Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Who now will bear witness?

Some thoughts on the Holocaust as we commemorate Yom HaShoah tonight

By Robert Eli Rubinstein for The Times of Israel

The doctor last saw my mother the day before she left us. Her condition had declined dramatically, and he was checking up on her with increased frequency. He sat down at her bedside and asked in his characteristically empathetic manner how she was feeling. Judith Rubinstein smiled and, clasping the doctor’s hand, responded in a weak yet resolute voice: “My bags are packed.”

Appearing to change the subject, she motioned toward the blue number tattooed on her forearm and explained, as she had done countless times in the past, that this was how the Nazis tagged Jewish prisoners kept alive for slave labor at the Auschwitz concentration camp. It was not just a typically efficient German administrative procedure, akin to ranchers branding cattle to keep track of them: It was also a diabolical attempt to dehumanize the Jews. By replacing the prisoners’ names with numbers, the Germans were trying to extinguish their souls before murdering their bodies. Of all her family members deported to that infernal place, my mother was the only one who survived to bear witness.

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