Thursday, April 16, 2015

Yom Ha Shoah

In the class I attend to learn conversational Hebrew, we can switch from grammar to drama at a moment's notice.

Tonight Alisa Klainman went from a review of infinitive verbs to Holocaust Remembrance Day, and later back to grammar.

Yom Ha Shoah, as it is called in Hebrew, is observed from sunset on April 15 to sunset on April 16.  Our class began just as sunset was occurring to end the day of remembrance.

Alisa's mother, Sonya Perl, is a child survivor of the Holocaust.

Sonya is 85 years old now, but she spent this day speaking about the Holocaust to an audience of factory workers in Israel, where she lives.  She speaks widely and even has a Facebook page.

She, her mother, father, brother, and two sisters were taken from their home in Czechoslovakia by Nazis.  

Her brother was shot dead because he could not keep up with the march.  Her father survived for a couple of years before being murdered.

Her mother was thrown into a fire pit alive, as Sonya and her sisters watched.

Sonya remembers standing in front of the terrible Josef Mengele every day for inspection.

"He showed up every morning, very drunk, and would pick those to go to be gassed," Alisa told us. 

Her mother told her about the horrors of Auschwitz from the very beginning of her life, but her father (also a survivor), never talked about what he went through.

"You cannot forgive--it is not ours to forgive--you cannot forget," says Alisa. 

She remembers visiting Dachau as a tourist.  It's just an hour from Munich, and the countryside is so beautiful and pastoral in the summer.  Nice towns and homes and farms surround the camp.

"That was my shock," she reports.  "They were so close--they couldn't avoid the stink.  Of course the Germans knew.  There's no way they could not know."

We often hear that Germans, like others in the world, did not know that Jews were being killed in the camps.  The proximity of the camps to the towns leads Alisa to disbelieve that claim.

"Jews were vermin, something you have to get rid of," she says, attempting to explain how humans could tolerate mass killings near their homes.

She discussed the documentary film made from footage shot as the camps were opened.  "The arrogance of the women and men running the camps," she said.  "You see it."

Alfred Hitchcock was asked to be the supervising director to assemble the various pieces into a whole, called German Concentration Camps Factual Survey.  A new HBO documentary, Night Will Fall, tells the story of the making of the film.

After telling us these things, Alisa turned back to the chalkboard, and we resumed our review of infinitive verbs in the pattern XX.  

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