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February 27, 1987 - Image 35

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-02-27

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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saga of redemption of the few
youth who were rescued in
Buchenwald on April 11, 1945
upon the liberation of the ter-
rorized by American soldiers.
The surprised soldiers found
1,000 children, all males, or-
phans transferred from Au-
schwitz. Two months after lib-
eration from Buchenwald they
were provided refuge in
France, Switzerland and
England. About 100 of the boys
found temporary home in
Taverny, near Paris. That's
where Judith Hemmendinger
was in charge from 1945 to
1947. Elie Wiesel was one of
the boys. His message to her,
the foreword to her book, is
among the deeply moving
documents in Survivors. He
wrote:
"Judith . . . I hope you know
what role you have played in
our existence. You supported
and encouraged us to put stake
in the future and the commu-
nity. Your book demonstrates
this."
Judith interviewed 27 of the
survivors and their reflections
evidence the impressions left
upon them, some in several
countries, including Israel,
having gained importance in
their communities.
There is an emotional im-
pact here, an inerasable record
of human effects upon ter-
rorized children. It is a collec-
tion of recollections that in-
vites dedication to the Zachor,
the remembering as a duty to
humanism.
These are among the con-
cluding words from the author,
a powerful challenge to man-
kind to remember the mass
murder of children, the cruel-
ties by the German Nazis. The
concluding essay by Judith
Hemmendinger demands
widest attention, especially
when she asserts:
Everyone expected that,
after regaining their

strength, the survivors
would seek vengeance on
the German population. It
would have seemed normal
that they kill, pillage, rebel,
and cry for justice.
Nothing of the sort hap-
pened, though. Not only did
they refrain from taking any
action, they remained un-
usually passive, and they
kept silent. . . . Yet, many of
the survivors declared that
they had resolved to survive
in order to serve as eye-
witnesses . of what had hap-
pened, and to prevent the
death and the sufferings of
their families from being
forever lost in historic obliv-
ion.
After liberation, they did
not cry out, they did not
speak. The silence that vei-
led the existence of the
camps from the beginning
has persisted long after.
Silence after such tragedy
is a common phenomenon.
It is easy to understand why
the Germans have kept the
secret: they preferred to
pretend that the camps did
not exist. But how about the
victims? How can their si-
lence be explained? Indeed,
only a few of them were able
to describe the horrible,
frightful scenes they had
witnessed. And the few who
have tried to speak were not
believed; they soon realized
that it was impossible to im-
part the meaning of depor-
tation and concentration
camp life. Most of all, how-
ever, their physical and
psychological injuries, the
humiliation of having been
no more than a number, and
the guilt of having survived
while all members of their
families died were such that
they were unable to express
their inner feelings - and
this has not changed to this
date.

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