by Yael Perlman
I do not wish to spend these next few minutes addressing coldblooded killers that are beneath our contempt and undeserving of receiving even one second of our attention. Since I am sure that my father is here with us today, I would like to address my father, Israel Asher Greenwald, a man who truly deserves attention after 20 years.
Daddy, when I think of you, I am not thinking as an adult, but rather as a little girl of 7, who was thrown into the absolute terror of her father being missing and is desperately waiting for her daddy.
Since your body was missing, Mommy could never bring herself to tell us that you were most likely dead. During those horrible, empty years, I prayed constantly and desperately for my daddy to come home to me. As we got older, we realized that you would not be coming home. After 20 years, we finally know the truth, and there is still so much pain and words that need to be said.
This evil crime robbed us of our right to a lifetime of memories with you. My dreams and memories of you were so cruelly stopped short on that day you were taken from us. But the few memories that I do still keep from my childhood, are and always will be crystal clear and permanently engraved in my heart and soul.
I remember Friday nights with you, sitting on your lap at the dinner table.
I remember the pet name you used to call me that meant “little squirrel” in Hungarian.
I remember the comfort I took for granted of having a father coming home from work every day and tucking me into bed at nights.
But one memory is the most vivid:
The night before you were so viciously kidnapped and murdered, you had spent it with me, staying up the entire night because I had a bad case of the flu. I remember your tenderness and reassurance.
I ALSO know that you called the next day – the day you were killed! – to ask how I was feeling.
And your long and secure hug to Michal on that same morning, has had to last her for the rest of her life.
These final acts of your devotion, will always mean everything to us.
Now that we are adults in our early thirties, about the same age as you were, when you were murdered 23 years ago, with families of our own – we are finally able to start understanding the torture and agony that you were put through.
Daddy, I cannot even bring myself to imagine the anguish that you must have felt in your final moments of life, when you were kneeling in front of your murderers, these convicts in this court, with a plastic bag over your head, tied with your own tie! Although it may not have taken long for them to kill you, it was long enough for you to comprehend the everlasting impact your death would have on your beloved family.
Your heart must have been screaming out from under that plastic bag, “My children! My children! My wife! My parents!”
It was long enough for you to imagine what must have been the unimaginable – that you would never again see your beloved wife, never again set your eyes upon your two little daughters, never be there for us in this world, and never know what our futures would hold for us.
You did know for certain that you would not be there to celebrate our birthdays, go to our school plays, to watch us graduate, and to walk us down the aisle at our weddings.
It was also certainly long enough for you to know that your parents, survivors of the holocaust, would not survive this…
What you did not know however, is the most despicable act of all…..
These killers not only robbed us of our living father, but also deprived us of his lifeless body. This shameful act of contempt for life and disdain for the dead not only prevented us from giving you a proper burial and us emotional closure, but also prevented us from receiving the small material respite of life insurance. Instead, we were completely abandoned, and left struggling just to physically survive. Warm food and electricity were no longer a given.
Another casualty of this tragedy was your good name, which you earned and built with your goodhearted acts of charity and of kindness. Instead of inspiring sympathy, we inspired gossip, we grew up literally among whispers as to the possible causes of your absence. We were treated as pitiful objects of conversation. Even now, it is equally tragic that the media and those authors who profited from your story, could not do justice to your true, heartbreaking story. It’s tragic that they chose to write easy assumptions instead of finding out the hard facts.
Daddy, I want to end by saying that despite the overwhelming obstacles, our memories of you remain strong. You can be proud of what we have become and how your family has grown. Your two little daughters have given you eight beautiful grandchildren, with two boys that carry on your good name.
Yet, you are not here to experience this.
And Daddy, when they killed you, a part of your baby girl died with you.
May the court seal this date in eternity; and give you justice by sentencing these men to life.