Last night was the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Jews consider the day to begin and end in the evening, so that the progress is from darkness to light. If you visit the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, you are forced to follow a path that leads to a series of walls. You become claustrophobic and disoriented. There appears to be no exit.
Then the Museum miraculously opens up to a blaze of light, which also is dizzying, but sublime. It’s freedom.
This year Holocaust Remembrance Day brought back a poignant memory. Shortly after my parents and I arrived in Montreal from the German refugee camp where I was born, my dad took me to a downtown department store where a Santa was taking Christmas requests from children. We were to sit on his lap and whisper our requests in his ear. I told him I wanted a grandma, and he nodded. Later I asked my dad when Santa would deliver on his promise, and dad had to tell me it was all pretend. For me, there would be no Santa Clause.
The memory was bittersweet. Bitter, because I never got the grandparents I longed for. Sweet, because I was reminded once again of the life-affirming bravery of my parents and all the other survivors who went on to celebrate their freedom by creating new lives.