MARKING HUMANITY: STORIES, POEMS, & ESSAYS BY HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS
EDITED BY SHLOMIT KRIGER
By Darryl Salach
The League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada reported in the year 2009 that incidents of anti-Semitic behaviour had increased nearly five-fold in Canada. Around the world, acts of anti-Semitism and the denial of historical events pertaining to the Holocaust having ever taken place, have also seen a significant rise in recent years. In reflection of these startling facts, local Toronto writer and editor Shlomit Kriger has compiled a wondrous anthology titled Marking Humanity: Stories, Poems, & Essays by Holocaust Survivors (Soul Inscriptions Press, 2010). She provides readers with a first-hand glimpse into the experiences of forty-six Holocaust survivors who courageously share their stories concerning the horrors and atrocities that each of them encountered during that reprehensible period in history.
The stories within this anthology are startling and unique to say the least. George Scott (formerly Spiegel) was born in Hungary in 1930 and now resides in Toronto. His grandparents, who raised him, placed him in a Budapest Jewish Orphanage after he completed Grade four, and there were one-hundred-and-twenty boys, aged six to eighteen. He tried to run away from the orphanage when the Nazis invaded Hungary in 1944, but he was caught on the border of Slovakia and taken to Sarvar, a large concentration camp, and later sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in Poland. Although he survived the Holocaust, he lost five of his mother’s sisters and all of their children and husbands, as well as his grandparents. He writes in his poem Auschwitz 1944, “Not close enough for warmth / The lusty flames / In the crematorium’s busy chimney / Rise and fall / Indifferent lies / The barbed wire’s shadow / On the frozen ground / Very thin is the line / Between being and not being / The night is emptied.”
Marietta Elliott-Kleerkoper was born in Amsterdam in 1937. She and her sister went into hiding with separate Christian families in 1942, under an assumed name, in the countryside. After liberation, they were reunited with their mother, who had survived by working with a resistance group underground in Amsterdam. She writes in her poem Lost, “My name is lost. / Yesterday I still had it. / Mother gave me a new one. / “What’s your new name?” she said / and I had to repeat it / until I could say it / without mistakes, until / she was satisfied: Klinkhamer. / Nice name. A hammer / belting things, making noise.”
There is the story of John Freund, born in June 1930 to a middle class Jewish family in Czechoslovakia. In 1942 the Nazis transported his family to the Terezin ghetto, and at the end of 1943, they eventually ended up at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, where he witnessed the brutal execution of two young boys. He was only a teenager at the time, and the images of that day will forever be etched in his brain, never to be forgotten.
One of the book’s featured survivors, Canadian poet Simcha Simchovitch, a member of the League of Canadian Poets, immigrated to Canada with his wife in 1949. He writes in his poem On That Day, “The last fires are blazing in the streets, / my home is drowning in a sea of blood. / The wings of flames carry and scatter / the last cries of agony and despair. / The world is silent, dumbstruck at the carnage, / the Earth did not shudder nor move / from its orbit, / Heaven did not split asunder; / G-d himself hid His face / on that day.”
Ghita Malvina was born in 1920, in North Transylvania, Romania. She ended up at the Terezin camp in Czechoslovakia until the liberation in 1945. Eighty members of her family, including her parents, were killed; only she and three brothers survived. She immigrated to Canada in 1986 and was reunited with her only daughter in Toronto. She writes in the closing poem of the anthology Never Again!, “I will remember and never forget! / The darkness of the nights / The words which were all lies… / The people without feelings / People with cruel meanings. / I was afraid! So—desperate! / I cried all day! / I needed help some way. / I lost my Father! / I didn’t know where my Mother was…. / Six children, Sisters and Brothers / They are my Family! / I cried: “Please—help me!”
The editor of Marking Humanity, Shlomit Kriger, believes that the events that occurred during the Holocaust are still relevant today in our own communities and daily lives. With widespread issues of schoolyard bullying and continuous religious confrontations worldwide, Kriger suggests the examples of such injustices are numerous. She hopes that her powerful anthology will inspire and educate readers young and old to take a closer look at not only themselves but the world around them, hopefully choosing to delve deeper into the root of why such atrocities like the Holocaust happened in the first place and why such events should never happen again.