’” she recalled. “I says, ‘Yeah, I’m European.’ That’s it. I didn’t want their pity.”
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