Chaya’s Blog #5 – Special Edition for HMD
I hope you are all well.
My regular monthly blog is in the works, and I look forward to sharing it with you next week. However, as Providence would have it, I went on a special Sem trip to a Holocaust Museum last week, and as it will be Holocaust Memorial Day next week,(Friday 27 January) Daddy suggested that this should be a standalone entry.
The museum wasn’t an ordinary Holocaust Museum; it is situated in a Kibbutz built at the birth of the State by Holocaust survivors called לוחמי הגיטאות – Fighters of the Ghetto. It is part of a larger museum called the Ghetto Fighter’s House, but this section is called יד לילד – Hand to the Child, and was built for the express purpose of educating younger children about the Holocaust.
The whole focal point of the museum was very different from any others I’ve been to previously and it did not focus on the darkness and horrors of the Holocaust. Instead it looked at the Holocaust through the eyes of children who lived through it, and how they survived in a world suddenly gone black- by finding fragments of light peeking through the darkness.
We started the day with a one person monologue/show. This show introduced us to the concept of children in the Holocaust, but intriguingly it was not through the events that transpired then, but rather through the eyes of children who met those child survivors afterwards. We saw how young children on a Kibbutz viewed these young survivors who had come to live with them. They may have all been the same age, but because of their experiences these amazing survivors, children who had lived through the worst horrors known to man, some of whom had known nothing other than the depravity of the Ghettos and Camps were smaller and weaker. They were scarred and scared, and they initially responded to the children’s friendly overtures in strange ways, sometimes by hitting or even biting, making them seem weird, frightening even.
But then we watched how with the passage of time, things slowly changed. The War of Independence being a turning point in this strange relationship with the children starting to accept and possibly even to understand each other.
With that introduction, we started our tour through the Museum. Not much attention was paid to the horrors going on, but rather to the children’s reaction to what was going on around them. We began in a room with paintings that children drew in the Ghetto. One which I found particularly poignant was a picture of a perfectly normal sun, flowers and butterflies, albeit portrayed as being behind bars.
The museum went around in a spiral, descending lower and lower, through the years, until we came to train tracks, leading us to the lowest, darkest point: Auschwitz. At each stage, there were testimonials of children survivors, saying their stories, personal memories of those dark years through the eyes of a child. Although it was difficult, we were charged with finding the fragments of light that had kept the children alive through those dark times.
Afterwards there was a workshop where this point was reinforced. We were each told to draw a picture showcasing either life before or after the Holocaust, and the Holocaust itself. Focusing on how, although things changed with much lost and some never to be back again, there were still fragments of light shining through. Now I am not much of an artistic person, so I kinda broke the rules a little, and chose instead to write a poem expressing my feelings, because why draw when I can give myself over much better in writing.
When we left I took with me a whole new outlook on the Holocaust. I saw it through a perspective I’ve never before seen; for whilst I am not looking at this piece of history with rose coloured glasses, I am now able to see the light shining through the darkness.
Shattered illusion and the fragments of light:
A green meadow
Grass swaying in the breeze.
But the peace is not lasting
Into thousands of fragments
Fading into the sounds of war.
The light behind the walls.
The barbed wire fences
Blocking the green meadow
The joys I no longer share
Will the sun ever shine again for me?
Will I see the grass swaying in the breeze?
Is there even light for me
After this devastating tragedy?
Can the shattered fragments
Be made whole again
Making the darkness
A fading illusion?
Yes it can!
This life I can rebuild
This light I can find again
Picking up the pieces of my life may not be easy.
But the points of light
The fragments scattered in the darkness
Will become the foundation
Of the new picture of my life.