Monday, 28 November 2016

Hanging From Lampposts

Amsterdam has the largest documentary film festival in the world, the IDFA. It takes place in November. I am bound to the IDFA by family. So, I do go and see some documentaries.

I saw “Shalom Italia”, the story of three Jewish brothers who were the remaining members of a family that had hidden in a cave in Tuscany during the latter part of the Second World War. After the war the family emigrated to Israel.
In the documentary they return to Tuscany to search for the cave.

For the eldest brother the documentary is the first time he has talked about his war experiences. He had buried them in his subconscious for the 70 years he had been in Israel.

This was not unusual.
I lived in Israel in the 1960s. Everybody older than me who had come from Europe was a Holocaust survivor. Nobody ever talked about their war experience and I never thought to ask.
I knew all I needed to know about the Holocaust from the Jewish history lessons that were part of Hebrew classes. I went to these classes from the age of twelve.

There was one incident.
On my kibbutz I had moved from a wooden hut to a concrete room. There were four of them in a row. I was on the right. Zvi, Rahele and the Romanian parents of Yossele lived in the other rooms. We all had our own small terraces.

One night I was woken by the sound of a woman wailing and sobbing. I sat straight up in bed. I did not know what to do. It stopped after a few minutes.
The next day I waited until someone mentioned the wailing to me. Nobody did. Having been brought up British, I did not mention it either.

A few days later it happened again. It was very disconcerting. Wailing and sobbing for a few minutes.
This time I wanted to know what was going on. I asked Zvi about it.
“Oh that,” he said, “that was Yossele’s mother. She sometimes goes through bad periods. You know, the Shoa. Then she has nightmares.
She dreams there are Jewish children hanging from the lampposts.
It does not happen often. You get used to it and turn over and go back to sleep.”

Zvi was right. Now I knew what it was, I did get used to it.  


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