|Holocaust memoir of of Rachel Yaol, née Blum|
Holocaust Remembrance Day is being marked today by Israel and Jewish communities around the world. On this occasion I would like to contribute a memory of my own and pass on another's.
The year was 1998. I had just left the kibbutz and begun life in the big city, and apparently I had a gig as a computer instructor at a home for the elderly. I remember almost nothing from that course, which must have been very short. I recall that the people were very nice and that's about it, except for one thing: Out of the blue, probably on my last day there, one of the ladies came up to me, handed me a small blue pamphlet and implored me: "It really happened, never forget!"She clasped my hands in hers and repeated her demand.
If I recall correctly, she was about as tall as I was or even a bit taller, she had white-gray hair tied in a bun, and mostly I remember piercing dark eyes and a very kind face, which resembled Golda Meir's, though I believe it was more elongated than round. When I got home I read the pamphlet. It turned out to be a small, humble Holocaust memoir, written in a simple and straightforward language, by one of the millions of Jews who had visited the depths of human depravity and came back to tell the world.
At the time I did not feel very connected to the Jewish people and the thought of anyone forgetting the Holocaust seemed ridiculous to me; we still remember and commemorate events that happened thousands of years ago (though we assiduously avoid learning anything from them). Anyway, I read the pamphlet once and put it aside. I never let it touch me, I never did return to the Home and, shamefully, I never read the memoir again. Fortunately, I didn't throw it away either, so there's that...
Anyway, as it happens, I am currently editing a dissertation about Holocaust memoirs, and one thing that strikes me is that the writers implore their unknown readers again and again: "Do not forget what happened to us". Suddenly the whole issue seemed very personal to me. There are many things I dislike about the way in which my people and country use and misuse the Holocaust, and for many years the emotional and political manipulations around this issue have prevented me from fully identifying with the collective on these occasions. But this time, reading these very personal pleas, made from one desperate Jew to another, my heart was deeply touched. Thus, I was also reminded of the more recent plea made to me by that nice, elderly lady, in a home in Jerusalem. Her name was Rachel and she has probably already passed away, but I now want to fulfill her wishes, to remember, and remind others, for her. To that end, I have translated a few segments from her memoir, which was written in Hebrew. So, the following is in memory of Rachel Yaol, née Blum, Holocaust survivor.
The title of the short memoir is, appropriately, "It Really Happened", and it was published in 1998. This is from the first page: