It’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. It’s a movable commemoration so perhaps I should post this explanatory passage from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
The internationally recognized date for Holocaust Remembrance Day corresponds to the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar. It marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In Hebrew, Holocaust Remembrance Day is called Yom Hashoah. When the actual date of Yom Hashoah falls on a Friday, the state of Israel observes Yom Hashoah on the preceding Thursday. When it falls on a Sunday, Yom Hashoah is observed on the following Monday.
In 2018, today is the day. I take this solemn event personally because one of my mother’s closest friends was a Holocaust survivor. She was always Mrs. Rosenberg or Mrs. R to me. I don’t think I ever knew her first name. That’s okay, I don’t need to know that to honor her memory and that of those who were murdered by the Nazis.
I wrote about Mrs. R twice in 2016. The first passage was written after a series of horrors. I was trying to make sense of things that do not make sense.
In searching for an antidote for this palpable fear and paranoia, I thought of the Holocaust survivors I’ve met. One of whom was one of my mother’s best friends, Mrs. Rosenberg. She was a plump and cheerful woman who lived down the street from us when I was a small child. One day I noticed the tattooed numbers on her arm and asked her about them. I was about 8 years old and my mom gave me a stern look but her friend waved her off and told me what they signified. It was the first time I’d ever heard of the Shoah. I was horrified and asked how she could be so cheerful after so much loss and suffering. Mrs. Rosenberg smiled, patted me on the head, and said: “When you’ve been to hell and back, nothing else ever seems so bad.”
My first post 2016 election post, Sitting Political Shiva, also mentioned Mrs. R.
I’m an agnostic who was raised Greek-Orthodox but most of my mother’s bridge playing and real estate cronies were Jewish, so I learned about sitting shiva as a child. I remember going with her to Mrs. Rosenberg’s house when her husband died. Mrs. Rosenberg was the Holocaust survivor I’ve written about before. I didn’t even complain about going because Mrs. R and I had a mutual admiration society. She remains one of my heroes. She was also as funny as hell. I’m convinced that I learned the essence of black comedy from her. It’s the Shoah survivor’s ethos: nothing will ever be as bad as what they went through, in her case at Treblinka.