Monday, May 2, 2011

Remembrance without Obligation

New arrivals usually knew nothing about the conditions at a camp. Those who had come back from other camps were obliged to keep silent, and from some camps no one had returned. On entering camp a change took place in the minds of the men. With the end of uncertainty there came the uncertainty of the end. It was impossible to foresee whether or when, if at all, this form of existence would end.
    --Victor Frankl, Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager (also entitled From Death-Camp to Existentialism, and more recently re-titled, Man's Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy)
You may have read Elie Wiesel's Night or fiction such as Cynthia Ozick's The Shawl.  You may have watched Claude Lanzmann's Shoah or drama such as Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List.  You may have heard your eldest daughter tell you that she wants your father to read Viktor Frankl's book, since he's been afflicted (like she was) with the death sentence of cancer; or you might have sat through, over the course of hours, her recalling to you many of the things that Frankl wrote on little pieces of paper that he kept and smuggled out of camps until one day he was able to form them into a book of remembrance, translated into English, purchased later for yourself, then your father, then your best friend whose own uncle had taken his life in despair and whose father now also sees no reason to keep on living.

How do you prepare for such things?  What words are there?  And what if any of us forgets and then finds ourself unable to foresee a good end?

Candidly and courageously, Rachel Barenblat confesses today:
Yesterday was Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. I want to bear witness, but the words don't want to come.
And ck takes us by video to "Israel" where "it is a national memorial day and public holiday" not always with words:
One of the ways it is commemorated is with the sounding of air raid sirens throughout Israel.
I'm glad for those who aren't silent about unspeakable things.  Bearing witness can be such a burden.  How ever did anyone allow and participate in the atrocities, the unthinkable?  How did anyone survive?  Another day, another important year, another time when we hope no one obliges anyone to keep silent.


Kristen said...

It is appropriate, perhaps, that Osama Bin Laden met his death on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Though I agree with your earlier post that rejoicing at this is inappropriate, a certain amount of satisfaction is in order. Here is one engineer of harm who would kill all the Jews and all the Americans if he could, who cannot harm anyone again.

J. K. Gayle said...

Well said! If Dietrich Bonhoeffer's plot against Hitler had succeeded, then many would have been spared. I remember watching the good movie Munich, about revenge, and feeling very conflicted.