This year, I did not go to Auschwitz.
Perhaps I was a little afraid that the shofar would not sound like it should before an audience of several thousand – as we know, shofar is a mystical instrument and as such it has a mind of its own. Maybe I thought that my absence will go unnoticed among thousands of people, or perhaps because I prefer to experience Auschwitz in solitude.
Probably all of these reasons were true.
The ceremony will take place in a giant tent, constructed specially for the occasion and set at the gate leading to Birkenau. This is extremely important because of the Survivors – they should never have to stand for a roll-call in the cold. The rest will be spared the question that I asked myself at almost every anniversary – how did they managed to withstand minus 30 degrees centigrade in a thin striped uniform.
It is good that there will be no speeches – by presidents, prime ministers and other Very Important People. The voice of the Survivors will thus be heard better.
It is good that the ceremony will be simple and free from politics. Debates on the “Polish concentration camps” or lists of uninvited or those offended by lack of invitation should remain behind the camp gate.
We also should not attempt to ask: how was that possible? “People brought that fate upon people …”
The Holocaust can be weighed, measured, catalogued, described – but never understood. Understanding the Holocaust is to lose a little bit of humanity, a little bit of soul.
Do not be fooled with the phrase “the banality of evil.” Evil is not banal – this is its nature.
Let us remember the living. The Survivors and employees of the Museum, bound by their shared desire to keep us from forgetting. It is on their determination and dedication that our remembering depends. The tent will be dismantled, the guests will go home, and they will go on maintaining memory, concrete, and celluloid.
May the end of the anniversary not be the end of remembering for us.