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May 12, 1978 - Image 22

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1978-05-12

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Friday, May 12, 1918

`Child of the Holocaust': A Young Detroit Jew's View

And the mean man shall
be brought down and the
mighty shall be humbled
and the eyes of the lofty shall
be humbled.
— Isaiah

Forgetfulness leads to
exile. While remembrance is
the secret of redemption.
— Baal Shem Too

(Editor's Note: Jeff
Colman, the author of





6160 CASS AVE.

TR 5-0300

this article, is the son of
Mr. and Mrs. Albert Col-
man, both of whom are
active in congregational
and Zionist circles here.
Jeff, a student at the U ► i-
versity of Michigan, is
presently visiting his sis-
ter in Israel, who is stud-
ying for the rabbinate at
the Jerusalem school of
Hebrew Union College-
Jewish Institute of Reli-
The Holocaust is a unique
event in Jewish (let alone
all) history. Few events
have had such an impact on
the Jewish people and
Jewish faith. Elie Wiesel
compares the Holocaust to
Sinai in revelatory signifi-
However, immediately
following the Holocaust
Jewish theologians were re-
luctant to deal with it. For
the Holocaust raised un-
precedented questions that
seemingly could not be an-
swered within traditional
doctrines. Yet evil and suf-
fering are not new to the
Jewish people or Jewish
theology. Several theologi-
cal explanations of the
Holocaust have emerged.
This paper was originally
intended to be an analysis of
these various explanations.
As I familiarized myself
with this topic I realized
that as a layman these ex-
planations were inadequate
for me.

I am a Jew. I am 20 years
old. I live in the United
States of America. I do not
bother myself with trivial
discussion over whether I
am an American Jew or a
Jewish-American. I am a
Jew and I live in the United
States as a citizen.


I am not a student of
theology. I did not fully
understand these
theological interpreta-
tions and they did not ex-
press my own feelings on
the Holocaust. I am not
prepared yet to deal with
my belief in God and my
faith on a highly sophisti-
cated level.
Rather, I thought it would
be more worthwhile to
analyze my nwn life and its
relation to the Holocaust on
a simpler level. How does it
relate to me daily as an in-
dividual? What identity has
it given me?
Rather than trying to
deal with the Holocaust on a
complex level, I will try to
gain an understanding of
the Holocaust's personal re-
lationship to me. For there
is no doubt: I am a child of
the Holocaust.

Detroit Friends of
Yeshiva University

May 18 - 6 P.M. - Cong. Shaarey Zedek

Guest Speaker

Henry Dorfman
Norman Allan
Daniel A. Leven
David Hermelin

For Reservations Write or Call

Erik Z. Fetter, Executive Suite 2310 Cass Ave.

Detroit, Mich., 48201 . Telephone 237-0538

I am not a religious Jew
but I am a deeply commit-
ted Jew. I may not per-
form all the rituals
(though I love Jewish
tradition) but I feel as
strong a Jew as any,
though I know many reli-
gious Jews would take
exception to this. I iden-
tify with the Reform
Movement though I know
that it is really an artifi-
cial division. I am a Jew
— just like Moses,
Maimonides, Mendel-
sohn and Moshe Dayan.

I am from an upper mid-
dle class Jewish family (also
very committed) and I
wholeheartedly recognize
that I have had a basically
easy life. I have never truly
suffered. I had a good sub-
urban education and now
my parents are sending me
through college. I have al-
ways had what I wanted
though my parents would
deny that they spoiled me.
My existence and my
livelihood is comfortable
and seemingly secure. I do
not feel as if I face day-to-
day threats. (In fact the
greatest threat of most of
my peers is the possibility of
being turned down by a
prestigious law or medical
school.) I have a tremendous
bourgeois guilt complex.
Yet I realize every day of
my life that I am here living
this comfortable and secure
life because of decisions my
grandparents made more
than 50 years ago. Their de-
cision was to leave the years
of persecution and poverty
of Poland and sail for the
New World. I would not be
here, most likely, had they
decided to stay.

My parents would have
never lived past their teen-
age years and my
grandparents would never
have experienced the joy of
having grandchildren to be
proud of. I live with this
knowledge every day of my
life. For ! cannot escape it: I
am a child of the Holocaust.
I am no philosopher or
theologian. Yet I know that
my existence and identity
as a Jew and as a human
being are determined by
two events that took place
the decade before my birth.
Emil Frackenheim, a
Jewish philosopher
whose writings have
helped me a great deal in
relating to the Holocaust,
calls such historical
episodes "epoch-making
events." Epoch-making
events are major events
in Jewish history that
make new claims upon
Jewish faith but never
destroy it. Such events
include the Revelation at
Sinai, the Maccabean
Revolt and the Destruc-
tion of the First and Sec-
ond Temples.

According to Fac-
kenheim, since the Destruc-
tion of the Second Temple
only three epoch-making
events have occurred and
two within the past genera-
tion: the Emancipation, the
Nazi Holocaust and the re-
birth of the Jewish state in
Israel. Fackenheim writes:
"We, the Jewish people of
today have been cursed and
blessed as perhaps no gen-
eration of Jews since Sinai
itself. Two epoch-making
events in a single genera-
tion! Rare is the generation
of men anywhere which ex-
periences even one."
In dealing with these two
epoch-making events, the
Holocaust, of course, is the
most difficult. In my eyes,
the state of Israel is a totally
positive phenomenon. To a
certain extent its modern
creation was a result of the
Holocaust and what the
Holocaust represents in
Jewish history. Certainly
my binding identification
with and feeling for Israel is
strengthened by my knowl-
edge of the Holocaust.
And yet I did not experi-
ence the Holocaust.
I do feel, though, that I am
always trying to experience
or at least understand it. I
hear that what's past is past
and that one must face up to
new realities. I am living in
the free United States and
therefore everything is all
right. I am told that Nazi
Germany was unique; it
probably won't happen
again. As a child of the
Holocaust, these words are
not comforting, they are
When President Anwar
Sadat of Egypt visited Is-
rael last November,
Prime Minister Menahem
Begin took him to the Yad
Vashem Memorial for the
six million Jewish vic-
tims df the Holocaust.
Begin was frying to show
Sadat and the rest of the
world that if they wanted
to understand Israel and
the Jewish people, they
would first have to look
at the Holocaust.
I visited Yad Vashem last
summer on one of my first
few days in Israel. I realized
that much of what I was to
experience over the next
two months of travelling
around Israel would be
based on what I saw and ex-
perienced at Yad Vashem.
The Holocaust, though
unique, was not an isolated
historical event; it was the
culmination (though not the
finale) of centuries of anti-
Semitism and anti-
Judaism. The crime Hitler
executed had been con-
templated for years and
years. (That's why the world
let him do it!) Where Hitler
did not succeed, others are
still trying to replace him.
The same day that I vis-
ited Yad Vashem I went to
the Wailing Wall in the Old
City of !Jerusalem. I ex-
pected opposite emotional
reactions. After all, in the
morning I was witness to
the greatest tragedy in
Jewish history and now, in
the afternoon, I was wit-

nessing one of its greatest
triumphs: the reunification
of the ancient capital of the
Jewish nation.
Yet what I felt from both
experiences were ironically
similar. These supposedly
opposite experiences
created in me the same
faith. I did not feel like the
lonely Jew beaten for cen-
turies. Rather I felt tremen-
dous inspiration in knowing
that I was the Jew that had
survived the Crusades, the
Cossacks and the Nazis and
now stood upright with
faith in the God of history.

My faith rejuvenated
throughout my stay in Is-
rael, particularly upon
visiting friends and rela-
tives who were survivors
of the Holocaust. I sat
and listened with total
interest and involvement
to their stories. I heard of
others who were not as
lucky to make it to
America or Israel. I did
not hear words of grief
and revenge like I had
I understood that they
only wanted to live in peace
which was still being denied
to them. I had studied much
about the Holocaust but
now it truly was confronting
me for the first time. As I
wrote upon my return

Suddenly I get this desire
to learn everything about my
family. I want to research
about them. I want to know
them. Suddenly, I feel less
alone. Like never before I
realize that I am part of a
family. I realize its meaning.
-After all the love my parents
gave me, it took the
Holocaust to instill in me a
genuine feeling for my fam-
ily. Why?

I truly did not understand
the faith in me. When I read
Fackenheim, I realized that
I had heard (as I do every
day) the Commanding
Voice of Auschwitz. Accord-
ing to Fackenheim, the
Voice of Auschwitz com-

Jews are forbidden to
hand Hitler posthumous vic-
tories. They are commanded
to survive as Jews, lest the
Jewish people perish. They
are commanded to re-
member the victims of Au-
schwitz lest their memory
perish. They are forbidden
to despair of man and his
thorld, and to escape into
either cynicism or other-
wordliness, lest they cooper-
ate in delivering the world
over to the forces of Au-
schwitz. Finally, they are
forbidden to despair of the
God of Israel, lest Judaism
A seularist Jew cannot
make' himself believe by a
mere act of will, nor can he
be commanded to do so . . .
And a religious Jew who has
stayed with his God may be
forced into new, possibly
revolutionary relationships
with Him. One possibility,
however, is wholly unthink-
able. A Jew may not respond
to Hitler's attempt to destroy

(Continued on Page 23)

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