The Sorrow and The Pity Redux

FCD407_Sorrow_compressedI am a recovering Holocaust junkie. It’s really not that surprising. It was in my mother’s milk

I was weaned on infamous Holocaust epics like “The Sorrow and the Pity” or movies like “Night and Fog” which contained gruesome footage of bulldozers shoving emaciated, naked bodies into mass graves.  My mother, the survivor and my father, the Holocaust scholar saw no harm in a young child watching movie after movie of Nazi atrocities.  In fact, the more realistic the depiction, the more compelled we were to watch it. Their rationale went something like this; children lived the experience, why shouldn’t children watch the experience.

As I got older I obsessed over every news account of the Holocaust. I took the course in college.  I imagined what it was like to be in a ghetto or a concentration camp and I agonized over their suffering, which, but for the grace of God, was mine.  I read every book and saw every movie on the topic and felt enormous guilt if I missed one.  For God’s sake, I even married another child of survivors.

The last time my mom visited with me she insisted on watching a movie called “Der Letzte Zug,” (The Last Train) and she insisted I watch it with her.  I sat through every tortuous second of people dying in a cattle car on the way to Auschwitz.  When the movie ended my mother exclaimed, “So well done.”  “That’s it.” I responded bitterly. “I can’t do this anymore.” “Don’ be silly.” she said.  “You have to. How do you think the people who were there felt?”  ” Well, here’s the thing, mom, I can’t change it for them. That’s the problem. I can never, ever, not once, change the ending, not for one damned person.” Mom shrugged, clearly disgusted with my weakness.

My middle son came home the other day from a teen program during which he was presented with a slew of worthy community programs that needed funding. He was asked to choose and advocate on behalf of the one program that spoke to him the loudest. It is a given that all of the programs are worthy.  When he got home he was very animated. He said,  “Omi (his paternal survivor grandmother) and Nana (my mother) would have been be so proud of me. When the other kids wanted to abandon it, I argued for funding for a program where survivors tell kids about their Holocaust experiences. It’s really important mom because the survivors are dying out.  Their time is running out and we need to hear their stories while we still can.”

Middle son, I asked, “Have you ever seen “The Sorrow and the Pity?  We have it in the basement. Go get it. Let’s watch it, together.”

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One thought on “The Sorrow and The Pity Redux

  1. I think it’s almost a truth that if you’ve heard directly the story of a survivor, it is as if you are a survivor too. I might have been 10 or eleven when my new friend from Hungary came to our building. One day while visiting her, her mother’s arm must showing these strange numbers on her arm, never having seen anything like that before, I innocently asked her what they were. Thereupon, she told me about her experiences in Auschwitz, the lines separating those who would live or those whom Dr.Mengele chose to die. The lineups twice daily to make sure everyone was there. The starvation diets. That night I remember going to bed and dreaming that I was there. He was looking and me, would I survive that day. This had resonance with me especially since i had a lot of childhood experience with orthopedic doctors. I have never forgotten that introduction to the horrors of the Holocaust. Of course when I was older, i read the Diary of Anne Frank, and started a diary first page writing “Dear Kitty” at 12yrs. Then older, I read more & watched lots of movies too…like you, married the child of a survivor ad ironically got the hame… I passed that obsession onto my daughter who read a few books by survivors. It is still important to remember since the survivors are dying and the deniers are living on and on. To listen to as many survivors stories as you can, and honor their bravery, courage and wills to live, & giving us generations of Jewish children for the future.
    My family love and honor your in-laws and by your Mother-in-law’s telling of her experiences at your Seder, we remember her bravery. Watching their testimonies from Steven Spielberg’s archives were very meaningful for us, and we will always remember! I even retell your father in law’s telling of the separations of mothers from their children, seared into his memory. I think it was even more frightening for me knowing that Anne Frank died around March,1945 and I was born less than 3 yrs. later. What if i ha been born earlier, in Germany, or in a camp?

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