Two-thirds of European Jewry vanquished while the world did nothing. A world complicit by their silence. It is as if a limb had been amputated. Still we limp, all these many years after the horrors.
Is this obsession part of the aftermath? Reading stories set during the Shoah, the preferred term for what is commonly known as the Holocaust. Hearing the stories. Writing the stories. Always, always trying to preserve the past so that we do not forsake them. Trying to preserve the past so that we prevent it from happening again. To anyone. We will NOT stand idly by as the blood of our neighbour is shed.
I was recently sent an advance copy of Anouk Markovits‘ English debut novel. Though beginning and ending in Manhattan, 2005, I Am Forbidden follows a family from its near destruction in wartime Eastern Europe to their struggles to regain a new normal in post-war France and, eventually, to Williamsburg, New York. With the Shoah as the background, it is less of a story about the horrors faced during the war, focusing instead on the far-reaching, and complicated, effects for those who survived. The choices that were made along the way.
Just as Revelation is ongoing, so is survival. What happened in Europe did not stay there. It has followed us. Plagued us. Haunted us. And like Torah, we turn our experiences over and over again. Finding new ways to tell the story. To try to understand the incomprehensible. I Am Forbidden leaves us with the same sense of overwhelming sadness as other books. It is the way in which the author has crafted this particular telling, however, that we find breathtaking originality and fluidity.
Tonight we lit a candle for the Six Million with Beernut offering the appropriate responses to our Kaddish. May the souls of those whose lives were violently stolen during our darkest hour be sheltered by God’s Eternal Protection.