Sunday, April 7, marks Holocaust Remembrance Day. This solemn day is commemorated annually by Jews around the world, recalling that from June 1941 until the end of the Second World War in Europe in May 1945, one-third of the world’s Jewish population perished in a systematic campaign of annihilation. But instead of acknowledging the impact of this mammoth horror on why most Jews support Israel as a Jewish state, many critics and opponents of Israel today denigrate this connection, with some even denying or downplaying the reality or magnitude of the Holocaust.
Surprisingly, much about this history remains to be learned. A recent NY Times article tells us that researchers have discovered evidence of “42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe,” rather than 7,000 sites thought previously to comprise this world of enslavement and genocide.
Suskind & daughter
In another few years there will be virtually no living witnesses. “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “Schindler’s List” are iconic portrayals, but many more dramas transpired as well. It shouldn’t surprise us that literary and cinematic remembrances still proliferate.
The life and death of a 26 year-old artist, Charlotte Salomon, reminds us of Anne Frank. Although not a diarist, Salomon documented her family background in Germany and her life as a refugee in vivid color paintings (known as gouaches), framed with bits of narration akin to a graphic novel, presented as if an illustrated script for an opera representing her life, replete with stage directions and musical suggestions. (Her stepmother had been an opera singer.) Real-life characters are given different names, and some plot elements may have been invented, but the basic narrative of “Life? or Theatre? A Play with Music“ encapsulates Salomon’s life. Opinions differ as to whether she had a romance with her stepmother’s voice coach, as her work suggests, or if an infatuated young woman let her imagination take flight.
And just as there are by now thousands of survivors and descendants of people saved by Oskar Schindler, there are a similarly large number of Jews who owe their lives to the ingenuity and heroism of Walter Suskind. But this Jewish Schindler, his wife and young daughter all perished.