Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Holocaust survivors, the second generation (7)

April 13th 2004

An irrational fear took possession of me when I finally found the courage to visit the squalid nascence of my regressive melancholy: Bergen-Belsen.

I had mixed feelings about my partner and two eldest accompanying me. On the one hand I wanted to be alone in the confrontation with my demons, on the other it could be good to have the support of my family. It might also be good for the kids to see what should be fought: man’s cruelty to fellow man. Maybe I also wanted them to see, what might be the source for my outbursts of anger… to get some empathy, or at least to sow some, for later when they reach the age of discretion.

Although I don’t usually drive the long distances, this time I did... I didn't want to be brought there; I wanted to be in control.

It was very emotional; we walked around and saw the mass graves. Our kids left a pebble on every one of them... Then we went back into the museum that is built against it and saw the horrifying movie shot at the liberation of the camp.

In the museum there was also a book, with the names of "just" a few thousand people of the tens of thousands who arrived in Bergen-Belsen, together with the date they arrived, their nationality, profession, date of murder or further deportation.

My mother (may she rest in peace) never told me much of the war. But I remember something she once told me: “At the end of the war, just a few days before liberation, we were packed in cattle trucks to be driven into a river to drown when the Russians stopped the train just a few hundred meters before the river...”.

There I stood, in Bergen-Belsen, browsing through that book and I found the name of my mother (12 years old then), her sister and their parents. According to the book, my grandfather was killed two months before at February 16th - mauled to death by dogs in front of his family (as I recently found out). Also in that book, the date of their departure in the cattle truck...

April 13th 1945

Date to date... in some odd way it felt as close as I could get to the essence of my mother...

To the next post in the "second generation" sequence

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