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Date: 2022-07-05 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt00020894

Atrocities
Too many in my lifetime

Jonathan Gil Harris ... (Un)Folding Secrets: The Dangers of Silence in the Face of Atrocities ... Tracing my mother’s journey from Warsaw to New Zealand via Palestine.

Burgess COMMENTARY

Peter Burgess
Original article: Part 1
Original article: Part 2
Original article: Part 3
Original article: Part 4
Original article: Part 5 (Un)Folding Secrets: The Dangers of Silence in the Face of Atrocities Tracing my mother’s journey from Warsaw to New Zealand via Palestine. By Jonathan Gil Harris, August 13, 2021 Takeaways A closed chest in my family living room was a mute emblem of my mother’s childhood trauma as a young Jewish girl who grew up in the Warsaw of the 1930s. Even before Alzheimer’s destroyed her memory, my mother, Stella Freud, was a champion history-folder. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, mother maintained that her wartime experiences had been among the very happiest of her life. My mother's trauma was always undeniably, forcefully present in our lives. Stella had survived the Holocaust that killed almost every member of her family. Yet she always denied that she was a Holocaust survivor. Introduction When historical and personal trauma mingles, it often leaves survivors determined to erase their memories. But there is an emotional and social cost to this “forgetting.” Jonathan Gil Harris is a New Zealand-born Jewish writer and academic, who currently lives in India. In this multi-part series he traces the story of his mother, Stella, from her childhood in a bourgeois Jewish family in Warsaw in the 1930s, through deportation to camps in Russia and Uzbekistan, to undivided Palestine, and finally New Zealand. Jonathan Gil Harris: (Un)Folding Secrets: The Dangers of Silence in the Face of Atrocities (Un)Folding Secrets: Part I (Un)Folding Secrets: Part II (Un)Folding Secrets: Part III (Un)Folding Secrets: Part IV (Un)Folding Secrets: Part V Step-by-step he unfolds the secrets that his mother kept folded away in a Chinese chest in her living room. In the process, he draws evocative, and worrying, parallels between the India of the present, Europe in the years leading up to the second world war and Israel in the years since the war. People keep silent for many reasons, he concludes. But this silence can be as toxic as the events it conceals. Part 1 When I was growing up in New Zealand, a particularly striking piece of furniture dominated my family’s otherwise sparse living room: a large Chinese chest. It was built of sturdy teak with the most remarkable bas-relief wood carvings of monkish men in robes. As a small boy, I spent a lot of time gazing at the monks, tracing the patterned lines. At the time, my only conscious wish was to know what was hidden in the chest. But I never opened it. Or, more accurately, I almost never opened it. For my mother had forbidden us to do so. Forbidden chest of secrets The chest was the one heirloom that connected her to her pre-war childhood in Warsaw. I knew that it was crammed full of photos and letters were written in Polish and German. They were from family members I’d never met, some of them exterminated in the Nazi death camps. Receptacles within receptacles The letters were all folded within envelopes. The photos were stuffed in other envelopes. These in turn had been tucked into the envelopes containing the letters. Folded memorabilia, hidden in receptacles within receptacles. Stranded in a limbo between remembrance and oblivion. I knew all this because I had snuck a few peeks inside the chest when my mother was not looking. The contents of the chest were a jumbled mess. The envelopes were buried willy-nilly in shredded paper and naphthalene like items. Emblem of childhood trauma That closed chest became, for my sisters and me, a mute emblem of my mother’s childhood trauma. Her trauma was always undeniably, forcefully present in our lives. Yet its contents were beyond scrutiny. My mother’s past was folded to us. As time unfolded, though, the Chinese chest too began to unfold some of its secrets. My mother: The history folder Even before Alzheimer’s destroyed her memory, my mother, Stella Freud, was a champion history-folder. She had survived the Holocaust that killed almost every member of her family. Yet she always denied that she was a Holocaust survivor. She did so not just because she had not ended up in the Nazi death camps, where most of her family had been deported. But also because — or so she maintained — her wartime experiences had been among the very happiest of her life. The Freud family Stella had been born into a bourgeois Jewish family in Warsaw in 1934. The extended Freud family traced, through its business activities, a profoundly cosmopolitan network across many borders. Stella’s sister Mariska had been born in Bucharest, her mother had been born in Vienna, and she had uncles and aunts scattered across the Ukraine, Romania, Turkey and Palestine. Asian connections The Freuds’ bourgeois fashion sense combined with their business connections made for a steady flow of exotic Asian commodities into their homes. Stella’s favorite uncle, Jo, lived in Palestine. He fetishized anything Persian, painted Bengali women, and purchased that Chinese chest. Many years later, I found in the chest a photo of my grandmother wearing a Japanese kimono. Distant parents Despite this well-heeled milieu, Stella always narrated her pre-war childhood as a time of privation. She dearly loved her father, Nathan Freud. But he was often away on business trips to Istanbul or Sofia or Vienna. Her mother Lola was a committed socialite who spent her days on shopping expeditions. When her parents were at home, it was usually in the company of friends and relatives in the receiving room. Entry to the two girls was strictly barred. A language for every room This barrier was linguistic as much as physical. In the Freud house on Warsaw’s Granicza Street, a well-off neighborhood, different languages were spoken in different rooms. In the family room, my mother spoke Polish with her parents and nanny. But she spoke Romanian in her shared bedroom with her Bucharest-born sister; Yiddish in the kitchen and vestibule with her cook; and French — the language of etiquette—in the dining room. German for the adults She understood German. But had no occasion to speak it herself. German was the language her parents spoke when they were in the receiving room, talking with each other and with their guests about adult matters. A visitor One day in 1937, there was a great deal of excited chatter among the adults in the Freuds’ house. My mother was later informed that her uncle was visiting the next day. My mother had a lot of uncles who passed through town. The news didn’t strike her as being anything out of the ordinary. But through the closed door to the receiving room, she overheard the other adults chattering animatedly about this uncle in German, not Polish. The “Dream Uncle” And one German word they used stuck in her memory: “Traumdeutung,” dream theory. In my mother’s mind, this mysterious Freud uncle became “Traumonkel,” “dream uncle.” To a little girl from a family where parents led their own strange German-speaking lives, the idea of a dream uncle was an intriguing one. On Freud’s lap The next day, Traumonkel came to the house – and was quickly spirited away into the adult domain of the receiving room. Impetuous little Stella threw all caution to the wind. She opened the door to the forbidden room and marched in. Her father waved her away. But Traumonkel, an old cigar-scented man with a white beard and pebble glasses, said, “lass das Kind bleiben, Nathan,” let the child stay, Nathan. She remained sitting in Traumonkel’s lap for the rest of his visit More on this topic (Un)Folding Secrets: Part II (Un)Folding Secrets: Part IV (Un)Folding Secrets: Part V Tags: latest, Palestine, oppression, human survival, atrocities https://www.theglobalist.com/unfolding-secrets-the-dangers-of-silence-in-the-face-of-atrocities/ (Un)Folding Secrets: Part II Tracing my mother’s journey from Warsaw to New Zealand via Palestine. By Jonathan Gil Harris, June 22, 2021 Takeaways In the 1960s, my mother began to receive letters from her cousin Lusia, the one other survivor of her shattered family. My mother folded them away and burned them. She never spoke about the contents of the letters. But at night she would blurt out their secrets in her restless sleep. Introduction When historical and personal trauma mingles, it often leaves survivors determined to erase their memories. But there is an emotional and social cost to this “forgetting.” Jonathan Gil Harris is a New Zealand-born, Jewish writer and academic, who currently lives in India. In this multi-part series he traces the story of his mother, Stella, from her childhood in a bourgeois Jewish family in Warsaw in the 1930s, through deportation to camps in Russia and Uzbekistan, to undivided Palestine, and finally New Zealand. Jonathan Gil Harris: (Un)Folding Secrets: The Dangers of Silence in the Face of Atrocities (Un)Folding Secrets: Part I (Un)Folding Secrets: Part II (Un)Folding Secrets: Part III (Un)Folding Secrets: Part IV (Un)Folding Secrets: Part V Step-by-step he unfolds the secrets that his mother kept folded away in a Chinese chest in her living room. In the process, he draws evocative, and worrying, parallels between the India of the present, Europe in the years leading up to the second world war and Israel in the years since the war. People keep silent for many reasons, he concludes. But this silence can be as toxic as the events it conceals. Part II A change of circumstances Shortly after the visit of Stella’s Dream Uncle to the house on Granicza Street, Germany invaded western Poland, in September of 1939. Nathan Freud — who some months earlier had been conscripted to serve in the Polish army—deserted. He moved his wife and two daughters to Lvov, in Soviet-occupied Poland. There they holed up with his mother, two brothers, their wives, daughters, and daughters’ children. Little Viki Used to the luxury of their palatial apartment in Warsaw, sharing a smaller house with a large extended family would have been a shock. For five-year-old Stella, however, it was a liberation into a world of human connections she had fiercely coveted all her life. In particular, she revelled in the company of her cousin Lusia’s little three-year-old son, Viki. She mothered Viki, treating him as her personal human doll. Fateful decision Sometime in the spring of 1940, Nathan Freud made a fateful decision. Heartened by “news”— read: wishful thinking — that the German occupation wasn’t as bad as everyone had feared it would be, he decided to return home. The fantasy was not just his. Others, Jews as much as Gentiles, wanted to avert their gaze from the horrors unfolding. Nathan was only happy to follow their lead. He announced that he would be moving his daughters and wife back to Warsaw. Lucky break? Soviet deportation As daft as Nathan’s decision was, it probably saved Stella’s life. A few days after leaving Lvov, Nathan, Lola, Mariska and Stella were detained by the Soviet authorities at the border with German-occupied western Poland. The German invasion of Warsaw had been enabled by the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939. Under its terms Stalin received a promise from Hitler of non-aggression between their two countries in exchange for Soviet control of territories in eastern Poland and German control of the west. Russian camp for Poles In the Soviet-occupied part of Poland, desertion from the national army was a crime; Nathan, Lola, and the girls were promptly deported as anti-nationals to a Russian camp for Poles, near Archangelsk, in the Arctic Circle. They had unwittingly dodged a bullet. In June of 1941, the German army broke the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and invaded eastern Poland, including Lvov. Viki’s fate All the members of the Freud household in Lvov were deported to Auschwitz. Save one: little Viki died when the Germans came to their house. Many years later, my mother began to receive letters from her cousin Lusia, Viki’s mother. Lusia alone among the Lvov Freuds had managed to survive her time in Auschwitz. in the 1960s she felt a need to reach out to my mother, the one other survivor of her shattered family. Folding and burning She wrote Stella a letter that my mother, upon receiving, immediately stuffed in the Chinese chest. Luisa then wrote a follow-up letter, in which she revealed what had happened the day Germans arrived at the Freud house in Lvov in June 1941. She told my mother that Viki had been taken from her and ripped apart in front of her eyes by two Nazi soldiers. Stella folded Lusia’s last letter. And then burned it. She never revealed its contents to her children. Sleeping secrets I found out what Lusia had written in her letter only many years later. It was when my father haltingly shared with me something he had overheard decades earlier from my mother. She hadn’t deliberately opened up, even to him, about what had happened to Viki. He had gleaned it by accident: at the height of her distress, in the middle of a sleepless night, she had muttered aloud to herself about Viki’s murder. More on this topic (Un)Folding Secrets: Part III (Un)Folding Secrets: Part IV (Un)Folding Secrets: Part V Tags: latest, Palestine, concentration camps, Jewish, human survival About Jonathan Gil Harris Jonathan Gil Harris is Professor of English at Ashoka University in India. Full bio → | View all posts by Jonathan Gil Harris → https://www.theglobalist.com/unfolding-secrets-second-part-concentration-camps/ Un)Folding Secrets: Part III Tracing my mother’s journey from Warsaw to New Zealand via Palestine. By Jonathan Gil Harris, June 22, 2021 Takeaways I was always sceptical of our mother’s narrative about her supposedly wonderful time in the Soviet camp. It was Exhibit A in her long-standing case that she was not to be regarded as a Holocaust survivor. Stella chose to only focus on positive memories of the camps. The rest – the loss of her parents, the starvation, the illness, the nightmares - she folded and filed away in some other partitioned part of her memory. The folds of Stella’s narratives got unfolded for me in a variety of ways. Like her constant aimless whistling when she wasn’t talking, as if she needed to silence the din of an orchestra in her head. Introduction When historical and personal trauma mingles, it often leaves survivors determined to erase their memories. But there is an emotional and social cost to this “forgetting.” Jonathan Gil Harris is a New Zealand-born, Jewish writer and academic, who currently lives in India. In this multi-part series he traces the story of his mother, Stella, from her childhood in a bourgeois Jewish family in Warsaw in the 1930s, through deportation to camps in Russia and Uzbekistan, to undivided Palestine, and finally New Zealand. Jonathan Gil Harris: (Un)Folding Secrets: The Dangers of Silence in the Face of Atrocities (Un)Folding Secrets: Part I (Un)Folding Secrets: Part II (Un)Folding Secrets: Part III (Un)Folding Secrets: Part IV (Un)Folding Secrets: Part V Step-by-step he unfolds the secrets that his mother kept folded away in a Chinese chest in her living room. In the process, he draws evocative, and worrying, parallels between the India of the present, Europe in the years leading up to the second world war and Israel in the years since the war. People keep silent for many reasons, he concludes. But this silence can be as toxic as the events it conceals. Part III Denial My sisters and I always regarded our mother’s narrative about her supposedly halcyon days in the Archangelsk camp with great scepticism. It was Exhibit A in her long-standing case that she was not to be regarded as a Holocaust survivor. She made the same case in refusing reparation from the German government when she was living in Israel in the 1950s. Rose-tinted narrative We were willing to grant that what appeared unspeakably horrible to us, might look rosy to the eyes of a small child. What we found harder to stomach was her equally rose-tinted narration of the next phase of her life. In 1942, as Hitler’s army advanced on western Russia, my mother’s family were notified that they would be deported again—this time to a refugee camp for displaced Poles near the Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan border. Deportation again The train journey to Central Asia, spent in crowded container-carriages without seats, took a week. The food was awful and the sanitary conditions worse. Stella and Nathan both contracted typhoid fever en route. Delirious and running a high temperature, she remembered little of their arrival in Uzgen. Her few memories of those first days were of waking intermittently in the camp hospital. Losing Nathan Her father, in the adjoining bed, would call out to her, comforting her and singing to her. By the fourth day, her fever had broken. But Nathan was no longer there beside her. She inquired where he was, only to learn from a nurse that he had “skonchalsya” (passed). Stella didn’t quite understand what this meant, and for a long-time expected Nathan to pass back. Apparently, she waited for weeks at the gates of the camp convinced that he would reappear. Orphaned Nathan’s death proved a deadly blow to Lola. She had saved the precious family silverware, just as she had saved her sense of superior class breeding by looking down upon the working-class Jewish family in the neighboring hut. But she was no longer willing to save herself. Lola weakened, sickened, and lost the will to live. By 1944 she, too, had died. Stella was orphaned. Erasing trauma Decades later, Stella narrated her time in Uzgen as a time of hardship, but also of many joys. The horrors of the train trip from Archangelsk to Uzbekistan were erased. Instead, she focussed on a single defining memory: of the carriage’s beautiful blue night-light that would comfort her as she lay awake in the middle of the night. The rest — the starvation, the illness, the nightmares that kept her up and forced her to look for a light in the darkness—she folded and filed away in some other partitioned part of her memory. The “wonderful” market Uzgen too became, in her account, a happy town. She woke up each morning in a pool of her sister’s cold urine and an unresponsive invalid mother. Yet she recalled Uzgen as the place with a wonderful market where she learned to count in Uzbeki and drive bargains. She talked about the wonderful one-room school where she and the other students would do sums and sing stirring songs to Batushya Stalin (Little Daddy Stalin). The “wonderful” Speigels She recalled it as the place with the wonderful shoe-making Communist neighbors — the Spiegels — who, when her mother died, selflessly took in Stella and her sister. And gave them the coveted sleeping position on their stove. My sisters and I wanted to believe our mother’s stories. But from an early age we intuited how much they concealed. Silencing the din of memories The folds of her narratives got unfolded for us in a variety of ways — the panicked cries for her “Ima!” (Mother!) that she would repeatedly utter at night. Her constant, aimless, whistling when she wasn’t talking, as if she needed to silence the din of an orchestra in her head that was always playing private symphonies of unwanted noise. More on this topic (Un)Folding Secrets: Part II (Un)Folding Secrets: Part IV (Un)Folding Secrets: Part V Tags: latest, Palestine, concentration camps, Jewish, human survival About Jonathan Gil Harris Jonathan Gil Harris is Professor of English at Ashoka University in India. Full bio → | View all posts by Jonathan Gil Harris → Responses to “(Un)Folding Secrets: Part III” If you would like to comment, please visit our Facebook page. https://www.theglobalist.com/unfolding-secrets-third-part-jewish-stories/ Global PairingsPreviousNext (Un)Folding Secrets: Part IV Tracing my mother’s journey from Warsaw to New Zealand via Palestine. By Jonathan Gil Harris, June 22, 2021 Takeaways For my mother, the partition of Israel and Palestine marked a division not just in space, but also in time. Suddenly, people who days earlier had been my mother’s beloved friends, were now wholly “other.” The misery of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza became an increasingly troublesome secret from which my mother averted her gaze. My mother’s pain wasn’t just because I had dared to criticize Israel. Her pain emanated from a more ancient wound inside her, a rent in the fabric of her fantasy of Israel that made it unsustainable even for her. My mother had been trained in averting her gaze from trauma during the war. Introduction When historical and personal trauma mingles, it often leaves survivors determined to erase their memories. But there is an emotional and social cost to this “forgetting.” Jonathan Gil Harris is a New Zealand-born, Jewish writer and academic, who currently lives in India. In this multi-part series he traces the story of his mother, Stella, from her childhood in a bourgeois Jewish family in Warsaw in the 1930s, through deportation to camps in Russia and Uzbekistan, to undivided Palestine, and finally New Zealand. Jonathan Gil Harris: (Un)Folding Secrets: The Dangers of Silence in the Face of Atrocities (Un)Folding Secrets: Part I (Un)Folding Secrets: Part II (Un)Folding Secrets: Part III (Un)Folding Secrets: Part IV (Un)Folding Secrets: Part V Step-by-step he unfolds the secrets that his mother kept folded away in a Chinese chest in her living room. In the process, he draws evocative, and worrying, parallels between the India of the present, Europe in the years leading up to the second world war and Israel in the years since the war. People keep silent for many reasons, he concludes. But this silence can be as toxic as the events it conceals. Part IV Palestine In 1946, Stella and her sister moved to what was then Palestine to live with their mother’s brother, Joe. Her uncle sent my mother to a boarding school in a village inhabited by Palestinian Arabs as well as émigré Jews. My mother used to describe her schooldays, from 1947 to 1951, as a particularly happy time. Partition But in 1948, the UN Partition Plan for Palestine was implemented. Suddenly my mother found herself on the opposite side of a border from her Palestinian school friends. The partition of Israel and Palestine marked a division not just in space, but also in time. The partitioning of memory Suddenly, people who days earlier had been my mother’s beloved comrades, were now representatives of a wholly “other” cultural and religious tradition. One with which “the” Jews – as if that definite article could ever define the enormity of its fractured, multiple referent – had experienced a supposedly timeless enmity. Stella’s memory was partitioned too. Before and after 1948 When remembering events from before 1948, she would talk with deep affection of her dear Palestinian friends. But when remembering events from after that year, she would talk of Palestinians as mortal enemies who wanted to push “us” (Jews) into the sea. Averting the gaze Over the decades, the misery of Palestinians in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza became the increasingly troublesome secret from which she averted her gaze. She had been trained in averting her gaze from trauma during the war, after all. Over time, the memory of Israel became traumatic for Stella. Loss Partly because she came to associate it with loss: the loss of Hebrew when she migrated to New Zealand and devoted herself to a new family with whom she would speak in English. There was also the loss of her Uncle Joe, who died days after I was born and the loss of her sister Mariska, who died of cancer in 1965. And I suspect there was the loss of her fantasy that Israel was the vehicle of a glorious socialist future. Nazis in Arab guise I inherited from my mother her deep belief in social justice. But it was precisely that belief that led me to question her many inflammatory statements about Palestinians and Muslims. The first big fight we had, when I was a teenager, was about the Palestinian Liberation Organization, whom I idealistically supported. She saw them as Nazis in Arab guise. Exhalations of pain I reminded her of her stories about her Palestinian boarding-school friends. She then fell into a grim-lipped silence and refused to speak to me for a day. Her silence was broken only by a cascade of horrible stutter-shudders as her exhalations of pain permeated the house. I’d like to think that my mother’s pain wasn’t just because I had dared to criticize Israel. Her pain emanated from a more ancient wound inside her, a rent in the fabric of her fantasy of Israel that made it unsustainable even for her. More on this topic (Un)Folding Secrets: Part II (Un)Folding Secrets: Part III (Un)Folding Secrets: Part V Tags: latest, Palestine, concentration camps, Jewish, human survival About Jonathan Gil Harris Jonathan Gil Harris is Professor of English at Ashoka University in India. Full bio → | View all posts by Jonathan Gil Harris → Responses to “(Un)Folding Secrets: Part IV” If you would like to comment, please visit our Facebook page. https://www.theglobalist.com/unfolding-secrets-jewish-personal-stories-human-survival/ Global PairingsPreviousNext (Un)Folding Secrets: Part V Tracing my mother’s journey from Warsaw to New Zealand via Palestine. By Jonathan Gil Harris, June 22, 2021 Takeaways I had persuaded myself that in India, and in its rich syncretic traditions, I had found the perfect antidote to the schizoid communal hatreds that had roiled Europe and Israel-Palestine alike. But this antidote hid a secret: that India, whether in British times or in the present, has been only too happy to abide by the principle of divide and rule. My mother’s pain wasn’t just because I had dared to criticize Israel. Her pain emanated from a more ancient wound inside her, a rent in the fabric of her fantasy of Israel that made it unsustainable even for her. I am struck by the similarities between India today, Europe in the years leading up to the war and Israel in the years since. Atrocities are aided and abetted not just by stormtroopers of hate but, most importantly, by everyday citizens who avert their gaze from the atrocities that unfold daily. In Israel, a right-wing government, voted in by a minority of the electorate on a promise of economic development, has fostered profound communal antagonism. Introduction When historical and personal trauma mingles, it often leaves survivors determined to erase their memories. But there is an emotional and social cost to this “forgetting.” Jonathan Gil Harris is a New Zealand-born, Jewish writer and academic, who currently lives in India. In this multi-part series he traces the story of his mother, Stella, from her childhood in a bourgeois Jewish family in Warsaw in the 1930s, through deportation to camps in Russia and Uzbekistan, to undivided Palestine, and finally New Zealand. Jonathan Gil Harris: (Un)Folding Secrets: The Dangers of Silence in the Face of Atrocities (Un)Folding Secrets: Part I (Un)Folding Secrets: Part II (Un)Folding Secrets: Part III (Un)Folding Secrets: Part IV (Un)Folding Secrets: Part V Step-by-step he unfolds the secrets that his mother kept folded away in a Chinese chest in her living room. In the process, he draws evocative, and worrying, parallels between the India of the present, Europe in the years leading up to the second world war and Israel in the years since the war. People keep silent for many reasons, he concludes. But this silence can be as toxic as the events it conceals. Part V Moving to India To this day I feel as if Stella’s mother’s trauma survives in a hidden part of me, as a compulsion that I don’t quite understand. My love of that Chinese chest certainly prophesized my infatuation with Asia, where I moved some years ago. Another partitioned land But why did I move to India, and not another part of Asia? I suspect it is no accident that I moved to a partitioned land, in which an ‘I’ and a ‘P’ have been pitted against each other in a tale of timeless enmity that overwrites deep affinities. Perhaps the need to work through the trauma of my mother’s experience of Israel’s partition played out, in some obscure way, when I chose to live in a city, New Delhi, haunted by memories of 1947. Syncretic traditions I persuaded myself that in India, and in its rich syncretic traditions, I had found the perfect antidote to the schizoid communal hatreds that had roiled Europe and Israel-Palestine alike. But this antidote hid a secret: that India, whether in British times or in the present, has been only too happy to abide by the principle of divide and rule. India/pre-war Europe/Israel I am struck by the many similarities between India’s current situation, that of Europe in the years leading up to the war and Israel in the years since the war. A right-wing government, voted in by a minority of the electorate on a promise of economic development, has fostered profound communal antagonism. The “enemies” within It has cultivated the canard that the majority community it speaks for is in fact an imperilled soon-to-be minority, facing enemies from within, who breed like cockroaches. It has been aided and abetted not just by its stormtroopers of hate but, most importantly, by everyday citizens who avert their gaze from the atrocities that have been daily unfolding. “Just” an accident In October 2018, just two blocks from where I live in Delhi, an eight-year-old Muslim boy named Azeem was killed on his way home from the madrasa. In the midst of a scuffle between two groups, Azeem was thrown over a bike by a gang of older Hindu boys. He died subsequently from internal injuries. The Times of India, citing an official statement made to media by Azeem’s evidently frightened father, claimed it was not a communal murder but “just” an accident. The ghost of Viki For me, the event summoned the ghost of that ghastly day in Lvov when the Nazis came to the Freud house and murdered Viki. My mother refused to allow that traumatic truth to seep out of the Chinese chest. I understand why. But I have often thought about how and why the neighbors of the Freuds reacted, or didn’t react, to Viki’s murder. The sin of silence If they knew about it, they presumably stayed silent, as had so many Poles and Germans when they heard about other acts of violence in their midst. Perhaps they stayed silent because they were true believers in the Nazi cause. Perhaps they stayed silent because they were frightened. Whatever the reason, they folded away the evidence in front of them. Unfolding There are many reasons why we fold in the face of traumatic violence. That is why, from time to time, we need to endure the stench of naphthalene and sit patiently with what has been folded and stowed in our beautiful containers of secrets. We need to unwrap these secrets to see what we might otherwise want to leave unseen. More on this topic (Un)Folding Secrets: Part II (Un)Folding Secrets: Part III (Un)Folding Secrets: Part IV Tags: latest, Palestine, concentration camps, Jewish, human survival About Jonathan Gil Harris Jonathan Gil Harris is Professor of English at Ashoka University in India. Full bio → | View all posts by Jonathan Gil Harris → Responses to “(Un)Folding Secrets: Part V” If you would https://www.theglobalist.com/unfolding-secrets-jewish-personal-stories-india-survival/
Jonathan Gil Harris
August 13, 2021
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