Reflections on the Holocaust

I’ve been reading When Time Stopped by Arianna Neumann this past week, coinciding with Holocaust Remembrance Day, quite by accident. 76 years since the Soviets liberated Ausschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. The book is having a powerful effect on me. Arianna writes about a Jewish father she never really knew. After he dies, she sleuths together his war experiences with dogged determination . . .  not easy. After all, she grew up in Caracas, far from Europe and went to a Catholic school. 

I chose to read her book in part, because I’ve been working on a novel that’s mostly memoir about my own father. I workshopped it with Sage Hill last summer and while I’m letting it simmer on a back burner right now, its scent permeates my mind. 

Arianna’s father, using an assumed name, was able to survive the Holocaust—physically. But we all know that health is about more than just our bodies. 

Daughters and fathers often have complex but important relationships. Famous father/daughter pairings include Svetlana with her father, Stalin, in politics and Scout and Atticus in literature's To Kill a Mockingbird. My own father talked little about his war experiences and I’ve had to figure it out mostly on my own. 

Of course, I’ll never get it right. But I can try. Arianna Neumann’s memoir about her father, an innocent victim of the Nazis, makes me even more determined to understand my own father, one of that war's perpetrators. 

I know some people find evil too loathing to look at. But it’s my belief, that unless we study and understand the motivation for evil, it will continue to flourish. We are human beings, each capable for good and for evil. It’s not ‘the other’. It’s in my own reflection. I find this to be frightening, but also empowering, because I can do something about that reflection.

Arianna Neumann's book is well written and absolutely engaging. Great photos, too.


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