Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | February 3, 2016

Back-Dated Travelogue, Day 10: Yad Vashem

I wrote:

No words.

A monument and a name: Yad Vashem.

Too many words.

As we pulled into the Yad Vashem complex, we began in the Grove of Righteous gentiles. Walking over to a random group of benches (that [our guide] swore was indeed random) what do I see but a plaque bearing the names Jan and Miep Gies, from Holland. Anne Frank’s Miep! Tears began to well up.

It feels blasphemous to say it, but all…the readings and discussion felt like a distraction. Every other thing [our guide] said sent me off onto my own thought tangents. Even if I’d tried to share them, it wouldn’t have worked into his conversational flow. So I held them, like shells collected on a beach for their odd colors or interesting shapes.

The grove: all those trees; so many who helped. But the only names there were those who were known. How many more? How many people helped — or tried to help, failed, and had to live with that — without anyone ever knowing about it? A huge part of the Shoah tragedy is the idea of people not just dying, but of being forgotten. They’re trying so very hard to compile those names and those stories, the six million. But what of the forgotten Righteous, the unknown among the Gentiles, who also helped but have no tree, no plaque, no little numbered tag to cross-reference their story in the Archive? To them, as we stood to go, I offered a silent collective “Thank you.”

…Then the museum. So many words. Pictures and artifacts and stories. So very many words. There must have been more than six million words, but it still wan’t enough. Never enough. How could there be? How can mere words ever manage to convey the totality of it? It started seeming presumptuous to try. But we are human, and words are the way we share our stories, along with songs, and pictures, and objects, which then in turn need even more words of explanation. All in vain. Trying to explain the inexplicable.

Not enough words. Never enough words.

The Hall of Remembrance specifically calls for silence. That didn’t stop our group from saying Kaddish, though even if the group hadn’t done it, I had every intention. They were just words, but they felt right.

The Children’s Memorial. No words. Just five candles, and enough mirrors to create an infinite expanse of specks of light: all the descendants who never existed, of a million and a half murdered children. Walking through it in the dark was terribly disorienting, as I’m sure it was meant to be.

Engraved in the concrete arch over the exit, words from Ezekiel:

“I will put my breath into you and you shall live again, and I will set you upon your own soil.”

At the exit from the museum stood a podium with a book. Blank pages. No lines. And a blue ball point pen. I picked it up and wrote without thinking:

No words.
Too many words.
Not enough words.
No words.

I signed it and walked away.

 

 

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