Sunday, April 27, 2003

Tomorrow evening is the beginning of Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Day, which continues on Tuesday and includes a two minute siren, during which Israelis stand in silent memory of those slaughtered. You might like to check out the website of Yad Vashem (The Israeli Holocaust Martyrs'and Heroes' Remembrance Authority).

There are a lot of interesting excerpts of survivors' testimonies, in PDF format, describing moments in time and angles we are not accustomed to. Here are two random examples:

Shoah Resource Center, The International School for Holocaust Studies 2

From The Testimony of Lucille Eichengruen on Relations with Neighbors
Lucille Eichengruen was born in Hamburg in 1925. Her parents had emigrated
from Poland to Hamburg after the First World War.
Interviewer: Did you have German friends?
Answer: Non-Jewish German friends? No.
Interviewer: Only Jewish?
Answer: Yes. We had some neighbors and the neighbors stopped talking and
playing with us after 1933. But real friends, no. I did not have any.
Interviewer: and your parents?
Answer: neither.
Interviewer: Only Jews?
Answer: Only Jews and strangely all the friends of my father's with very few
exceptions were Polish Jews. My father was friendly with Martin Buber, with
Dr. Paul Holtzer, but those were exceptions.
Interviewer: What happened after 1933?
Answer: In 1933 the climate changed. There were restrictions, there were ugly
incidents - we walked to school, children would beat us up. Children would
yell at us and make nasty remarks. We were told to be quiet on the streetcar.
We were told not to draw attention to ourselves, and slowly and gradually
people began to leave. Students, teachers - it was a very unsettled situation.
It was constant turmoil and for a child it was not conducive to learning. It was
difficult to study under those circumstances.
Interviewer: And what happened?
Answer: My grades were not the best and my parents hired tutors for
mathematics, for English, for grammar, and they improved somewhat, but I
was not a carefree, happy child. I cried a great deal, I had a lot of nightmares
and it was not a good childhood. My parents tried - I had no reason to believe
that there was anything short in the house, but the atmosphere from the
outside was so strong that it just did not leave, it just was always there.
Interviewer: Your neighbors - how did they react?
Answer: They stopped talking to us and the children would run after us and
call us ugly name names, never talk to us. Sometimes they'd throw some
stones and the boys, when they were in the mood they would beat us up.

Source : Yad Vashem Archive O3/9556

Shoah Resource Center, The International School for Holocaust Studies 2

From the Testimony of Miriam Steiner: "We Began to Take In the Enormous Loss"
From the testimony of Miriam Steiner, born in 1929 in Hungary. Deported to
the Auschwitz and Ravensbruck camps. Liberated by the Red Army in the
middle of a death march to Germany. Immigrated to Palestine in 1946.
"In fact, we were supposed to begin normalization, the great crisis had not yet
hit us. It began when my cousin came home a few days later. I barely
recognized him, because that kid, that big slob, had two big ears, a big nose
and two cavities for eyes. He began to recover from his "Musselman"
condition. For the first time I cried, I fell on him and I cried at how he looked,
because then I suddenly woke up. He was the start of my crisis, of the crisis of
ours as a whole... He embraced me and said only this: "You should know one
thing, don't wait for your father and your brother". He repeated that many
times... My mother and I received a small flat, a one-room flat in
grandmother's house, and mentally speaking things began to get worse and
worse, because people started to come back with all kinds of stories, and we
knew that only we two were left. The second thing was the possibility of
making a living. Besides the soup and food and the meager clothing we
received from the Joint, you could deal in the black market, if you knew how.
My mother and I didn't know how to do such things. We knew for certain that
others had found the gold which my father had hidden in the garden, we even
knew who, but for the time being the grief was so great that this did not affect
us, because that was not our real loss.
"Now we began to realize the enormity of the loss, we began to understand
that Grandfather and Grandmother and hardly any of our relatives had
returned, only that one cousin, and his father also returned later on. People
said we shouldn't wait for them, but the truth is that we waited all the time for
my father. And I only want to say that I often look around, as though I am still searching... not for Father, it is my brother for whom I am still looking all the
time. I know it is completely unrealistic, because formally I am not searching,
I, I cast about with my eyes..."

From: Kleiman, Yehudit and Shpringer-Aharoni, Nina (eds.), The Pain of
Liberation, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1995, p. 47.