The Holocaust left a legacy of fundamental questions that touch the core of human existence as it is reflected in Western, and primarily Christian, civilization, questions of God's silence and of the indifference of those who professed to believe in a faith that affirmed the dignity of all human beings. Out of the ruins has emerged a bizarre tale, awesome in its irony -- a tale worth telling and telling again. It is a story about the telling of a story, in fact about the telling of six million stories, or maybe six million tellings of one story of the implementation of a demonic design, the all-out effort of a technologically advanced civilization to first dehumanize and then exterminate an entire people. The story of the telling of the tale concerns tellers young and old, scholars and craftsmen, who, charged with a sacred sense of mission, sought to preserve the Jewish memory and to uphold the humanness of the victims in the face of an ingenious SS machine designed to strip them of their individuality and turn them into ciphers crammed into concentration-camp logbooks.
In the walled-in ghettos, behind the barbed wires of the concentration camps, on the bloody trails in the woods, and in stifling hideouts, the persecuted took time out from their bread reveries and snatched minutes from their nightmares to put down what their eyes had witnessed, what their hearts had felt, and what their minds had pondered. Gazing at these pages written in a babel of languages, one wonders what it was that motivated these obsessed witness bearers. Was it the instinctive response of an organism to the threat of extinction, or was it a manifestation of a collective consciousness rooted in a long tradition and guided by a historic imperative to remember and remind? A hint of an answer to these questions may be found in the following talmudic tale.1
In the year 70 A.D., as Jerusalem was under siege, surrounded by the Roman legions commanded by Vespasian, a passionate de-____________________