My parents, both born in Germany, treated the Shoah as almost an irrelevance. They visited Germany, and had many German friends. They encouraged my sister to study there, and when challenged by other Jews, would simply say ‘You can’t blame the current generation for what their parents did.’ But it wasn’t entirely consistent. I remember hearing my mother criticizing someone for going on holiday in Germany some years before they themselves went. She never spoke German when in that country, though would express herself fluently in the language when in England if required.
And I inherited my parents’ attitude of denial. Brought up bilingual, I was delighted to find another German speaking girl on my I first day at school. We became firm friends until the day her mother came rushing over to my mother, speaking volubly and fast in German. My mother stiffened, and replied in monosyllables. I had no idea what was being said, but clearly something was not right. Afterwards I asked what had happened. ‘Oh they are not like us,’ my mother said, ‘She came over after the war.’ I had no idea what that meant, but I knew it was not good. I never spoke to the girl again.
Elul is a month given to us to reflect and prepare for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is a month where we try to take account of our lives, so that we might make the most of this powerful time of renewal, regeneration, fresh starts and healing.
This year our daily Elul Thoughts are taken from ‘Terror, Trauma and Tragedy’, edited by Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain and Rabbi David Mitchell. Each is a short extract of a larger piece designed to help us find meaning, comfort or perhaps more questions in the aftermath of horrific events, which have seemed all too frequent this year. The horror of such atrocities can leave us in confusion, depression and fear. As we move into a new year we hope these pieces might variously offer some solace, be a tool of self-reflection, and encourage us to continue working for a better world.