Saturday, October 07, 2006

1920-2006

I usually keep my personal life off of this blog. Nobody really wants to hear about how bad the produce is at the FreshGrocer or why I have a fruit fly infestation in my kitchen or any confessionals about my unhealthy levels of coffee consumption. That's why people hate blogs in the first place. However, I ask that you lend me your ear this once.

This morning, at about 9AM, the world lost one more member of the generation which lived through the European conflagration of 1939-45, my grandmother Pearl Fichman (nee: Spiegel). That's one less person to testify about the horrors of ghettoes and smirking fascist killers. One less person to tell of the world as it was before then and never will be again. One less person who saw Jackie Robinson play. One less person who dined with Dwight D. Eisenhower. One less person who knew the German-language lyric poet Paul Celan.

Most importantly, there exists one less person who can, in full throat, refute the wild-eyed cries of denial, intolerance and hate spewed by demagogues like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The numbers of Holocaust deniers seem to be increasing, while the number of Holocaust survivors are decreasing. Minus one as of today. However, unlike many, my grandmother did not bury her story inside, never to be unearthed.For anybody who knew my grandmother personally, they know that she was erudite and charming, but tortured by the traumatic events of her youth. As she got older, she scratched furiously at the scabs which grew over the wounds incised by the events of the war in Europe and later wars in Israel. Deep scars grew underneath. In a fashion atypical of her generation, she told stories until those around her grew to know them by heart, and heard them until they became almost tiresome- listening to a stories for the fifteenth time out of respect and sympathy more than anything. Prodded by my Uncle Eytan, she wrote memoirs. She obtained a Masters at Columbia in American literature on a student visa in the late 1940s and wrote with a utility and grace colored with old-world syntax and expressions.

Since she is gone, her memior, (the existence of which she made known to anybody who so much as bagged her groceries) is all that remains for those who never knew her. It's called Before Memories Fade. Excerpts are available online from a number of sources listed below. The book is also available for purchase on amazon.com.

-Michael Fichman
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Links:
Pearl Fichman: Before Memories Fade on amazon.com
Selected Chapters from Before Memories Fad on ibiblio.org (with photos)
Prague, Paris and the Journey to America (Fall 1947) from the University of Cincinnati Occasional Papers in German-American Studies
Al-jazeera.net: "Ahmadinejad: Holocaust a myth"
Wikipedia: Paul Celan