Wednesday, January 26, 2005
I think I have taken a step away from one of the great nightmares. For the first time I have met people who were at Belsen and although neither of them remebered my father it was still an important and moving day for me. It helped me to put his memories into context.
My dad ( a Royal Engineers officer) had to bury the dead at Belsen and try to count how many died. Rabbi Hardman described how bodies were scattered around the camp, in ditched and in hedges. Dad had to collect these bodies, find bones of earlier deaths, identify and count the numbers found of two 'target bones' for a forensic census, estimate how many bodies it would take to produce the volume of human ash discovered..
He built the great burial mounds at Belsen. He was a technical witness at the War Crimes Tribunals. He met the SS guards and was present at the executions of some of them.
Since Anne Frank died at Belsen shortly before the liberation, if anyone buried her remains it was dad and his team. And because that iconic picture of a young girl is flashed up for every otehr Holocaust story in TV and films, he was never allowed to forget it. When he died, almost exactly two years ago now, one of my feelings was relief that at last he had some release from those memories.
When Rabbi Hardman quetly turned to me on monday and gave a sponaneous blessing for my Father I felt as if at last his quiet pain was recognised and embraced.
And I too can move on a little. Never forgetting though...