The New York Times recently published an article by Henry Rozycki titled, “A Son of the Holocaust Buys German.” The first thing that I noticed was a picture of many shoes. It immediately reminded me of a picture I had taken at Maidanek (The Holocaust and a Shoe). There were more things that I had in common with this article, and I felt the need to write it…so here goes.
From the first sentence, I knew that Henry and I would never agree. He wrote, “I bought an Audi this year and with that, World War II finally ended for me.” Perhaps this is the difference between living in Israel and living in the United States. Perhaps there, they can put the Holocaust away once their survivors have died. Henry writes at the end of the article, “My father died in 2003 and my mother in 2010. This year, at age 57, when I needed a new car, I could finally buy a German one.”
What this seems to imply was that so long as his parents lived, he couldn’t buy a German car and now, having buried his parents, the long awaited time when he can bury the Holocaust and buy a German car has arrived.
I don’t buy German. Amazingly enough, some of my children have adopted this same practice to the point that one child refused to use a pen I had bought that was made in Germany.
I too have gone on buses and met Germans with blond hair and blue eyes and felt myself unable to speak to them because if I dared, the questions would come pouring out, “where were you when they were killing my great-grandmother? Where was your father, your grandfather when my mother-in-law and father-in-law suffered?”
Once in Israel, a kind German woman asked me why for the three days we were all together on an organized tour – why I had not spoken to her once. And as I feared, the questions came out. She was polite and, as I said, kind. “I was too young but my father and grandfather weren’t. They didn’t kill anyone, but they didn’t do anything to save anyone either.”
Before I go on, I’d like to make one thing very clear – though I have little doubt that others will ignore this point and say I hate Germans today and blame them for the Holocaust. I don’t. I really don’t. I believe today’s Germany bears a special responsibility – just as today’s Israel does. We will never be free of the Holocaust – and neither will Germany. We both carry a terrible burden. We walk with this past over our shoulders and there is nothing we can do about it – nothing I want to do about it. I can’t let it go. I can’t say they are gone and buried and so they won’t know if I drive an Audi.
I don’t want to drive an Audi – it makes me sick to think of it. I can funnel the pain and the anger into the things – which is so much healthier and better than channeling it against the people. I can forgive today’s Germany because other than some questionable governmental policies, they are no worse and often better than many European countries. But there is an anger that remains.
Thirty-seven years ago today, Israel flew a rescue mission into Entebbe to save Jews and Israelis who were forced to go through a Nazi-like selection by Palestinian and German terrorists. The fact that a German was there infuriates me more than if the terrorist had been French or Spanish or whatever. It angers me at a level even beyond the Palestinian terrorists.
Yes, Germans carry a responsibility above all others in the world to ensure there will never again be another Holocaust because they taught the world that there could be one. Israel shoulders the responsibility as well – not because we perpetrated the first one, but because had we had our nation then, we would have flown across the world as we did in Entebbe – and it wouldn’t have happened.
Many years ago, as I drove my youngest son, Davidi, to school, he asked me about the tattoos burned into the arms of Holocaust victims. “Will it ever go away?” he asked. And as I answered, “No, it will never go away,” I knew that I was talking about more than the Holocaust. Davidi is named after a grandfather who survived the Holocaust. My other sons are named for two of my husband’s uncles who did not survive.
I would never have bought an Audi when my in-laws were alive and now that they are gone, I still will not buy one. Why? It is a question I ask myself occasionaly and the only answer I can give is that my not buying serves as an eternal reminder, and we need it.
No, the Holocaust will never end. The pain caused by the inhumanities lives on for generations. My husband and his siblings are products of the Holocaust, of having a mother who was in a gas chamber and pulled out at the last minute; of having a father who had lost his parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and siblings.
My husband never knew the love of a grandparent. He is a grandfather now – and with all the love he gives to our grandson, there is the knowledge that this love was denied to him. My children are products of the Holocaust – every Israeli child grows up with the necessary education; and a yearly reminder that mankind can commit unspeakable evil.
Is it wrong to continue to remind the Germans what their grandfathers and great grandfathers did? No – because we live with what was done to our grandfathers and great grandfathers and beyond. We live with it – why shouldn’t they?
It is not enough to visit the Holocaust Museum once and cry before the remnants of shoes and suitcases and piles of shorn hair. It is not even enough to go to Auschwitz and stand in the gas chamber and feel the dead all around you, silently screaming even 70 years later.
The Holocaust will never go away; we will never be free to be other than what we are. We can move onward – and we do. We have built families, created a most astounding nation that brings compassion to the world – and this too is a product of the Holocaust.
Every time Israelis fly into danger – to ravaged lands hit by earthquakes and tsunamis – every time, it is a product of the Holocaust, when no one stood up to save us.
So no, Henry, I don’t agree with you. You may be one son of the Holocaust, but I am a daughter of the Holocaust and more, I have birthed five grandchildren of the Holocaust and as they enter into married life, they bring the next generation into existence.
Yes, there are plenty of Audis in Israel, plenty of sons and daughters who agree with you, Henry. Personally, I think you are fooling yourself and as you drive around in your Audi, you’ll know, deep in some part of your soul, that it would have hurt your parents.
Personally, I’ll take my Honda any day.