Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Isn't It Ironic

Monday night was Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Rememberance Day. I had been invited by Hebrew U's Hillel house to participte in an alternative Holocaust ceremony. Israel seems to have a formula for solemn ceremonies, which is 4-6 parts dramatic readings, 2-3 parts songs and a few poems/candle lightings. The Hillel house's ceremony consisted of a number of different students speaking about the Holocaust from their perspective, as well as having a somewhat famous folk singer play a few interspersed songs. It was actually quite interesting. A number of the people spoke had no family in the Holocaust - students whose families cam from Ethiopia, Yemen, Tunisia, etc and their only connection to the Holocaust was their religion. I was asked to speak because I spent most of my life in America, and I was asked to talk about what it was like growing up in a country where the ghost of the Holocaust is not part of the national identity. However, the most interesting student, by far, was the only non-Jew who spoke.

Jan is an overseas student from Germany in his mid-20s, who is an artistic, sensitive, talented and extremely eccentric student. He was asked to talk about his Holocaust experiences, as someone from the "other side". His words were moving and powerful. He told us about the time when a religious Jew came up to him and asked, "How many Jews did your father murder in the Holocaust?" When Jan told him that his father had been born after WWII, the man persisted and asked, "Then how many Jews did your grandfathers murder?" He told us about how he wasn't aloud toy weapons as a child, because his parents told him, "We're Germans, we don't play with guns."

After he got off the stage, he sat down next to me. As he took his place, I realized he was shaking, quietly sobbing, and on the verge of hyperventilating. I instinctively took his hand and held it, and told him what a brave thing he did. I held his hand until he calmed down, until his breathing was less erratic and he stopped shaking.

At one stage, as I looked down at our hands, lit only by the faint spotlight focused on the stage, the irony struck me. Here I am, a Jew, sitting in Jerusalem, our Jewish capital, calming and comforting a non-Jewish German on Holocaust Day.

Take that, Hitler.


Blogger Dot Co Dot Il said...

extremely eccentric? Think that need elaborating...

9:39 PM  
Blogger Aliza said...

Extremely eccentric: A nice way of saying weird.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Dot Co Dot Il said...

I've tagged you for the Meme. You know what to do?

9:52 AM  
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