I thought of that old friend of mine whom I have not visited in a while. Perhaps some weekend before Tish B’Av I shall read her diary along with Renia’s Diary: A Holocaust Journal; Helga’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Account of Live in a Concentration Camp; The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister; The Girls of the Room: Friendship, Hope and Survival in Theresienstadt; and The Cat with the Yellow Star: Coming of Age in Terezin. The “her” is of course the mother of all Holocaust diarists: Anne Frank.
I was nine or ten when I first read The Diary of Anne Frank. I remember thinking she was the friend I wished I could have. I was lonely as a child in grade school, and while I certainly was not suffering the way she did in her attic, I felt a kind of kinship with somebody who was so isolated, who truly was a rival to her sister Margot and in love–for part of the book–with Peter. I remember feeling crestfallen that Peter and Anne’s love did not last till the end of the diary… but more broken hearted when I read the fate of Anne in the center of the diary, written as the subtext of pictures. I learned that Anne died peacefully, after Margot, “as though nothing bad was happening to her.” The book said that Anne did not lose her humanity in the camps: she pitied gypsy children on their way to the gas chambers… And I cried for Anne, because though we never met she was my true friend. It did not matter–it still doesn’t–that she was a “liberal” Jew, whereas when I did convert I was a “Conservative” who kept Kosher. No, all that mattered was that she was a little girl and I was a little girl, and I kept her secrets.
Learning about Anne was my first experience with knowledge of the Holocaust. I would eventually read and see Schindler’s List. Later I would read Sheltering the Jews… and I hope to read another larger book on the Holocaust which I have upstairs. I’ve seen films and heard speeches as a Jew about the Holocaust, usually on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. I even have a book, Ester and Ruzya, about two women, one who was a victim of the Nazis and the other a hapless collaborator of Stalin–or at least, that is what I believe it is.
This last may be helpful to create a fictional story between two people–not necessarily two women–who survived Stalin’s and Hitler’s camps before they met. I am not sure they would both have to be Jewish, though it would make sense with Hitler’s death camp. Perhaps the person on the Jewish person went to Russia to find a relative, and meets the person who was in Stalin’s camp instead. Perhaps the one in Hitler’s camps “saw a boy, Yuri, and the guards said he was Stalin’s son. I wondered how he could be there, but the guard laughed and said–somebody else among the guards thought to ask him–that Hitler generously offered to swap him and some other prisoners for Hitler’s nephew, who had also been captured. Yet neither man would make the swap without other prisoners involved, and neither would say they would give other prisoners for their relative. I kept watch on Yuri, though he said under interrogation that he and all Russians hated Jews, and then tried to stop him from trying to escape. Alas, he died on the fencing trying to escape. I cried for Yuri. It was not his fault he was Stalin’s son. He was a good boy at heart.”
I maybe shouldn’t reveal this much about my story based on Ester and Ruzya. Yet I hope it will exist in Tales of the Land of the Firebird Part I.