tisdag 21 mars 2017

The Time Has Come

- My granddaughter is doing military service in Israel, a friend told me in the synagogue and added, we are all so proud.
They can not take in my stories about the ghetto in Budapest. I understand them. The distance between driving a
Merkava tank and to sit imprisoned in the ghetto is gigantic. How could they possibly understand?

- They have to understand, I said.

- Understand what? he asked with a shrug.

- Let me return to what we, the generations after you, have to understand, I said. - People have forgotten that
the coin has two sides and the other side has, until now been hidden, obstructed by the first side, the victim side.

- I don’t understand, he said.

- Let me tell you what I think, I said. And I continued:
- You were survivors and you were very young. Your outer as well as your inner lives were shattered. Your choice was to either start over, to escape into mental illness - or to kill yourselves. Many chose the first option. Many of you tried to move on. The strongest did this. Some were successful, others not. But you did it. The shadows kept chasing you and you tried to hide from them by building new life, starting families, getting higher educations and climbing career ladders. But the shadows continued to chase you. The anxiety was ever present together with all the questions of why and where did they all go and we have to move on, but how? And you were silent. You fought yourself inside your silence. You never got any answers to your questions. No one asked you anything and you did not want to burden your children - the children who should never have been born.

When we escaped from Egypt 3 000 years ago we had to remain in the desert for 40 years. Many don’t understand why but it takes 40 years - a generation - to get over the slave mentality and acquire proper guidance on how to proceed. And after 40 years in the desert we managed to do just that and started to move on.

You were silent for 40 years, but then you were ready to talk - without guidance. Some began to speak, write and shout
out your despair. To your surprise, the world started to listen. They listened and listened, and you were restored by
those who listened to you. You spoke about the Holocaust and everyone saw you as you were - the actual victims.

Israel has not been different. Israel was busy with survival and the building of a new state, a country of proud Jews, not victims. Many of you went there and you fought together against the invading Arabs in 1948, but then you disappeared
again and you were silent there too, for the shadows look the same and they keep chasing you, no matter where you go, no matter where you live.

Then Yad vaShem was built and Auschwitz/Birkenau became a symbol of humanity's absolute low point.

I was in Israel during Yom haShoa last year. It really is powerful when all society stops and all bow their heads in unison, in rememberance and respect. All this is thanks to you.

- The other side then? my friend said, What do you mean?

- The other side of the coin, I said, is the neglected but crucial side, and it is still hidden.

- Hidden?

- Yes, I said. The side that tells us that you are not only surviving but also survivors.

- You survived the worst genocide in the history of mankind, and yet managed to pick up the fallen banner and you continued on your way. You saw to it that our story continues, you have shown us that whatever happens, we continue to build, we continue to live on. You have shown us, the generation who came after you, that you are unique in your unbending will to not ever give up. You are characterised by your history, and you have told it to us, but now it's up to us to lift this formerly hidden side about how you continued onward to much higher levels.

We must pass on the story of how you, like when we rose after the exodus from Egypt, lifted and carried this history to become the foundation of our entire existence. What you have done is at this level. We are all a result of your will to live, all of us who live in the generations after you. You must be remembered and you will be remembered as the most
important Jews in our history.

We must erect memorials in honour of your heroism, your courage and strength to carry on. We must change our approach to you as victims - in a context over which you had no power - to the giants that you all are, to the survivors that you all are - and we all need to see this and embrace this and be guided by this. You cannot do that, but we have to do it. We need to show and promote the other side of the coin - the survivors and how you did it, how you survived - you, the lonely and abandoned by us who did not know any better. But now is the time - now it's time to let our children and grandchildren understand the width of the unprecedented struggle you have fought and still fight every day.

We must study and we must learn from you. We must incorporate this into our religious ceremonies and we have to
raise this issue on all levels - that it is impossible to be a Jew in the shadow of the Holocaust - but that you are the proof that it actually is possible, and that the feat you have accomplished is outstanding!

This is the other side of the coin - the one that is our cursed and sacred duty to lift and carry forward.

The time has come. The time is now.

söndag 19 mars 2017

Tiden är inne

Tiden är inne

- Mitt barnbarn gör militärtjänst i Israel, sa min vän, vi är alla så stolta.
De kan inte ta till sig mina berättelser. Jag förstår dem. Avståndet mellan att köra en Merkava stridsvagn och att sitta inspärrad i ghettot är gigantiskt. Hur skulle de kunna förstå?

- De måste förstå, sa jag.

- Förstå vad?

- Låt mig återkomma till vad och vad vi, generationerna efter er måste förstå, sa jag. - Det har glömts bort att myntet har två sidor och den andra sidan har fram tills nu skymts av den första sidan, offersidan.

- Jag förstår inte, sa han.

- Låt mig få berätta hur jag tänker, sa jag.

- Ni var överlevande och mycket unga. Era yttre och inre liv var krossade. Era val var att antingen börja om från början, eller att gå in i psykisk sjukdom - eller ta livet av er. Många valde de första alternativen. Många av er försökte gå vidare. De starkaste gjorde detta. En del lyckades bra, andra inte. Men ni gjorde det. Skuggorna jagade er alltid och ni försökte gömma er i från dem genom att bygga nya liv, med familjer, utbildningar och karriärer. Men skuggorna fortsatte att jaga er. Ångesten fanns där och frågorna om varför och vart tog alla vägen och vi måste gå vidare men hur? Men ni var tysta. Ni kämpade i er tystnad. Ingen frågade någonting och ni ville inte belasta era barn - de barn som aldrig skulle ha fötts.

När vi flydde ifrån Egypten för 3000 år sedan så tvingades vi bo 40 år i öknen - 40 år för att komma över slavmentaliteten och få vägledning om hur vi skulle kunna gå vidare. Först efter 40 år klarade vi av att göra just det.

Ni var tysta i 40 år, men sedan var ni mogna - utan vägledning. En del började tala, skriva och skrika ut er förtvivlan. Till er stora förvåning började världen lyssna. De lyssnade och lyssnade och ni blev upprättade av dem som lyssnade på er. Ni talade om Förintelsen och alla såg er som de offer ni faktiskt var.
Israel har inte varit annorlunda. Israel var upptaget med att överleva och att bygga ett nytt land, ett land med stolta judar, inte offer. Många av er åkte dit och ni kämpade tillsammans mot de invaderande araberna 1948, men sedan försvann ni igen och ni var tysta där också, för skuggorna ser likadana ut och de fortsätter att jaga en, var man än bor. Så ni var tysta där också.
Så byggdes Yad vaShem och Auschwitz/Birkenau blev en symbol på mänsklighetens absoluta bottenläge.
Jag var i Israel under Yom haShoa förra året. Det är mäktigt när samhället stannar upp och alla böjer sina huvuden i påminnelse och respekt. Allt detta är er förtjänst.

- Den andra sidan då? Vad menar du?

- Den andra sidan av myntet, sa jag, är den bortglömda men den avgörande och den är fortfarande dold.

- Dold?

- Ja sa jag. Den sidan som berättar om att ni inte bara är överlevande utan även överlevare.

- Ni överlevde den största katastrofen i mänsklighetens historia och ni tog upp den fallna fanan och ni fortsatte. Ni såg till att vår historia fortsätter, ni har visat oss alla att vad som än händer så bygger vi vidare, vi lever vidare. Ni har visat oss, vi som kommer efter er, att ni är enastående i er oböjliga vilja att inte ge upp. Ni är präglade av er historia och ni har berättat den för oss men nu är det upp till oss att lyfta denna sida om hur ni fortsatt till mycket högre nivåer.
Vi måste föra vidare berättelsen om hur ni, liksom när vi reste oss efter uttåget ur Egypten, lyfte denna historia till att bli basen för vår hela existens. Det ni har gjort är på denna nivå. Vi är alla ett resultat av er livsvilja, alla vi som lever i generationerna efter er. Ni måste bli ihågkomna och ni kommer att bli ihågkomna som de viktigaste judarna i vår historia.
Vi måste resa minnesstenar över era hjältedåd, modet och kraften att gå vidare. Vi måste ändra vår inställning till er som offer - för ett sammanhang ni inte rådde över - till de giganter ni alla är, till de överlevare ni alla är - och att vi alla måste se detta och ta till oss detta och låta oss vägledas av detta. Ni kan inte göra det, men vi måste göra det. Vi måste visa och uppmärksamma den andra sidan av myntet - överlevarna och hur ni bar er åt - ni, de ensamma och övergivna av oss som inte förstod bättre. Men nu är tiden inne - nu är det dags att få våra barn och barnbarn att förstå vidden av den exempellösa kamp ni har fört och fortfarande för.

Vi måste studera och vi måste lära oss av er. Vi måste införliva detta i våra religiösa ceremonier och vi måste lyfta frågan på alla plan - att det egentligen är omöjligt att vara jude i skuggan av Förintelsen - men att ni, ni är beviset på att det faktiskt går och att den bragd ni har åstadkommit är enastående!

Det är den andra sidan av myntet - den som det är vår förbannade och vår heliga plikt att lyfta.

Tiden är inne för det. Tiden är nu.

måndag 6 mars 2017

Our names carry our history

- But Stefan Lindmark is not a Jewish name, she said, my Christian friend.
- So what is a Jewish name then? I asked her.
- Well, she said, Braun, Weiss, Goldstein, Einstein, Levin, you know, names like that? she replied.
- Yes, and Cohen, she added, the priest name. And first names of course - like Moses, Aaron, Isaac and David - yes, names like that.

- So how did the names become Jewish names then? I asked her, - Do you know? I mean names such as Gold, Braun, Weiss and so on. They are no biblical names, right!?
- Oh, I really don’t know, she admitted. She looked questioningly at me, perhaps realising that she had not thought of it earlier. - How did they do it? How did they become Jewish names?
- The authorities of Austria-Hungary once decided that all Jews should have a last name, and not just their Hebrew names. They had to pay money for the nice names of course, and those who could not pay enough or were too poor were given the names that were left over; simple names, like Weiss for example, which was my grandmother's maiden name - or offensive names, like Einstein, ”one testicle”.
She looked at me, a little surprised and seemed unsure if she wanted to giggle or be dismayed. I continued:
- After a few generations you now associate those names with being Jewish - but the purpose was the exact opposite. Einstein is not exactly a name with negative connotations nowadays - don’t you agree? She nodded.
- But the origin tells a story, for those who want to know.
- Yeah - but what about ”Lindmark” then? she said. Many thousands of Swedes are named Lindmark. It’s a very Swedish name! And "Stefan" is as Swedish as it gets! she exclaimed.
- That's right, I said, and that's exactly the point!
- Really!? she said in surprise, - There is a point?

- I, like all Jews, have a Hebrew name, I said. It’s ”Shaul ben Itzhak". Saul, the son of Isaac. Isaac was my grandfather.
- But what about Lindmark? she asked.
- I could have taken my mother's maiden name, which is more Jewish-sounding, but I kept the name Lindmark, which was my father's name, I said.
- Why? she asked.

- Well, this is how it is, I said. - I am the son of a survivor from Auschwitz-Birkenau. My mother arrived in Sweden as a 23-year old human wreck after 14 months of captivity on planet Hell. Her whole life was destroyed. Everyone and everything she ever knew was gone. My mother, the daughter of a Hasidic mother and father. My mother, who witnessed several hundred thousand Hungarian Jews executed in the gas chambers located 30 meters from her, where she kept sorting clothes belonging those who who were being exterminated, while she day in and day out could hear their desperate screams. My mother, who Dr Mengele experimented on and my mother, who one day arrived on planet Sweden, where everyone was nice to her, but no one understood or knew anything about the hell of planet Auschwitz-Birkenau. How could they? Sweden was the country that stayed out of the war, which saved the barely 8000 Jews who lived here. Although the list was drawn upp and ready; the Swedish Nazis had everything prepared for deportation when the war ended.

- So, what choice had the young girls who came here? I said. - The survivors of hell had now ended up in what may have been perceived as Paradise, at least on earth. How would they continue to live on now? How could they? After what they had witnessed, the horrors they had lived through and somehow miraculously survived. How?
Many killed themselves and many others became psychological wrecks - but some of them did manage to start over. They built up a new map of life, in order to orient themselves forward in the new life they had been given on this new planet where there was peace and prosperity. They slowly began to go from surviving to being survivors. Life must go on.

- Finding a young Jewish man was not easy and for many of them impossible - and some of them found a decent Swedish boy. - So it was for my mother. Ingemar Lindmark came from the most northern parts of Sweden - so far north that even he had never even seen tomatoes in his entire life before - that’s how far.
Eventually they moved to a small town in central Sweden and together they built a new life. They had no relatives nearby; they were on their own. Then came the children. I, who should never have been born. And my siblings came; and with us, a new generation. And they protected us by making us as Swedish as possible and thus hide us - if the hunt for Jews were to start all over again. It was effective up to a certain limit! I grew up full of questions about all the things about our family I couldn’t understand. And there was a lot. For who can forever hide their appearance, their depressions, their headaches or the tattooed numbers on your arm?

- To make a very very long story short:
When I was in my 30’s I had finally seen through my parent's clever scheme and decided to start living a traditional Jewish life, and thereby my name became an issue. Some of my contemporaries - who had also Swedish names like me - chose to take their relatives' names.
- However, I felt that my last name is too part of the Holocaust, or rather the way back to life  after the Holocaust. I have all my life felt that the Nazis did not want to kill my mother for what she had done, but for who she was. If the jewishness died in just one generation, the Nazis would have had succeeded - and I did not intend to let that happen.

- So - what you ask is exactly what I want the Jews (and others) to do in future generations, to ask: - How did Lindmark become a Jewish name? Then my answer would be the following.
- Of the children of the survivors about 10-15% have been diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) due to being raised by severely traumatised parents. The road back to a vibrant Jewish life was sometimes lifelong. They had to work hard for it and fight for it, in order to dare to be Jews and to dare to raise their children to be Jews. History and experience show that it takes about seven generations before the shadows from the past are gone.

- Today, the name Lindmark - and Svensson and Pettersson and Karlsson - are also Jewish names, as a reminder of the struggles people who bore them - and still do - lived through, in order to carry the banner forward. If they could, then we can also do it. Each generation must struggle in order to find their own identity. And keeps it. All generations must struggle with Anti-Semitism when it once again rears its ugly head - and it always does - and everyone has to decide for themselves - am I brave enough, do I have the strength to live a traditional Jewish life - or should I not?

Then our names will remain there as a monument for those who protested by safeguarding life and who resumed the life that existed before the Holocaust wiped out 1500 years of European Jewish life and culture. Those who fought against the Nazis by standing up for the values ​​that made us, and made us even more a living people, 4000 years after we became a living nation.
- Those who struggled to restore all the victims of the attempted and nearly complete extermination of our people. Those who refused to give up, talking and shouting to us through their names, that we also have to take responsibility - that is my wish and my hope.

- Oops! she said then, my Christian friend. You are a stubborn lot, you are.
- Yes, we are, I said. - We protest by being there, I said, and we live in our history. - We are a part of our history and we have taken our place there again.