Sunday, 27 January 2019

27th January: Holocaust Memorial Day

In 'If This a Man' Primo Levi, an Italian Jew incarcerated in Auschwitz,, describes (pages 134/5) the reaction of "civilians" to the prisoners who are marched out each day to perform work in the areas outside the camps.

. . . [We] are the untouchables to the civilians.  They think, more or less explicitly, - with all the nuances lying between contempt and commiseration - that as we have been condemned to this life of ours, reduced to our condition, we must be tainted by some mysterious, grave sin.  They hear us speak in many different languages, which they do not understand and which sound to them as grotesque  as animal noises; they see us reduced to ignoble slavery , without honour and without names, beaten every day, more abject every day, and they never see in our eyes  a light of rebellion, or of peace, or of faith.   They know us as thieves and untrustworthy, muddy, ragged and starving,  and mistaking the effect for the cause, they judge us worthy of our abasement.    Who could tell one of our faces from another? For them we are 'Kazett',, a singular neutral word. 

This naturally does not stop many of them throwing  us a piece of bread  or potato now and again, or giving us their bowls, after the distribution of 'Zivilsuppe' in the work-yards, to scrape and give back washed.    They do it to get rid of some importunate starved look,  or through a momentary impulse of humanity, or through simple curiosity to see us running from all sides to fight each other for the scrap, bestial and without restraint, until the strongest one gobbles it up, whereupon all the others limp away, frustrated.

The attitude of the "civilians" does not seem to me all that far removed from our present-day attitude to the increasing numbers of homeless, beggars and other misfits in our streets.

Happily Primo Levi describes (page133) a "more excellent way."

". . .[A]n Italian civilian worker  brought me a piece of bread and the remainder of his ration  every day for six months; he gave me a vest of his, full of patches; he wrote a postcard on my behalf to Italy and brought me the reply.  For all this he neither asked  not accepted any reward, becasue he was good and simple  and did not think that one did good  for a reward.

So  Good Samaritans don't just exist in the stories of Jesus (or they didn't in 1944)


  1. The holocaust should always be remembered as what man can inflict on man through ignorance ,fear, ,con tempt politics of blaming someone else. We had the Balkans.Recently(still) ISIS (deash) .We must not forget what man can do to man.

    1. Very true. And what we can do, and are doing, to our fellows on our own doorsteps (or in our shop doorsteps)

  2. This Memorial Day, pause for a minute to respect those that gave themselves for our nation, with these delightful and blending cites from a portion of our country’s most prominent personalities and promoters. Here are 10 Best Memorial Day Quotes And Sayings 2019.