No one believes she'll return when she's alone.
What did it take to survive? Ingenuity? Cunning? Defiance? Were the claims of self-interest sounder, more logical, than concern for others? What made the difference between giving up and holding out?
As the preceding selection by Pelagia Lewinska shows, water was essential for survival in Auschwitz. Charlotte Delbo, whose writing has appeared earlier in this book, makes a similar point: There was morning thirst, afternoon thirst, evening thirst, and night thirst--each different, all the same. To drink was to be alive, but thirst was everywhere. Prisoners died from it, not least because any water to be found was likely to be polluted. The thirst that only water can quench was especially acute and agonizing; many Auschwitz memoirs say so. But not all thirst is the kind that water can quench. In None of Us Will Return, Delbo had much to say about thirst of other kinds as well.
After World War II, Delbo declared, "I must not be discussed as a woman writer. I am not a woman in my writing." She even told her friend Cynthia Haft that there was not "a distinctive female experience of the Holocaust," arguing that "the camp system grants complete equality to men and women." Her themes--for example, hunger, fear, nudity, death, memory, courage, and thirst--do transcend gender distinctions. Yet a play she wrote after the Holocaust, Who Will Carry the Word, has an all-woman cast and "Lulu," the poignant vignette reprinted here, has distinctly feminine qualities.
"As soon as you're alone, you think: What good does it do? What for? Why not give up . . . on the spot?" Delbo responds to herself by saying "Surrounded by the others, one