Archives for posts with tag: Grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors

subway seat graffiti

I take my children to school each day via the subway. One morning a week or so ago my six-year-old daughter excitedly told me I had just sat upon a square and to stand up so she could show me. And this is what I saw: a swastika in black permanent marker. But at second glance, I saw something else. Some other subway rider had whipped out her ballpoint pen and filled in the corners of the swastika to make it look like a square. And then she added peace symbols and hearts in the quadrants.

“What’s wrong Mommy? You don’t like the picture?”

Here’s what my first-grade daughter knows and understands so far:

  • She is Jewish
  • Her father is Israeli
  • Her mother (me) is writing a book about her Savta’s extraordinary life (savta is Hebrew for grandmother)

“This is a swastika,” I said. “It’s a symbol of the nazi party.”

(I just now decided that I will not capitalize the “n” in nazi because it somehow legitimizes them; it’ll be capped in my book though, I’ll make sure my editor makes sure of it…).

“The nazi’s wanted to kill all the Jews and they succeeded in killing a lot of us, including some of your relatives. That’s why I’m writing a book about your Savta.”

“How come you never work on the book anymore?” she asked.

How could she have known? (Kids always know). I had spent the last few days contemplating whether or not to leave my job as an editor at BBC to work fulltime on my book. I had taken the position in December 2013 and have barely touched the book since. I miss it. I crave it. I really, really, really need to get back to my book.

“Well, I work fulltime and my life is really busy. I’d like to get back to writing my book,” I said. “What do you think? Should I leave BBC to work fulltime on my book?”

She looked away and then down at the ground.  I could see that she was really thinking about how to respond. And then, “I think it’s a decision you have to make, Mommy.”

Well knock me over with a feather! Holy sh*t! I laughed and hugged her and said, “Thank you my oh-so-wise daughter.”

A week or so later I resigned from the BBC. I’m exhilarated about this decision and as of May 8 I will have a new fulltime job: to complete the manuscript for “What Happened to That Baby.”

For those of you who have been on this intermittent journey with me, please continue to check back. I will try to post somewhat regularly. For those of you who are just joining, welcome! I hope you’ll come visit once in a while too. I encourage discussion on these pages, but I do moderate all comments before posting. Please be respectful and no ad hominem attacks. These are very charged topics but there are ways to engage without resorting to intolerance and hatred.

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peace and love

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A spread from Art Spiegelman's Maus.

 

Are you familiar with the term, Holo-kitsch? It was dubbed by Art Spiegelman of Maus fame. I just learned that he planned to publish Maus as a single volume rather than two (volume I: 1986; volume II: 1991). Apparently he had been publishing installments of Maus, his comic-strip Holocaust memoir, in his magazine Raw, and found out one day that Steven Spielberg was set to release an animated film, An American Tail, based on the same concept — a family of Jewish mice in Russia escaping to the new world.

To beat Spielberg to the punch — Spiegelman suspected plagiarism — he published the first half of the book right away and volume II five years later.

Anyway, back to my original point. Spiegelman thinks the Holocaust is written about and talked about and performed about in excess, and he coined the phrase Holo-kitsch to reflect that belief. In an article in the Sunday Times of London, he says, “By the time Maus came out, there was a literature, and it’s grown ever since, that I dubbed Holo -kitsch. There’s a really strong sentimental streak that runs through a lot of this stuff and it makes me shudder.”

I’ve also heard it referred to as Holocaust Fatigue. And I get it. Sometimes it’s just too much, especially when it’s all coming at you at once. To me, there’s only fatigue if the book, film, art (fill-in-the-blank) is cliche or uninspired. But there’s a lot out there that’s new and distinct (like my book-to-be, of course!) that will bring fresh voices and shed new ideas about the Holocaust and its aftermath more than 60 years later. Holocaust Fatigue may be stemming from the fact that it’s the first and second generations who have done the bulk of the creating, writing, performing. Perhaps it’s the third generation of survivors (sometimes referred to as 3G) that needs to break the staleness. That’s what I think. What about you?

Caleb Lush flexes for his grandfather

Caleb Lush, grandson of Holocaust survivor Max Rodrigues Garcia, has his grandfather’s prisoner number tattooed on his right bicep.

“I decided to get my tattoo for two reasons,” he writes in a back-of-the-book essay in his grandfather’s memoir, Auschwitz, Auschwitz…I Cannot Forget You. “To constantly remind myself that I can overcome anything that lies in my path; and, to show respect for my grandfather, and his unbelievable story.”

I know to some it may seem like sacrilege, but I think his homage to his grandfather is fantastic. Beautiful even.

When I was just out of college I wrote a short story about a young woman who got her grandmother’s concentration camp number tattooed on her forearm. She went straight to a tattoo parlor after her grandmother’s funeral. I remember feeling a bit uncomfortable about it, but felt it was honest and that if I had a grandparent who survived the Holocaust, I too might have done that. I had never heard of anyone actually doing it, so when I saw Caleb’s tattoo in his grandfather’s book, I was instantly smitten. The book, too, is well worth a read. Fascinating stuff.