Erev Shabbat Tisha B'Av finds me sitting at home in Zufim while Maor is in Poland. I know it would be a hard trip anyway, but the juxtaposition of her being there on my father's yahrzeit makes me even more introspective.
My father, Mayer, was born in1929 in Kretchnif, Romania which was on the Hungarian border. He was the second youngest of eight children, of whom four survived. His parents and four siblings, including his twin sister and youngest brother, were killed at Auschwitz (I think immediately upon arrival but I'm not really sure).
After being liberated from Buchenwald, my father was sent to France and from there he went to Israel. He started out on Kibbutz Givat Brenner and then joined the Palmach where he fought in Israel's War for Independence in the Galil. After the war he was among the founders of Kibbutz Yiftach.
My father had a rare blood disease, Polycythemia vera, which was very difficult to treat in Israel in the 1950's and his surviving brother who lived in New York encouraged him to come to America. My father went, believing his absence from Israel was temporary, but after meeting and marrying my mother he never made it back to live here.
Neither my father or his siblings (my uncle in America and two aunts in Israel) ever talked about the Holocaust. I still remember when the miniseries Holocaust was on TV and having to watch it for school. I remember my father coming home and it's possible he tried to talk to me then but I was just not interested. My father was a NY cab driver and at the time he had a Time magazine reporter in his cab who was writing about the show and he quoted my father in the article:
Elie Wiesel hated it. NBC's 9 1/2-hour docu-drama, Holocaust, so offended the author and survivor (Buchenwald, Auschwitz) that he wrote: "Untrue, offensive, cheap: as a TV production, the film is an insult to those who perished and to those who survived. What you have seen on the screen is not what happened there." But Wiesel has written almost obsessively about the Holocaust: he has a kind of morally proprietary passion about it. He is a keeper of the flame, a visionary who sees the past as intensely as a prophet sees the future. Many more Americans seemed to agree with Mayer Fruchter, a New York cab driver who was imprisoned at Buchenwald at the same time as Wiesel. "He is wrong. "Fruchter insisted after last week's series about a German Jewish family and the Final Solution. "I mean, he is right: it can't be shown. But it's better to show close to it than not to show it at all. Already people are saying it didn't happen, they don't believe it. Our children--my twelve-year-old daughter--they don't know. The aim of this showing is not to cry for what happened, nor ask for pity or sympathy, but only this; to look out for it anywhere in the world, so it won't happen again."
- Television And The Holocaust. By: Morrow, Lance, Time, 0040781X, 5/1/1978, Vol. 111, Issue 18
Now that my father and his siblings are all gone, that piece of our family history is gone too. Although when I was older I tried to get my father to record his story he always put me off saying he would but then time ran out. Or maybe he never really wanted to, I don't know. My aunt in her later years spoke a little bit about the family before the war but she too never spoke about her experiences during the Holocaust.
My father died 21 years ago on Shabbat Tisha B'Av when Liam was two. Maor is named for him, and fittingly has his blue eyes and dimpled chin. And now she is in Poland and on Tisha B'av will actually be in Auschwitz, sitting in a barracks, saying kinot. I never wanted to go to Poland. I still remember the Yom Hashoah in high school where I made the connection (or the asimon fell as we say) that what they're showing me in these movies is what my father and his family went through. That was pretty much it for me. I rarely read Holocaust literature or see Holocaust movies. And I also have mixed feelings about these Holocaust/Heritage tours - the steep price, the feeling that we are supporting the very people who tried to kill us. Although after listening to the group leader, Rav Handler, at the parent night, even I wanted to go.
Rav Handler sends letters to the parents detailing what the girls did that day and I read the first one with tears in my eyes. I don't know how they do it - you'd have to scrape me off the floor.
|Maor (on the right) and friends during a ceremony in the Umschlagplatz (collection point) in the Warsaw Ghetto|
So as we go into Shabbat I am thinking of Maor and I am thinking of my father and I am thinking of the opening ceremony of the Olympics in London where there will not be a minute of silence for the Israeli athletes killed at Munich and I am thinking of the many Jews who will be mourning the destruction of the Temple.