Sunday, 25 January 2009

The day with several meanings.

Not just for me, because every day has several meanings, but it's Holocaust Memorial day today, as well as Burns Night. I suspect that's why I can never remember when Burns Night is, because I nearly always have events of some sort for Holocaust day. The most significant of all of those was Kindertransport. I played the little girl when the Company of Ten* in St Albans did it, and we had an invited audience on the relevant day of local Jews, including some people who had been on the Kindertransport. It was an incredibly moving experience to be part of. The south Herts and north London area is home to a significant Jewish community, and it felt like a very important thing to do. We then did the play again at school as part of our A-level drama, this time with Jewish girls in the cast, singing ancient Jewish songs and texts through it. Makes it all very real. Of course, Holocaust memorial is not just about remembering Hitler's genocide - there have been others since then. Rwanda. Bosnia. Darfur. Iraq. The Greeks and the Turks and the Armenians, though that's part of Bosnia and goes further back than Hitler. Israel, Palestine and the Holy Land in general. People killing one another for senseless reasons. If there are ever sensible reasons. But killing people for what they are perceived to be rather than who they are - for a lie. But then you're always killing for a lie. I'm not sure you can ever kill for really honest reasons. I'm hanging a lot of shorthand on that little six letter word 'honest' now. I've interrogated it enough for one day though. Perhaps I'll try again sometime.

Today, after singing the Eucharist this morning, Sam grabbed a selection of people to try and get hold of someone to do some singing for the Great St Mary's/Michaelhouse commemoration come vigil this evening. Michaelhouse regularly hosts worship for both Jews and Christians, so it's quite a symbolic place all by itself, and there was a (very small) mixed congregation there tonight though most of the form was Christian with a few Jewish prayers and Jewish translations of the Old Testament. I ended up doing 'Oh rest in the Lord' from Mendelssohn's Elijah, which was nerve-wracking but ok. I need to learn to be a better soloist. There was a woman reading, who made one of the other singers cry. It was something she had written herself, nominally poetry though I'd have called it prose. It was very good, just mis-defined. It was mostly concerned with the recollection of an 82 year old man who had been in the camps and survived. It told the story of the cremating of the bodies of people who had died in the ghetto at Terezin. Cremation is something that Jews don't do, so that in itself is a bad thing for them, but the camp leaders actually made them carry out the burnings of the bodies of their friends and fellows, and then, themselves, pour the ashes into the nearby river. The poem thought about one of the boxes, one with the speaker's mother's name on it, splitting in the speaker's hands - leaving the last scraps of the body of the mother on the speaker's hands. And the phrase that stuck with me was, 'How do you brush this off?' Gruesome, perhaps unnecessarily so. The poem needed finesse, because that line doesn't focus the mind on the precise issue I think she was intending it to. But it drives home the horror.

We should remember this. We should remember it and keep it fresh in our minds. Less for the people who have died, though I do not belittle their suffering in any way, because they have gone and nothing more can be done to them; more for those who are alive or yet unborn, so that we as a race are never, ever, responsible for such a thing as this again. If anybody reads this post end to end, and spends a minute on the links, then it has served a greater purpose than much of the other tat I post on here. Maybe they'll pass it around, carrying the memory a little bit higher in their minds for a while, and in a very very small way, maybe that will help a little in keeping humanity from utter barbarism.


Other people's thinking. Auschwitz should stay, and the cost of it should be born as a memory.

*They NEED to sort the website out. Gah. Maybe I should *ACTUALLY* learn some html and go and be useful, because that's horrid.

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