Archive for April, 2012

The need to see the whole story

April 22, 2012 Leave a comment


Seven years ago, on the Thirtieth day for my father’s death, I read for the first time a section from the memoirs he wrote during the final period of his life: “That day follows me throughout my entire life and never lets go. It was at the train station, a small station, in a Moldavian town, named Buhushi. Mom, Dad and my little brother Naftali Herzl, boarded a freight car with some bags, baskets and a tattered suitcase. We parted quickly. The parents were crying and the train set off on its way, from which they would not return. My brother Moni and I remained alone at the station. I was 16 and Moni was 14 ……. Now I’m already an old man whose whole life is behind him, and I’m supposed to be able to consider it all stoically and with acceptance. And truly, a lot of things have already been forgotten and scattered in the mist, but that day was not forgotten and with it the troubling questions…..”


Quarantined experiences 

I was born in this country. My sister, and I were given the names Esther and Zvi, named after our grandparents whom we did not get to know in our lives. Until recently, the facts concerning the Holocaust and the resulting emotional experiences were but an eclectic and dispersed collection. Puzzle pieces that fail to make a complete picture. Our parents and their generation did not talk about what happened. They were immersed in the act of constructing a challenging family-life in a new country and society. Except for a piece of cardboard with Avraham Shlonsky’s poem “Vow” that was attached to the glass door in the library at home, there was no reference in everyday life to this extremely significant subject. Over the years we unraveled more and more information: Dad’s final separation from his parents and his brother, being a prisoner in a labor camp, Mom and her parents were expelled from their city with violence, wore a yellow star of David, and my grandfather, a Rabbi, was  taken several times as a hostage down to the German headquarters  which was located near their home. I was never sure: where, when and what the order of things was in general? My Holocaust experiences were related mainly to the rhetoric of public discourse, Holocaust Memorial Day ceremonies at school and in the army, sirens, a newsreel film of Yehiel De-Nur (K. Ctenik) passing-out during the Eichmann trial, Dmaeinioak’s trial , one-time visits to the Ghetto fighters museum and to Yad Vashem. The boycott of the composer Richard Wagner. And occasional mentions in books, movies, theater plays, radio and TV programs. All of these experiences belonged usually to something like “another planet” as it was accepted that anyone who has not “been there” himself could never understand. Quarantined impressions, which were like standing waters in my mind, disconnected from the current flow of life here and now , like swamps radiating “heaviness” around them on every level of existence. Thus evidently, even though I was, as mentioned, born in this country, I strangely carry with me an existential experience of a feeling similar to being on an unbearably-crowded train, going towards an unknown destination, with no water, food and air. Though I’ve visited many countries all over the world I never felt such an uncomfortable sensation as the one I had on that single occasion when I spent a short while on German soil, during a connection landing at Frankfurt.


The need to “see the whole story.” 

I believe that this underlying influence created in me a deep need over the years: “to see the whole story”. To see a whole story in order to understand in advance the trends and processes that might bring us back to a Holocaust-type situation. To gaze into the future and to recognize menacing dark clouds in order to find a timely way out. But later I’ve been also lucky to find that the “Whole story approach” has much more to offer than a sense of security. It offers also the blessing of Life.


Meeting with Amcha  and connections created 

My work to develop an Internet software application for collecting and organizing dispersed bits of information into an entire story,  met Amcha’s  blessed activity, and with the support  of Anat and Dalia we did and still do conduct group sessions of life-stories documentation with Amcha’s survivors, soldiers and volunteers. 


We live today in an era of wealth of information, ease of personal expression and of having personal voices heard. The accepted forms of documentation vary – from collecting and recording facts for research or commemoration purposes, to literary-artistic impressive expression style. The uniqueness of our activity is particularly, the emphasis on the  element of “connections”.” I believe that now is an era for “Synergism.” 


Connecting storytellers to story editors, and connecting those to the families and to readers online. Connecting and describing additional participants and objects to the storylines told. Connecting occurrences to a certain time, place and order (“Before-After-Parallel”). Connecting the roots of past generations to future generations. Connecting different bits of information, such as texts, images, videos, documents, artifacts, maps and online hyperlinks – into a complete story. Connecting private events to public and international events which occurred simultaneously. Linking different stories to each other and pinpointing the intersecting moments between them. A connection which breaks though the definitions set by the numbers themselves and by the absorbent, vivid, society surrounding them. A connection which results in deep respect and empathy.


The extremely associative and unrestricted documentation system, is like digging drainage canals for all those stagnant waters in the hearts and minds of all the participants, a network of canals that turn into streams, which then merge into rivers and  pour into the ocean of the overall human experience. A flow cycle motion allowing new perspectives and insights, airing out sensations and changing the breath-patterns of our life’s story, perhaps even – finding answers to questions long-repressed and confined to attics and basements. 

What I learned 

I thank the people of Amcha for introducing me to their personal life stories. Heroic stories containing situations of profound spiritual tests, including moments of life hanging by a thin thread due to wondrous coincidences of motion or stagnation, of faking age and identity, of hiding behind slim covers, of certain words which were or weren’t uttered, of facial and bodily expressions under selection, and of chance meetings. Sometimes encountering infinite wrong and evil, sometimes kindness and compassions. I thank them for sharing their lives’ realizations and conclusions, which include an appreciation for the security achieved in the founding of this country, rejections of doubts concerning the righteousness of our path, and a determination for Life, despite all they have been through during the Holocaust and their painful, agonizing journey which followed in later years. The unexpected connections also presented me with secrets which have never been told, a scholarly indulgence in the era’s historical background, and even a meeting with someone who was born and who grew up in the very same village as my father.


There is no story which is “more”, or “less” 

In this activity I learnt that every step in life has impact and a message which cannot be underestimated. No personal story can be perceived as “more”  or  “less” important, “more” or “less” impressive, “more” or “less” right. In the human experience, a personal event, even if it occurred long before, or long after, or on the margins of what is considered the “worst of all” in the public mind, whether the teller is a baby only a few days old, or an elderly person, this event may actually turn out to be the most important and central part of his and our life journey, and play a dramatic role in way that its “discovery” would be an experience comprising restoration, comfort, healing and redemption..


Once they separated  for good, when Masha, 10 years of age, remained alone in the woods, her father’s command to her was: “You are a  wise child, you should live and you will live!!!”. And Masha, achieves closure and concludes her description recently, in the following words:


If dad  is watching me from high above

And sees me – his pride in me is complete. 
I live! 
I remember, I do not forget, There is life! 
And there is continuation for future generations. 


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