Holocaust Day of Remembrance

bitsela-2HR

  Yom HaShoah

“You just keep living until you are alive again,” said a character in a BBC episode of “Call the Midwife.”  The words stir me to write on this Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Survivors, their families, indeed, the whole Jewish community endure, and even thrive, with a resilience I can hardly even dream of mustering.  I repent and grieve for the evil perpetrated against Jews, gays, and those physically and mentally challenged.l  I celebrate their resilience, born from a deep well of faith.

Inaugurated in Israel in 1953, Holocaust Remembrance Day is ritualized differently throughout the world.  Common threads are the lighting of six memorial candles to represent the approximately six million victims.  The Mourners’ Kaddish is often recited to show that despite their loss, Jews still praise G-d.  At the memorial ritual in Auschwitz, school children participate in “The March of the Living,” which is a profound defiance of the Death Marches to the crematoriums.  I am reminded of the work of theologian Walter Brueggemann, who calls for a “prophetic imagination” which re-appropriates acts of injustice as positive acts of life- a way of living until we are alive again.

One Sunday I came to Hebrew class at Temple Beth El- always the only Christian student- this day, the only student.  My teacher, whose relatives did not survive the holocaust, took the opportunity to teach me some of the more obscure facts about anti-Semitism.  She said with searing pain, that in the Spanish Inquisition Jews were denied the right to recite Kaddish.  The refrain that G-d will “uproot foreign worship from the earth,” threatened the power of Christianity.

As I imagine the youth reciting Kaddish on their March of Life today at Auschwitz, I rejoice in the hope their action evokes.  In them, their ancestors live on.  Paul Celan’s poem, “Death Fugue,” draws us inside life in a death camp.  The images are shattering, but we must look.  We must remember.  After embracing the horrifying reality, I return to celebration of the resilience of a people who still chooses life.  L’Chaim!

 

Death Fugue
by Paul Celan

Black milk of daybreak we drink it at sundown
we drink it at noon in the morning we drink it at night
we drink it and drink it
we dig a grave in the breezes there one lies unconfined
A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents
he writes
he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden
hair Margarete
he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are
flashing he whistles his pack out
he whistles his Jews out in earth has them dig for a
grave
he commands us strike up for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you in the morning at noon we drink you at
sundown
we drink and we drink you
A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents
he writes
he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden hair
Margarete
your ashen hair Sulamith we dig a grave in the breezes
there one lies unconfined

He calls out jab deeper into the earth you lot you
others sing now and play
he grabs at the iron in his belt he waves it his
eyes are blue
jab deeper you lot with your spades you others play
on for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at at noon in the morning we drink you
at sundown
we drink and we drink you
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Sulamith he plays with the serpents
He calls out more sweetly play death death is a master
from Germany
he calls out more darkly now stroke your strings then
as smoke you will rise into air
then a grave you will have in the clouds there one
lies unconfined

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at noon death is a master from Germany
we drink you at sundown and in the morning we drink
and we drink you
death is a master from Germany his eyes are blue
he strikes you with leaden bullets his aim is true
a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete
he sets his pack on to us he grants us a grave in
the air
He plays with the serpents and daydreams death is
a master from Germany

your golden hair Margarete
your ashen hair Shulamith

Translated by Michael Hamburger

Clip Art Credits:  http://free-bitsela.com/
Advertisements