It’s Holocaust time again
A minute ago, the sirens silenced after 2 minutes’ screaming. We stood where we were. Well, I moved to the window to see the street: cars stopped, drivers standing beside them. A bus had also stopped, but only the driver had the time to get out and stand on the road.
It’s our grand-niece’s 18th today; one of the millions of signs that life goes on.
Which of course it must, and does. It’s those ‘forgive and/or forget’ subjects that cause concern.
Perhaps 20 years ago, I was on a trip (in Germany, by coincidence) with a sales lady from another company. She was a blonde blue-eyed German. At dinner, we spoke about the subject of ‘guilt’. She was fed up with being grouped together with ‘them’ just because she was a blonde, blue-eyed German. “I’m not guilty. I wasn’t there”, she repeated.
We were friends, so I took a gamble and almost ‘waded’ into her. We were in the 90’s. Still alive were the millions of Holocaust survivors, plus the millions of perpetrators, plus the millions of witnesses (whether active or passive, supportive or critical). The Holocaust was surely the worst premeditated crime in history, and millions were still alive who played their gruesome parts. (Today, there are still 1/4 million survivors in Israel alone).
Instead of complaining, I told her, learn to live with it. Of course she was not guilty. Of course she was not alive when it all occurred. But the previous generation, her parents included, were involved.
Many in the World still blame the Jews for ‘sacrificing’ Jesus to the Crucifixion, and that happened 2,000 years ago!
Learn to live with it, I said. Learn how to answer those idiots who connected her to the Holocaust. Learn that we need to learn from this.
The next morning, she came down to breakfast with blurry eyes. “I hardly slept because of what you said”. “But you’re right. You’ve opened my eyes. I must change my attitude and learn to live with this black spot against the German people’.
And when I met her 2-3 more times, she even smiled and said that ’the problem’ was no longer a problem for her. “I can handle it”.
For 24 hours, Israel focuses on the Holocaust. Regular TV: news, stories and interviews. There are plenty available. The movie channels play only films associated with the subject. There are plenty available. The newspapers cover everything as usual, but the main news are ‘Holocaust-associated’.
Last night, Yad Vashem (literally: Hand and Name…Memorial) was again the location of the annual event. President, PM, ministers, rabbis, military and civilian leaders, national and foreign diplomats and special guests. Flames lit by survivors with gripping stories, often ending with images of the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; relevant songs sung; speeches and silence.
At home in England, we rarely spoke about the past. We didn’t ask; they didn’t tell. Not even sure how much they knew. My mother died in 1968. It was only in the mid-90’s that I discovered family of hers here in Israel. Only then did I hear stories of her childhood. Only then did I get interested.
For instance, some of you know the story of the discovery of my mother’s portrait (not dissimilar to the ‘Woman of Gold’ story, just as anti-Semitic, only far less valuable), which now hangs warmly in our living room.
I now know, with some certainty, how my uncle died – and with written certainty, that my maternal grandparents died in Auschwitz.
And I have had the ‘honour’ of knowing my aunt Herta. She’s now 102. She told her story of being a nanny on one of the Kinder-transport trains in the book ‘…And the Policeman Smiled.’
And look up ‘Manfred Goldberg’. He and Shary are good friends of ours. Very special people; that lovely mixture of religious and tolerant. Manfred was in the camps with his mother and brother – until his brother wasn’t there when they came back from labour. For years, Manfred couldn’t talk openly about his experiences. But his friends and congregation colleagues persuaded him to ’tell’.
Since then, he has dedicated some of his very special life to ’telling’. He was one of the two survivors chosen to accompany William and Kate to the Stutthof camp in Poland. His family joined them; their first time back.
Manfred now lectures at various venues including non-Jewish schools. He was even invited back to his German home-town of Kassel to help heal the past.
It really did happen. It really was as bad as they claim – in most cases, much worse.
We see Antisemitism rising its horrible head again. And don’t give me that ‘Oh, it’s those Jews again’ story. That would place ‘you’ in a very dark spotlight.
In today’s paper, a report of a poll: ’47% of Austrians’ believe that a Holocaust could happen again’. My background is part-Austrian. I am often ashamed…
Of course, not to be forgotten. Don’t mention the subject of forgiveness.
Despite the fruitless attempts, it must not happen again
May 2, 2019