Report one from Phnom Penh. The first 3 days.
There is no understanding Auschwitz and Birkenau—that is the point of coming here. That is what drives us along the corridors so we can get out in time. That is what saves us, as we push inside the taxi. If you could contain Auschwitz, if you could grasp it, perhaps you would become a part of it. It is permissible, essential even, to leave portions unread, moments uncontemplated.
(Carole’s father, Rudy, musing in 1937, Germany) Is my country a part of my blood, my bones, is it the safe feeling under my feet? Or is it the place my family has lived for generations—even after it strips away our rights and treats us hatefully? What identifies me as German? Is it my culture, [...]
I’ve been working on and off with the material for Ephemory since my Mother died in March 2010. I always knew I needed to work with my family’s legacy of immigration and NAZI persecution. As Mom’s last breath left her, I finally felt the charge—both permission and mandate—for me to write this. For all the [...]
My floor is littered with scraps and patches; each one seems to require special permission. Sometimes the patch conceals a hole; sometimes it weaves new cloth. Certainly what happened is important. But it’s ephemeral, conjectural, contextual and it’s evocative.
I listen to the life leave you and I’m told there’s not much time. I must write your story. I may tell your story. The elusive gifts of urgency and permission. Your story never had time for doubt: can I do it? will it be right? enough? You dove in and made things happen. That’s [...]
One group savages another, strips them of their rights, their livelihoods, their safety and sometimes arbitrarily their lives. These things are so basic and their deprivation so unimaginable. It stretches from the beginning of time to tomorrow–what torment and what injustice. It makes me feel sick and powerless. How can a civilized people slip into the abyss and take the world through it with them?
And you, Mom? You knew that loneliness at such an early age. But you’ve never complained about it, not when Grandma was sick, not when you were nursing Dad, or after he died, or when your friends started to move away to go live with their children. Even now you won’t let the word take hold in the room.
It is eight years since Carole left and we have to find her. First we have to get back to our home in Germany, but what a mess we go through. We must get across the Polish Corridor and then still so far, with everything miserable and broken. People die on the platform just waiting for the train;
Fifty-two dead. Fifty-two dead from one family. That’s a numbing loss, without even thinking about the zeroes that bear down from hundreds, thousands, and millions. 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; [...]