How can the Shoah be alive? To imagine the Shoah as living seems to be a contradiction, for how can death be alive? And yet it is. It is alive in the survivors. It is alive in their children and in their grandchildren. It is alive and it is active. I am not trying to play games with language, or be clever. Memory, just like our very existence, is filled with mysterious corners -- places we sometimes visit holding someone else’s hand, or humming a comforting lullaby to make us believe we are not alone, or closing our eyes out of fear of a monster or shadow that may frighten us and make us falter. And then, if we get used to the darkness, we can find the key and even turn on the lights -- we can start to see and understand. If the place is illuminated, the stage looks different. What we feared may be confirmed, or it may vanish and turn into something completely different.
Last Sunday, on March 28, 2004, 160 people came together to share the exploration of such difficult corners. In the Memory of the Holocaust Foundation-Shoah Museum (Fundación Memoria del Holocausto-Museo de la Shoá) in Buenos Aires, we began to walk the path that will take us to our November meeting -- “Facing the Future” -- the First International Meeting for Spanish-speaking survivors, their children and grandchildren, and other interested and involved people. This challenge was taken up by a group of intrepid explorers – four generations who came together, four generations with a common history of the Shoah reflected in one other.
That Sunday, there were shared moments, homages, songs, some words, delightful food and coffee. We made a map where each one of us pinned our place of origin, creating a graphic representation of us all that we built together. We had ten workshops, five during the morning and five in the afternoon, where everyone could participate and share their experience as survivor, child or grandchild, as well as their feelings as witness or scholar. Revelations were made, along with recognitions, tears, and laughter, and we had the opportunity to share the particular and subjective stories that make up the essence of our work and memory. The particular saves us from formality, from the rigid and meaningless concepts that we are used to hearing in the usual Shoah commemorations, as if we had to keep it far from us, as if it scared us. Each person’s particular experience is what is alive and we must focus on the particular to achieve our goals of transmission.
The Shoah is alive in us, in our lives, in the way we recognize ourselves from within, in the ease we feel with our peers. Again and again, people repeated this phrase at our meeting last Sunday: "I feel at last that I don’t need to explain anything." The Shoah is alive and vibrant if we take it down from the monuments, if we fill it with living meaning, with personal experience. The Shoah is alive and only this way will it have some sense and effect on others. The Shoah is alive in us and the only way of beginning a true reflection is to share it and expose it in its full subjectivity. The Shoah is alive in its consequences, in its teachings, in our testimony as witnesses and actors. The Shoah is alive in a world that walks on the thin edges of destruction, and we have something to say about it. And this is what we started to do last Sunday, March 28th.
"Facing The Future," the First International Meeting for Spanish-speaking survivors, their children and grandchildren, and others, is convened by the Memory of the Holocaust Foundation-Shoah Museum (Fundación Memoria del Holocausto-Museo de la Shoá) and Generations of the Shoah in Argentina. It will take place in Buenos Aires from November 21 to 24, 2004.
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(English translation: Natasha Zaretzky)