April, 19th, The day of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and April 27th, Holocaust Remembrance Day – in memory of Janusz Korczak, 1878, Warsaw – 1942, Treblinka. I also remember my friend Jacob Lofman, 1911-2002, a Polish-born photojournalist and an intellectual force who maintained a lifelong interest in Jewish history and culture, a man who was kind and generous enough to share some of his memories and wisdom with me, a German expatriate at the time we met (1997). Jacob would have liked this article “Not Praying in Auschwitz”. Thank you, Jacob, it was a true privilege to sit in your kitchen and have tea with you.
“Like Amery, I too entered the lager as a nonbeliever, and as a nonbeliever I was liberated and have lived to this day. Actually, the experience in the lager with its frightful iniquity confirmed me in my non-belief. It prevented, and still prevents me from conceiving of any form of providence or transcendent justice: Why were the moribund packed in cattle cars? Why were the children sent to the gas?
I must nevertheless admit that I experienced (and again only once) the temptation to yield, to seek refuge in prayer. This happened in October 1944, in the one moment in which I lucidly perceived the imminence of death: when, naked and compressed among my naked companions with my personal index card in hand, I was waiting to file past the ‘commission’ that with one glance would decide whether I should go to the gas chamber or was instead strong enough to go…
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