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Carole Ponders the 52 Who Died

To honor Yom Ha’Shoah I’m reposting this piece I wrote while developing the character of Carole, the protagonist in my play Ephemory, based on my Mother. After the war, when Carole finds her Mother and Sister, after they are liberated from the Stutthof Concentration Camp, Carole learns that fifty-two members of her family were killed during the war. These members of the Metzger and Spiegel families are listed at Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martys’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority. How would she absorb this news–that’s what I had to imagine. How were the dead painfully and respectfully compiled, how was the news transmitted, and how could it possibly be absorbed.

Fifty-two dead. Fifty-two dead from one family. How can this happen? The number! 52! And it’s thousands, millions when you put us all together. Cities of dead. Families of dead. Unborn children. Fifty-two dead in my family, their not-breath filling the wind that cuts my cheek, not-lit candles at holiday dinners, non-hugs from grandmas and grandpas.

Each missing member suffered immeasurably: torture; starvation; disease; violence; humiliation; hatred; and desperation. They died apart from community, family, eulogy and comfort, without grave, shiva, grief, or sympathy. Fifty-two died; a tiny island in the horrific testament of six million. But possibly, a number to imagine, to care about, to celebrate, to mourn. If I took the time to feel that loss, could I even go on?