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Where does the name "Dick" come from?

Most of my friends and colleagues address me by the name "Dick." Many of them simply assume that this is a nickname, the usual abbreviation in English of "Richard." In fact, the name has become so closely associated with me that it precedes me to new places and folks who have never met me, who then often make the wrong inference and introduce me as "Dr. Richard Tsur." But then I sign as "Shalom," my given name, and I use it on papers and other official documents. This discrepancy often causes bafflement and since "Dick" has a long history, almost as long as I live, I will use the advent of this personal web page to tell the story.

I was born in Amsterdam, Holland, during WW II. At the time Holland was occupied by the Nazis who, as part of their final solution plan, systematically rounded up the Dutch Jewish population and sent them to the concentration camps. In Amsterdam this action often took the form of a so called "razzia" where a block of buildings or a street was suddenly cordoned off, all of the inhabitants captured within were interrogated, and those that were identified as Jews were sent away.

My parents, who had the foresight not to disclose their real identities when this was first officially decreed by the Nazis, survived by assuming false identities. Yet, raising a baby under these circumstances posed a very great risk of being identified. And so, one day during her way back home with me, my mother was informed by a good neighbor (who apparently knew more than my parents had assumed) that a razzia was on in the neighborhood, that she should not go home and do something immediately. The result was that I was handed over, literally on the spur of the moment, to strangers, who handed me over to other people and so, eventually I wound up in the country, on a farm with a childless non-Jewish couple, who assumed that they had adopted a war orphan of six months.

These people, who received me without a name, called me "Dik" or the diminutive "Dikie," which is Dutch for "fats" or "fatty" (at that time my circumference was already noticeable). The remainder of the war was a very pleasant childhood for me in the country. I was united with my real parents after the war at the age of four, and eventually emigrated with them to Israel. Not surprisingly the name stuck after the war and with my move to the US it became "Dick." It has become a permanent attribute and I never made any attempt to resist it, mostly because I owe my life to the people that adopted me and it is a reminder of an unusually humane story in an era that is remembered by nothing than pure horror. This saga had also other agreeable consequences: I grew up and effectively had, for a large part of my life, two pairs of parents. But that is a story for another web page.