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Holocaust Remembering, and Yes, Jokes, too.

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None of my relatives were killed in the holocaust. At least, no one that I knew. My grandparents came to this country in the late 1800’s and if I had ancestry over d’ere, they probably died in pogroms before Hitler had the idea to erase all Jewry.

Because my father ran a movie theater, I was exposed early on to the horrific news footage that was brought back by cameraman during WW2. The emaciated naked bodies of Europe’s Jews and Gypsies were an early image in my head. I watched lots of cartoons, too, but the films of the first cinematically archived genocide were my key to understanding that life can’t be understood.

I am not religious. I’ve appreciated certain laws of the Torah when explained, but those conversations are rare. I like the symbolism of the holidays, but I don’t keep them much anymore. The one thing, however, that always reminds me that I’m Jewish is first, humor and second, the Holocaust.  I laugh at myself before others catch the joke and I have a deep identification with the six million who perished at the hands of the mad machine.  I am a perfect combination in that I can even laugh at weird holocaust jokes that I’ve seen online, like “Why did Hitler kill himself” …”He got the gas bill”…awful, awful, but a release to laugh and cry every time I see The Diary of Anne you-know-who.

I’d hardly be the first to consider the importance of the Holocaust in reminding Jews that they are Jewish. Perhaps a younger generation feels the connection less strongly, but for my crowd, people who never ventured inside a synagogue except to attend a Bar Mitzvah or crash Joan Rivers’ funeral, the mere mention of Hitler and these pagans are suddenly reunited with their roots. Maybe a few generations after the Great Forty Day Schlep through the Sinai, people talked about the hardship and experienced their communal pain and rage at Moses as if it were yesterday. Disasters have a way of uniting people.

The Holocaust, many feel, justifies Israel’s right to exist, even when they may secretly abhor the violence that continues there with the Palestinians.  Surviving an ordeal like the Holocaust is a terrible wound and if one would let it, could be one of the best excuses to do nothing.  The Irony is that survivors rarely used excuses but continued to live life so fully that it takes one’s breath away. I remember once staying in the Catskills, at Grossingers Hotel, and my Father commenting on how much food the diners were consuming at the table next to us. Every time a waiter asked if more grub was required, they all yelled yes, and platters of food came marching out, like soldiers. When my Mother told us that she had overheard they had all been at one of the camps, all refugees, it occurred to me that they may have felt like they were still starving inside. And yet they showed up.

In honor of Holocaust Remembrance, I just finished A.N. Wilson’s bio on the little man, Adolf and saw the very good one man show, Wiesenthal, about Simon Wiesenthal, Nazi hunter.  I may attend more events or I might just watch The Producers again. Either way, it’s a story that sticks in ribs and never lets me forget that I’m lucky, one, and two, a Jew.

Written by nancykoan

January 29, 2015 at 3:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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