Part IX: Afterwords
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Part IX of the Journal
It’s not over…
None of it is over. I doubt it will ever end.
Survivors and their children and their children’schildren continue in their private and largely silent struggle. Libraries and cinematographers are rushing to record thetestimony of those willing to break their silence. Schools anduniversities wrestle with whether and what to remember. Scholarsare arguing with and for each other about this point and that. Holocaust deniers and belittlers are popping up everywhere. Revisionism is rampant. The lie is still being told.
What is tobe done…
At the suggestion of a Jewish friend, I started reducing my experience to writing. I chose the form of a letter to go with the pictures I took. In order to write it all down I had to relive or try to relive whatI had seen and what I had felt. It took almost twelve months torecreate those few days and, in doing so, I discovered I’dbrought a demon or two back with me. One day, just for the hellof it, I did a word count. I’d written nearly 30,000 words andwas not finished.
As I wrote, I had to do some research to confirm or correct conclusions I had drawn and inferences I had made. I wanted to be clear on all matters of fact. Most of what I needed was on hand at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I got more from local libraries and from the archives of Internet gophers and world-wide web servers. But the writing and the research got me no closer to an end. Instead, I came to see what I had missed and what I should have done.
So, the sense of mission I started out with grew stronger as I worked. Many years before, I had vowed that I, for one, would never forget. Having seen for myself what remained, I found I wanted to spread the word on how a sheltered gentile of another generation could be made to realize exactly what it is that must not be forgotten. Iwanted to do it right. Having gotten this far, I realized that Iwould have to go back because I still have a promise to keep. Iwill always have a promise to keep.
I cannot forget. I will always remember.
I will remember that Auschwitz is not one but many places. I will remember that Auschwitz happened. I will remember that there is no escape. And I ask one thing of you – that you remember Auschwitz clearly.
Auschwitz is not a camp or a museum or a memorial or a cemetery. Auschwitz is an open grave that extends for miles beyond its walls and its fences and its official boundaries. And the remains of the dead are everywhere.
Millions of men, women, and children werebrutally murdered and lie dead at Auschwitz. You cannot approachor enter without stepping over and upon their bodies. The airthat you breathe there is their last. What grows there issustained by them. The Sola and the Vistula flow among them andover them and carry them along. The rain there anoints them. The sun there cannot raise them from their cold or take them outof darkness.
The nature of the beast…
Auschwitz changes things.
From time to time, my wife and daughter go for a walk around the block or for a drive to the store. I know they’ll be back. But, watching my daughter wave bye-bye as they disappear around the corner of the house or up the street, I sometimes grieve for the murdered children of the Holocaust. They, too, had turned and waved, secure in that simple gesture and certain of their return.