In yesterday’s New York Times I learned about a series of apartment buildings in Flushing, Queens originally erected for elderly Holocaust survivors. The focus of the article is on the changing demographics of the Martin Lande Building, which is now predominantly Chinese and Korean.
The Martin Lande was “built by Selfhelp Community Services, a nonprofit group started in 1936 to help refugees from Nazi Germany resettle in the United States,” states the article. “When it built its first residence for elderly Holocaust survivors in 1965, Flushing was a logical location,” said Elihu Kover, vice president for Nazi victim services, because the neighborhood was largely Jewish and Italian.
“The residents came mainly from Germany and Austria at first, then later from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics. Many had ties to Flushing. They knew the merchants and synagogues. At the organization’s first senior center, which opened in 1975, they played cards and celebrated birthdays and Jewish holidays along with other older adults from the neighborhood. It was their place.”
The history is certainly interesting to me but what really pulled me in was something Mr. Kover describes as a “hierarchy of suffering” among survivors to distinguish their hardships from others’.
He explains: “Even in a diminishing community, there is a tendency to divide into subgroups: Russians from Germans, adult survivors from child survivors, people who survived concentration camps from those who fled ahead of the soldiers.”
It’s hard for me not to find a bit of humor in this, as in, “My suffering is worse than yours.” Old Jews trying to outdo each other in pain and agony to the very end. There’s such a Woody Allen element to it that I couldn’t help but chuckle. LMAO-ETIKIS—Laughing My A** Off Even Though I Know I Shouldn’t.