The Isle of Remembrance

When I lived in the Jordaan (Amsterdam) the side streets were occupied by working men's businesses in ground floor warehouses.  Many of these men, I never met a woman among them, were older than me and had experienced World War II, the occupation and its aftermath.   The Jordaan is where Otto Frank, Anne Frank's father had his business:  Prinsengracht 263-267.

Anne Frank Huis, Prinsengracht, the Netherlands

Hence, the subject of the Germans, the War, the occupation, the United States were always a topic of conversation.

Rozenstrrat 72 (a small street off the Rozengracht Canal), Jordaan

One such man fixed my daughter's stroller without charge because the American's had liberated his family.  He talked to me about the War long after the stroller was fixed and the day had grown dark.

Now all these years later, it is difficult to understand how we are still immersed in the past, the Isle of Remembrance rather than Tunisia's Isle of Forgetfulness when it comes to War, active or cold.  Or how many stories are emerging about this War fought  70 years ago.

Another story in the WP about compensation to Holocaust survivor's from the French rail line that sent thousands to the death camps.   Will they identify those survivors?

Mijnheer Frederic Hanau did not survive.  

Irene N√©mirovsky did not survive.  Her posthumous book, "Suite Francaise", an exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Heritage, and books by her two surviving children, are edifying as a body of work of one who has been accused and may have collaborated with the Vichy, and nonetheless was interned, transported on those controversial trains, concentrated and probably exterminated.

During 1942, officials sent 41,951 Jews to Germany, although the deportations came to a temporary halt when some religious leaders warned Vichy against possible public reaction. Afterwards, arrests were carried out more discreetly. In 1943 and 1944, the regime deported 31,899 people - the last train left in August 1944, as Allied troops entered Paris. Out of the total of 75,721 deportees, contained in a register drawn up by a Jewish organisation, fewer than 2,000 survived.

What is prompting the explosion of inquiry and potential reparation?   Is it because the numbers of survivors are so few?  Is it an awaking of guilt long buried?  What is it exactly?

During the war many could have been saved.  Before and during the war many could have been succored and saved with their property.   Yet with the exception of the Undergrounds, the Danes, the Righteous, little attempt was made by either the United States or Europe.

Survivors via New York Times

Boats were turned away.  Escape increasingly became impossible. Although I know my mentor escaped Vienna by way of Belgium; a good friend, now deceased walked from Poland to a port that gave him a chance to survive, and a former director of my Dutch workplace, who I admired and loved, fought for the US as a Jewish Belgian.  Somehow they survived, but the numbers who didn't still are unknown.  We won't know their stories.

And as for me and remembrance, and the Isle of Forgetfulness, I am going on hiatus.

1 comment:

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