Kadish

On April it is remembered the uprising of the Warsaw ghetto. As there is no date which can encircle the catastrophe of the Shoá, maybe because its extension in time cannot be calculated with the precision required by calendars, maybe because the experience of the Shoá cannot, definitively, be told, or because its duration has no end or finishing date, it has been chosen this day, April 19 of each year, to remember, together with the battle in the ghetto, the whole unspeakable dimension, the sacrifice, the horror and the human delirium of Auschwitz.

It is extolled the heroism that in the spring of the year 1943 made a group of young people face nazism with the precariousness of weapons, it is worth mentioning the will and courage of a few, weak, exhausted, poorly armed, who preferred death in combat to the darkened death awaiting them on the other side of the trains. I am glad for the dignity of that choice. It deserves all my recognition, all my praise. Finally, it is always about ways of dying. And those who upraise in Warsaw, somehow, took possession of the death that the camp wanted to take from them. Because not only life was lost in Auschwitz, but also death. But even that way, I ask myself about the fragility, about the negation that makes more tolerable the memory of the heroes, the exhalation of courage, heroism, integrity, other than the cold silence of fear and the nameless faces. I ask myself if around this memory it does not keep talking precisely, the tenacity of a strength that censors, to our regret, what is unbearable, what cannot be translated or fixed in the memory of Auschwitz.

It has been a long time. Nevertheless, when these days close to Pésaj come, the tradition that celebrates the Exodus and freedom, I can feel again the obligation, the need to remember and talk. I remember that ”the free world”, between 1939 and 1945, was indifferent, that ”ignored” the atrocities which that totalitarism imposed over our bodies. I experience the disappointment of those of us who believe that the defeat of nazism in war was going to open a period of freedom, of emancipation and equilibrium. I go through the years in which I could not speak, that time in which I could only listen to and be listened to by other survivors. Almost 40 years of embarrassment, without speaking; later I spoke, spoke a lot, I said my things, I wanted the modest and difficult favor to comprehend, but now, again, I see the bitter understanding of silence. A parable, a life. And in spite of everything, my memory is not empty: there are my parents, my brothers, my neighbors and friends. A memory made of humble and real faces. Soon there will not be witnesses alive; memory will be reduced to monuments, museums, it is going to lose the nature, the gaining experience. There are those faces and the names of my faces. ¿And the others? ¿What can I say, what can I remember of them?

Now I know that the between the uncomfortability of silence and the imposture of the hollow memory, ritual, when nothing calms my will to remember, I have prayers. The Kadish, the prayer that sons say for their dead parents, the prayer of orphans that in the Jewish tradition is repeated in the mourning. Yitgadal, veyitkadash shemé raba (Exalted and sanctified be the name of the great Sovereign), thus is how it starts, with the invocation of the secret name; to say it there must be at least ten men; in the Talmud it is read this beautiful aphorism nine rabbis cannot say the Kadish, but ten shoemakers can. To say the Kadish and have memory, this I have. I think that we are all sons of the indescribable drama of the Shoá, that today each Jew should say a prayer for the 5400 exterminated communities. I want to say my Kadish with the words of a friend of mine, Erika Blumgrund, Czech poetess who lives in Argentina since 1948:

”Itgadal veitkadash shemé raba…/I am praying for your souls/for you/those who have no graves/I say the Kadish./With ashes I cover everyday/my head/because it is forever/my grief/for your incinerated bodies/and horror lies ahead forever/in my heart./Millions of lives/preterit and darkened/but they are still awake in memories/the transfigured faces of panic/chase me in dreams/mocking laughs of those judges/deafen my ears/enveloped/by the blue steam of gas/cramped against each other the poor little things/ until their destinies are complete. ./A last death scream drowned/ and it is all gone./ Itgadal veitkadash shemé raba/ I say the Kadish for you/whose mortal remains rest nowhere.” *

*This poem was written by Erika Blumgrund, survivor of Terezin, and translated into German by Jorge Hacker.