It was Holocaust memorial Week last week and I happened to watch one of the programmes on TV. It was about the lives of several very different people who had survived and were alive when Auschwitz was liberated. They came from different backgrounds – a Polish Jew, a Central European Sinti. the programme also included an interview with the German grandson of the Camp Commandant who is the only member of his family who does not deny The Holocaust. I was very touched by how differently they had chosen and been able to deal with handling their horrific experiences, the different ways they told their children and the lasting effects on themselves and on their children. One in particular stood out. Now living in American and looking like a balding version of Ralph Richardson, Max Epstein now, like so many survivors, talks to school children so the world never forgets. I was particularly struck by him saying that after liberation all he wanted was to forget so he “chose to remember the sparks” because in the camps “ the smallest acts of kindness shone like sparks in the dark”.
With apologies for any errors caused by my memory from the programme and with some poetic license on my part, here is my most unworthy tribute.
I was born in Lodz
I lived in the ghetto and camps
where the smallest acts of kindness
shone like sparks in the dark.
My name is Max.
I am an old man now
my hair is receding
its colour all but gone
But I choose to remember the sparks.
My name is Max Epstein.
I wanted to forget
but it was impossible to do
I told my children
“if I loose my arm, they’ll know where to return it to”.
My name is Max Epstein and I am a Jew.
I have children and grandchildren a plenty
who generate life anew
The very thing they wanted extinguished
Max Epstein, Jew, 17702.
© Sheila Ash, 2015