Thursday, November 4, 2010

We Who Survived - Holocaust Education Week 2010

We Who Survived - Holocaust Education Week 2010

The Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre have produced the Holocaust Education Week in Toronto for the past 30 years. This year's theme is We Who Survived in honour of Holocaust survivors and in recognition of the importance of telling their stories. From the Neuberger website: "Join us in thinking, talking and learning about the legacies of Holocaust survivors. Let us be inspired by their wisdom and experiences and together pledge to preserve their stories to future generations so that “Never Again” has true meaning."

Aharon Appelfeld is an Israeli novelist born in what is now the Ukraine in 1932. Although a native German speaker, he learned Hebrew as a young adult and chooses to write about the Holocaust in that language. Appelfeld and his father were sent to a Ukrainian concentration camp. He escaped and hid for three years before joining the Soviet army. In Blooms of Darkness he tells the story of a boy who has been hidden from Nazi soldiers by his mother with a prostitute.

From the publisher - "A new novel from the award-winning, internationally acclaimed Israeli writer (“One of the greatest writers of the age”—The Guardian), a haunting, heartbreaking story of love and loss. The ghetto in which the Jews have been confined is being liquidated by the Nazis, and eleven-year-old Hugo is brought by his mother to the local brothel, where one of the prostitutes has agreed to hide him. Mariana is a bitterly unhappy woman who hates what she has done to her life, and night after night Hugo sits in her closet and listens uncomprehendingly as she rages at the Nazi soldiers who come and go.

When she’s not mired in self-loathing, Mariana is fiercely protective of the bewildered, painfully polite young boy. And Hugo becomes protective of Mariana, too, trying to make her laugh when she is depressed, soothing her physical and mental agony with cold compresses. As the memories of his family and friends grow dim, Hugo falls in love with Mariana. And as her life spirals downward, Mariana reaches out for consolation to the adoring boy who is on the cusp of manhood. The arrival of the Russian army sends the prostitutes fleeing. But Mariana is too well known, and she is arrested as a Nazi collaborator for having slept with the Germans. As the novel moves toward its heartrending conclusion, Aharon Appelfeld once again crafts out of the depths of unfathomable tragedy a renewal of life and a deeper understanding of what it means to be human."

And for other voices of Holocaust survivors, try

Ida Fink
Imre Kertesz
Primo Levi
Lustig Arnost

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