Thursday, January 20, 2005

We Live

I watched about a half hour of the PBS special on Auschwitz last night. I was filled with such paralyzing waves of hatred, disgust and dread that I could not move, and became ice cold. I quietly turned off the television and sat on the couch, contemplating Nazi hatred and accepting it, and accepting my own violent contempt for them.
My distant cousin Norman escaped the Nazis when he was a teenager and eventually wound up in England. When I met him in the 1980's, he was every bit the old English gentleman, finally married in his elder years to the wife of his best friend: he had quietly loved her and proposed after her husband -- his best friend -- died. She is delightful. "Norman doesn't talk about the war," she told me in her brisk way. He was very proper, very reserved, very Anglicized (including his name -- our name). But I noticed that several times during the course of my stay, Norman carefully queried me on the number of cousins and second cousins who are living in the States, and how many children those cousins had. "Yes," he'd say, "And how many children did Marvin's children have?" While I counted out the children and spoke their names again and again, he'd crane his head forward and take in the information like a hungry man takes in a meal. The more children, the better satisfied he was.

I don't know if he is still alive. Maybe it's enough that he knows we are still alive.


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