LONDON JEWISH COMMUNITY NEWS

London, Ontario

September 10, 1998

 

THE LIGHT AFTER THE DARK

by Susan Merskey

 

If there is one single thought common to historians and students of the Holocaust it is the determination that such an event can never be allowed to happen again. For an increasing number of survivors, one way of preventing this lies in retelling the stories of their own or other people’s experiences while they still can do so, thus creating a record for future generations. Most were unable to do this immediately after 1945. Having survived, they had to create new lives for themselves. In addition, the wounds left by their experiences were still too raw, and needed time to heal before they could be relived through retelling. However, such stories started appearing in the 1960s, and over the years, what was at first a trickle has become a steady stream.

            In The Light After The Dark, Alvin Abram has collected six true stories of men and women who, through determination, courage and luck survived the dark years of Nazi barbarism to build new lives for themselves in Canada. Zalman Katz’s story, aptly entitled An Eye for an Eye, describes both his experiences and his driving need to avenge their deaths by hunting down those responsible. Michael Kutz was ten years old when the Germans invaded Poland. He crawled out of the death pit in which the rest of his family perished, was hidden for six months by a friendly farmer, then fought with various partisan groups. Moishe Perlmutter survived the war years on the run in the Ukraine. He came to Canada with his mother in 1948. Dubi Arie survived in Poland with his mother and brother, reached Israel after the war and moved to Toronto in 1974. His major artistic work, The Mission, forms a most impressive centerpiece for this book. Like numerous other Polish Jews Marjan (Michael) Rosenberg survived by successfully pretending to be a Catholic. In a purely local touch, it is interesting to note that his mother was a relative of Rabbi David Kirshenbaum, who sponsored Marjan, his mother and her second husband to immigrate to Canada in 1948. Mother and daughter Batia and Feiga Schmidt survived the massacre of Jews in Kaunas, Lithuania in 1941, and the subsequent atrocities of the ghetto there, frequently because Batia’s “sixth sense” enabled them to keep one step ahead of danger.

            Abram’s must have needed infinite patience to draw the details of each of these stories from their narrators. He has certainly exerted all his talents in retelling them, using a flashback technique to set the scene for each one, but otherwise letting the stories of the individuals’ Holocaust experiences and subsequent lives speak for themselves.