A Holocaust survivor who has dedicated her life to sharing the lessons from that horrific time presents the questions most often asked her and the responses she gives.
Swedish psychologist and author Fried (Fragments of a Life: The Road to Auschwitz, 1990, etc.) has spent much of her career and most of her retirement keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive, talking with students about her experiences in the hope that no such atrocity occurs again. “I have lectured about my time in the different camps almost daily since the 1980s, and each time I talk about it, it feels like reliving it,” she writes. “Despite being very difficult, it has led to something good—it became a way for me to process my trauma.” Her approach in this concise book seems similarly cathartic, with her matter-of-fact tone conveying the everyday horror of something that had once seemed unspeakable until it was inevitable. She attributes her survival to luck and chance and to the sister with whom she remained connected after both had been separated from the rest of their family. The author writes of her impressions as a teenage girl sent to the camps, and the effect is something like what Anne Frank might have written had she survived, the writing aimed at readers who are now the same age as she was then. The questions she finds herself asked at these school lectures are the most basic and most difficult: “Why did Hitler hate the Jews?”; “Why did you not fight back?”; “Do you hate the Germans?” Regarding the last question, she admits that she did but ultimately realized that “hatred does not affect the hated, but the one who hates feels terrible. It arouses vengeful feelings, and if these are acted upon the hated will soon become the one who hates. It leads to a never-ending spiral of hatred.” Fried identifies with subsequent generations of refugees and recognizes just how ugly persecution can turn if good people do nothing.
Timeless lessons taught with simple eloquence.