From Passover to the Holocaust memorial day by Nimrod Dagan
Before every Passover of my life I used to go together with my grandmother to buy new clothes for me to wear on Passover night. My grandmother was not a religious woman at all, although she grow up & raised in traditional Jewish family…
In March 1944 less than 2 weeks after Passover the Nazis went in to Hungary, the Jews had to leave their houses to the ghetto, also my grandma and here family. In one of the selections in the ghetto, Hanna – my grandma’s grandma, was chosen to go on the train, my grandma was the one who told the rest of her family “we can’t let grandma go alone”. And they did, they all left the ghetto with the train that took them all together to Auschwitz Birkenau.
As a child I used to ask her a lot about this year she spent in there, every time after she said something, she used to tell me “I don’t want to say more cos I don’t want to make you sad”. My grandma went a year of hell at the most cruel & horrible place they humanity ever created on earth, she always said that she survived because of her mental powers & courage.
I remember she told me about Passover 1945 in Auschwitz, and about her decision not to eat the one piece of bread she got that day and to kept it for the day after, cos she knew that Jews are not supposed to eat anything with yeast on Passover.
Although my grandma didn’t keep any kind of religious traditional rule after Passover in Auschwitz, she always admitted the she know that there is someone up there that she can’t wait to meet in person, to ask and tell him few very important things.
Tonight is Passover night, the 8th Passover that no one is buying me anything new and special to wear. “I did some mistakes in my life but everybody does”, she told me once, and I know she is carrying on herself a lot, especially the decision she made back then of telling her family “we can’t let grandma go alone”. I don’t know what are the mistakes I did or I’ll do in my life, but I’m sure that one of them is that I never told her that if it was me there, I would do and say the exact same.
I never need an excuse to talk about my grandmother or about the Holocaust. I grew up in a house where the Holocaust was always on the dinner table, my grandma made it be always comfortable and available, we were free to talk and ask, and even to laugh about it. As much as I feel comfortable speaking openly about the Holocaust, I know there are people who are feeling uncomfortable about it, as if we had to be in a specific situation, in a specific, moment or atmosphere to mention the subject, otherwise it’s wrong.
In my house it was ok and allowed to talk about Auschwitz while we were playing Monopoly, it was ok speaking about hunger and being cold while having a big meal and a beer. I learned a lot from my grandma, but if I need to point one thing, it will be her way of dealing with the past and choosing to focus on the future. My grandma was one of those people that when she was crying you couldn’t know if she is not just laughing, and when she was laughing you could think that she is actually crying, that who she was, and in a way this is all life, crying and laughing at once, at least for me.
The Holocaust memorial day of Israel just behind us, and if it’s comfortable or not I got an excuse to talk about the Holocaust, but I actually mostly wanted to tell you all that my grandmother is on Netflix, with ‘Numbered’, the documentary film she participated in just a year before she died.
People sometimes ask me “Your grandmother had this number on her arm?”, I’m saying “yes”, and I can see that they are not comfortable, then I need to tell them, that there is nothing wrong with their question, just as there is nothing wrong with having this number, or as my grandmother used to say all her life: “I’m not the one who should be ashamed of it.”
Apart from this that my grandparents are Holocaust survivors, my parents Irit t & Ezra dedicated their lives to the subject, they created a special educational & therapeutic program that brings together Holocaust survivors, with 2nd generation and youngsters, through a process of a year of expressive drama therapy, they are creating a supportive & inspiring group, by the end of the year they are coming up on stage, the youngsters who needed to listen tell the Holocaust survivors stories.
Above 1000 Holocaust survivors & 1000 teenagers took a part of the project in the past 22 years, 70 different groups in 70 cities all over Israel. My father always says “This is our mission, this is how we felt from day first, but it’s not just our mission, the Holocaust survivors has the mission to tell, the youngsters has the mission to hear, know, and later on to tell the stories by themselves.”
My parents are fighting against the time for so many years, every year there are less and less Holocaust survivors alive. There are Holocaust survivors who are passing away from this world without having the chance to say what they went through, Holocaust survivors who never shared even with their families anything, cos they were shy, embarrassed, cos they didn’t want to shock or sadden them, cos they wanted to focus on the present & future. Testimony Theatre gives them maybe the last opportunity to make peace with their past, or at least to feel a bit of relief.
The project is based on donations of private donors & organizations from Israel and around the world, for offering donations you can contact me (Nimrod), for Testimony Theatre Instagram: www.instagram.com/teatronedut, FB: Testimony Theatre,for Testimony Theatre documentary film: https://youtu.be/vNH_qPEF-v0