Testifying for the Holocaust
Last week, Deborah Lipstadt wrote about eerie anniversaries and Hannah Arendt. Her blog posts are being featured this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog series. For more information on the series, please visit:
This blog entry appears during the time that we mark Yom HaShoah. It is also the time of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. I am reminded of a small article which appeared on the front page [upper half] of the New York Times on April 22, 1943. The article read as follows:
The secret Polish radio appealed for help tonight in a broadcast from Poland and then suddenly the station went dead. The broadcast as heard here said: The last 35,000 Jews in the Warsaw ghetto have been condemned to execution. Warsaw is echoing with musketry volleys. The people are murdered. Women and children defend themselves with their naked arms. Save us…
I am also reminded of some of those who buried the Oyneg Shabbes archival collection which documented the destruction. (The following material appears in Sam Kassow’s magisterial book, “Who Will Write Our History?”) Israel Lichtenstein wrote on the day he buried the archives:
I do not ask for any thanks, for any memorial, for any praise. I only wish to be remembered…. I wish my wife to be remembered, Gele Sekstein. She has worked during the war years with children as an educator and teacher, has prepared stage sets, costumes of children’s theatre… both of us get ready to meet and receive death. I wish my little daughter to be remembered. Margalit is 20 months old today. She has fully mastered the Yiddish language and speaks it perfectly… I don’t lament my own life or that of my wife. I pity only this little nice and talented girl. She too deserves to be remembered.
With Lichtenstein on that day was Nahum Grzywacz who was 18 years old. When they were burying the archives he heard his parents’ building was being blockaded. He wrote:
I am going to run to my parents and if they are all right. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. Remember my name is Nahum Grzywacz. [emphasis in original]
Also present was David Graber who was 19. As they buried the archives Graber wrote:
What we were unable to cry and shriek out the world we buried in the ground… We shall certainly not live to see it, and therefore I write my last will: May the treasure fall into good hands, may it last into better times, may it alarm and alert the world to what happened… in the twentieth century. We now died in peace. We fulfilled our mission. May history attest for us. [emphasis added]
None of these people seem to contemplate the possibility of survival. They hungered to be remembered.
May the history we write, read, and remember attest for them. They have attested for themselves.
Deborah Lipstadt’s most recent book, “The Eichmann Trial,” is now available.
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"I push wagons, I work with a shovel, I turn rotten in the rain, I shiver in the wind; already my own body is no longer mine: my belly is swollen, my limbs emaciated, my face is thick in the morning, hollow in the evening; some of us have yellow skin, others grey. When we do not meet for a few days we hardly recognize each other."— Primo Levi, "Survival in Auschwitz"