Finding myself in the Middle East

Monday, April 8, 2013

But You have Already Forogtten

Can we be serious for a second?


So here's the thing. I am not a Yom-Hashoa kind of person because I don't think that things should be--or could be--relegated to a one-day-of-the-year. Kind of like every day is Mother's Day? Every day is Yom Hashoa. Because it happened, and my grandparents bore the scars and the numbers until the day they died. And so do we, whatever those scars and numbers mean to you as an individual and also as part of a nation that has suffered so much and yet remains cherished, chosen.

So with that in mind, on Yom Hashoa, I do reread my own account of my grandfather's story that I published on years ago at the request of my father, and I do look through Yad Vashem archives, and scroll through everyone's personal memories and pictures that they want to share with the world via social network. Because just because every day is Yom Hashoa does not make Yom Hashoa any less than the every day.

And I need to say that I am disturbed by a new trend that I see creeping through Facebook and from the mouths of people and popular bloggers whom I respect, such as popchassid. Actually, it is his photo essay that I take the most objection to.

He wants us to see the Holocaust differently, through a set of pictures that we rarely see. Color me intrigued. I clicked on his link.

Click on his link first, then continue reading my rant.

Or click on it and then go for a long walk.

Or don't click on it--oh, just do whatever you want, I can't sit here and list all the options before you.

If you chose to click on it and read it and now want to continue reading my rant, here it begins:

Rant  (clearly labeled to avoid confusion with say, a long walk)

He posted beautiful pictures, so many filled with power and light and beauty. He says that through his handpicked  photos, we should come to view those who suffered through the Holocaust in a different light, not as helpless, downtrodden victims.

But here's the thing.

We were helpless. We were downtrodden. We were victims. Millions of us died in fear and misery and without a spark of hope, help, or love.

Why are we so set on denying that? Why are we so afraid of that truth?

Yes, there were moments in which light lit up the darkness. But those moments were few and far between the utter misery and degradation that we suffered. 

We can and should choose to remember the moments of human triumph of spirit, of mind, of body. But it is of equal--and perhaps, dare I say of greater--importance to remember the truth. We were spat upon. We were raped, girls and boys alike. We were tortured by horrific medical experiments. We were lined up naked and trembling  before pits that we were forced to dig with our bare hands and then shot in the back of the heads.

Yeah, I know. Ugly. Horrifying. The stuff of nightmares.

But it happened. It happened to so many of us. It happened to millions of us.

We should remember our moments of personal triumph, our own family miracles that shone for one brief moment. But they shone so brightly because of the darkness all around us.

My Bubby died and her secrets are buried with her, horrible secrets, secrets that made her scream in the night until she died, decades and decades later. My Zeidy lived miracles and shared them with us; and shared as well was the endless days spent in the sewers, the forced labor, the liquidation of the camp, the killing of his only friend.

So much darkness. I can see why we are afraid of it.

But remember; in order to see the sparks of beauty and light, we need to first acknowledge the ugly and the dark.


Anonymous said...

I can't tell you how much I agree with you...while I understand the noble intentions of the people who want to emphasize and concentrate only on the "spiritual" and heroic sides of the Holocaust, I feel like they are being as one-sided as those who choose only to concentrate on the Warsaw Ghetto uprising or other resistance efforts.

Cymbaline said...

But it isn't just a story or a narrative. it's 6 million stories. Perhaps we simply "celebrate" the ones we know, which tend to be told from the mouths of SURVIVORS.

JerusalemStoned said...

Yes. And in those stories are miracles, sure--and unbelievable darkness.

We can't choose to "remember" a sugarcoated version of our history.

Princess Lea said...

Everyone likes to think there are options when in a horrific situation like that, but there aren't. "Oh, so happy making matzos." Ummmmmm . . .

Last night the families of Sandy Hook were being interviewed on "60 Minutes." Scott Pelley said that people say that if they went through something like that, they wouldn't be able to go on. One of the mothers said that one doesn't really have a choice. She has another child, she has her husband. What else can she do but go on?

We can romanticize about life during and after. But why should we? Those who were in it simply fought to live, not thinking much more than that. Seeing photos of hope following redemption is heartbreaking to me, since we all know that life did not just go on, horrors forgotten.

There were nightmares. Families were ash and smoke. There was trauma, that was never properly addressed.

So yes, I am not cheered by this "other perspective." There is no other perspective. There is no simple "happy" ending. There is survival, and survival is not pretty. It is dark, it is dirty, it is raw.

Anonymous said...

"There is no other perspective. There is no simple "happy" ending. There is survival, and survival is not pretty. It is dark, it is dirty, it is raw."

I couldn't agree more Princess the granddaughter of survivors, I can't even try and say how this framed life; the shadowing of future generations that came.

My bubby, too, kept the ugly truth unspoken and as her dementia progressed, that's where her brain took her back to and we learned of those nightmares and why she did or said the things she did. Yom Hashoa is every day for me; I wouldn't be here if it hadn't happened and when I really reflect on that, I don't know how to feel.

Princess Lea said...

My Babi was once in the throes of depression (before we realized Prozac is kid's stuff and she should be on Paxil) and she let slip a story that happened in Theresienstadt. She had never said the story before, and she has not mentioned it again.

All of my grandparents are/were survivors. PopChassid is Sephardi, I believe, in origin, so this is not so close to him. But I think when it is not close, one should not make observations.

Gila Rose said...

Yes! I totally agree - when I went with my daughter to Yad Vashem, I realized that in her mind, we "won." Because we always focus on survivors, and the few artifacts we managed to salvage, and the miracles here and there, even though most of it was pure horror. I thought she didn't "get it." But yesterday she came back from her Yom Hashoah tekes in tears, so maybe she does. Maybe it's an age thing. The older you get, the sadder you get.

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