The Aftermath: Remembering
In the first story in this section, “The Aftermath, ” the writer responds to a question: “What was the worst part of the Holocaust?” Her answer: what came afterward. This writer was a hidden child rather than a concentration camp prisoner, and thus some other survivors might respond differently to the question. But none would be likely to disagree with the issue to which she points: after liberation, survivors had to find ways to live on through the years with their personal memories of suffering and loss.
Two stories, “The Aftermath” and “The Barber, ” tell of lifelong yearning for a lost parent. The writer of “It Shall Not Be Forgotten Nor Forgiven!” deals with memory by chronicling in detail the deaths of each of his family members. With a somewhat broader range, the writer of “Kaleidoscope” evokes fragments of scenes he remembers from Salonika, Greece—scenes peopled with many named and unnameable individuals.
The sense of loss called up in these stories is tempered in this section by bittersweet, even uplifting sequels to liberation, such as in “The Sewing Basket” and “Children from the Camps Going to England.” And in “The Chief of the Gestapo” and “Herr Schluemper, ” survivors act out what must have been a recurring fantasy of all Nazi victims both during and after the war. The cruel German officers who get what they deserve come to represent all evil perpetrators of the Holocaust who we wish would be punished.
Despite this positive note, this section finally underscores the pain that energizes the survivors' ongoing need to speak as witnesses in the aftermath of the war. “To Bear Witness about the Holocaust” and “It Shall Not Be Forgotten Nor Forgiven!” tell of these writers' determination to keep the memory of the spilled blood alive. Surely it is in a real sense the individual survivors' inability to forget that informs our collective memory of Holocaust history.