Thursday, January 24, 2019

International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2019 short story

The memory that should survive

A short story by
Alessandro Ghebreigziabiher

It’s January 27, 2019. We are at Auschwitz, on the right date, for the memory’s value and, above all, the reverberation that the latter should have in our lives. Where the aforesaid verb - forgive the repetition, it should not be conditional.
Here we are, it's all a matter of time, this is the common affair that binds us all, people, but also verbs and stories.
It's late night and Claudia is around again, as it often happens. At sixteen it’s not a good thing to stay out late, used to complain her grandmother, but it’s a message that becomes nothing, once arrived at the girl's ears.
Since the parents disappeared in a damn car accident, which took place three years ago, the night is her favorite setting, it’s the ideal color to paint the walls of her wounded imagination, it’s the mother that welcomes everyone and in the fair darkness that makes no distinction between humans.
Nonetheless, she is not around to do damage or to transgress any rules.
The girl is simply convinced that the most important things, like truth and love, or the most successful paintings, deserve the best light.
The night’s, yes right.
Thus, despite having listened carefully to the guide’s story, together with the students gathered at the praiseworthy visit to the concentration camp, she didn’t resist the need to observe the remains of the legalized abomination with personal care.
It’s not as cold as I thought, she says getting off the bicycle temporarily borrowed, after having already looked at it in the afternoon, returning to the hotel with her companions.
Thus, she advances slowly, greedily savoring the silence that the land demands, as well as a broad and ready look at everything, taking note of each detail.
Maybe because of the gloomy atmosphere, or perhaps her macabre fantasy, over time nurtured by lots of Gothic literature and horror movies, suddenly a sinister noise reaches her ears.
So, because of her natural predisposition to such inadmissible appearances, Claudia advances intrigued by seeing the ghosts that move towards her, emerging in a random order from the abandoned farmhouses in the camp.

Then, all of a sudden, they all stop at the gate, carefully avoiding passing it.
The girl, far from frightened, approaches, as if she were in front of someone she has known for some time.
It often happens to those who have met the loved ones’ death being too young.
"You are the victims' souls, am I right?" She asks, addressing a boy more or less of her age, in appearance.
"Yes," he says.
"I know it's not so relevant, now, but I want to tell you that I'm very sorry for what happened to you."
"Thanks. But tell me, how is the world now out there? The war is over? Are you at peace? Who rules on earth?"
Claudia has the impression of not being the first to whom he addresses those questions. And in fact, only then, she realizes that everyone else is staring at her, anxious to know her answer.
Although she understands the considerable responsibility she has to deal with, she also understands to have an obligation to speak. Because this is what the fallen ones are asking, especially those who have been unjustly killed. Our voice, our honest and conscious voice.
"The war was won by the US, whose current president has split the nation in half as never before. He threatens the countries, people and cultures he doesn’t like every day, and he wants to build a wall between North America and Mexico. "
"What about Russia?"
"It is led by a man who demonstrates that he has no respect for human rights and democracy, while his government, like the US too, systematically intervenes within foreign elections, to divide and create chaos to his advantage."
"Go ahead," exclaims the ghost of a woman next to the boy.
"Forgive me," says Claudia with her eyes getting wet. "I’m sorry, I’d like to give you good news. I’d like to tell you that the Nazis are gone, but they’re not. They are everywhere, they have different faces, new ways of speaking, and in some countries they sit in parliament too. And although they use other names and symbols, their racist and inhuman message is the same. Some are in the government of my country, today, as in Austria... yes, just where he was born, but also in Hungary and Brazil. Even here in Poland... yes, I know, it's crazy, it's incredible, but it's all true. This is the real absurdity, not the ghosts before me, who I am speaking with at this very moment, but the reality behind me. "
"What about the Jews?" Asks an old man from the bottom of the crowd. "Are they still persecuted?"
"No, but every age has its favorite victims. Today they are migrants."
"Who are them?" The boy asks.
"Migrants are human beings who are discriminated and humiliated, sacrificed and exploited, killed or left to die, just as happened to you."
"If they are not Jews," asks a child making his way between the boy and the woman. "What do they accuse them of?"
"Of being what they are, just migrants, people who try to survive the best by leaving their land for the new one."
"Did the Jews come to the promised land?"
"Not all, now they are scattered around the world, but those in Israel live under a government that does everything to be at war with the nearest and, despite what both sides might say, most similar people on earth: the Palestinians. "
Claudia is almost out of breath and her voice is exhausted by tears that she has hardly held back. I have no right to show tears in the face of their pain, she thinks to give herself strength.
"But please, get out of here," she adds a moment later. "You’re free, now."
"No," the boy answers immediately and with strenuous firmness, speaking also in the name of the others. "We are free, but you are not at all. And facing the great tragedy that happened here you made the worst choice."
"Which one?"
"On the altar of the offers at your disposal, on one side there were us, the dead and our illuminating stories which to learn from and on the other the field itself, with its instruments of torture and its obtuse enclosures. Well, you have chosen to let the latter survive."
“Now we are in the concentration camp,” Claudia thinks, "not you."
So, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, she crosses the threshold and joins the ghosts.
There is still time before the day after, there is time to go back to the hotel, there is time to listen and understand better what we lost.
Because, despite everything, fortunately for us, even if it will not be forever, we are still on time.

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