Friday, January 29, 2010


I feel as though I am in a dark abyss. Sadness this heavy is something I usually only experience at the lowest lows of my depression cycles. I feel paralyzed, my mind is numb with shock. It's turned off, tuned out, the way a mind does after experiencing a horrifying trauma. Yet as lethargic as I feel, as opposed to tuning in as I am at this moment, I know the healthy thing is to let myself feel these feelings. I need to think, and to act. This is the first step towards that.

This deep, psychological sadness and trauma was not brought about by an event in my life, rather by events which occurred 65 years ago in Poland, Hungary, Holland, Italy and of course, Germany (among other places I'm sure). The events are those which we all know about, which we've all read about, which we've all shook our heads over and briefly thought, "why?" about before going on to our every day lives. The Holocaust. The attempted annihilation of a religion and a race. The mass murder of 6 million Jews and many other human beings. It's just history to most people now-a-days, isn't it? Sure, we remember on Holocaust Remembrance Day (Jan. 27th) or on Yom Hashoah(the 27th of Nissan, this year April 11th). We are reminded on occasion by television shows, movies or books; which to a greater or lesser extent try to capture the horror of these events. But how often do we let it touch us? How often do we actually feel, even in the smallest of ways, the horror of Auschwitz, of Chelmno, of Birkenau? Of the cattle cars, the showers, the furnaces? The torture, the apathy, the pure evil which spread itself across Europe like the plague from 1933-1945? The fact of the matter is we can never feel the true horror those men, women, children and families felt. But we MUST remember, lest we one day repeat history.

A quote from the preface to "Night" by Elie Wiesel:

"For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time... The witness has forced himself to testify. For the youth of today, for the children who will be born tomorrow. He does not want his past to become their future."

It is my fear, that as Holocaust survivors pass away and Holcaust deniers raise the volume and intensity of their lies, that we will forget. Then God help our children, because humankind will not.


Night, by Elie Wiesel has stirred all this darkness in me and sent it bubbling to the surface. It is hard to believe in a loving God, or in human decency, in the face of such horrors as are described within the pages of this book. Elie documents his family's deportation from Hungary to the concentration camps in Poland by crowded cattle cars. He vividly recalls living children being tossed into fires at Birkenau. Living. Children. Fed to flames, because they could not "work". His mother and sisters, murdered without a second glance. He tells us of the conditions he and his father endured at Auschwitz, where "arbeit" did not set anyone free of anything except a quick death. The way the prisioners were forced to flee, on foot, in winter, from the advancing Red Army. The way they were herded once more into cattle cars and deported to Germany, only to be massacred once they got there. Why? Why? Why? How did so many regular people, normal Germans, go stark raving mad all at once? Don't get me wrong, I know many Germans were not Nazis. Many felt compassion for the Jews among them, tried to help them. But many more DID NOT. And even ignoring them for the moment, what about all those SS officers and military personel. I am sure there was a mob mentality, that men (and women) became conditioned to the cruelty. But even that does not begin to touch on the reality of what those people did to other human beings. To children. No explanation, no psychology, could ever begin to explain the mass insanity that pervaded the Nazi party.

If you have not read Night, I highly recommend it, despite the horror I felt upon reading it, and the sadness I feel now. This is reality. This really happened. It cannot be forgotten. I understand with my whole heart for the first time, the utter necessity for the state of Israel. Jews MUST have a homeland. For centuries, it did not matter how long a Jew had lived in a country. How many generations had been raised there. If they considered themselves Italian, or German, or Dutch. In less than one generation a buried hatred spurned on by poverty, economic depression, war and greed boiled over to an attempt to destroy an entire people. Those people must have a homeland, a safe haven where they can return if ever in danger again. No amount of integration will change that need. I still disagree with many Israeli political and military decisions, (just as I disagree with many American ones!) but I am now ferverently dedicated to the existance of a Jewish state. In that sense, my reading of Night has brought me more than sadness, it's brought me a new understanding and passion.

Thank you, Elie Wiesel, for sharing your darkest hour with the world. May we never forget.

The last words of Night:

"One day when I was able to get up, I decided to look at myself in the mirror on the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the ghetto.

From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me.

The look in his eyes as he gazed at me has never left me."