Golda's Stories of the Jewish Holocaust
Golda Sandman was born in the small city of Strachovitsa in south Poland. At the beginning of World War II she was a girl age eighteen. After the occupation by the Germans she was sent from the ghetto to a work camp in the city. Later she was sent to Auschwitz Birkenau and from there to Bergen-Belzen. She spent totally six years in concentration camps. After the war ended she went to Sweden, and from there immigrated to the Land of Israel in illegal immigrants ship. After hard years of absorption she established her family.
Golda's Stories has a plot that sounds unbelievable. She decided not to surrender to evil and survived under the harshest terms. She dealt with illegal commerce and smuggling, endangered her life many times to save people, and acted intuitively opposite death many times. Her physical and mental sufferings were unprecedented, yet she survived the death camps healthy.
The book defines new borders of humanity, femininity and heroism, which reach in it heights that were considered inconceivable up to here.
Among her desperate surviving acts were: Escaping an execution, escaping from a deadly surgery by the notorious Mengele and Escaping from the door of a gas chamber.
She triumphed to bestow her memoirs to the next generations, in memory of the heroism of the Jews that perished in the holocaust.
Although it's a personal memory, the book can serve as an accurate, comprehensive presentation of the whole period, because the stories extend from the 1930th to the 1950th.
The book has also a considerable literary value: It combines the point of view of a child who listens to the stories of his mother, with the harsh reality of present day life, where the stories sound imaginary and estrangement is a natural and common reaction.
· Editing the Stories
The son of Golda, Avinoam, recorded her memoirs in 1978, during several months in which she told him every day one story or two. Over the years he tried strenuously to reach a perspective which will enable him to edit and publish them. Although very plain, the stories were incomprehensible in their intensity. It was as there were many secrets and obstacles which he had to decipher and overcome before the recordings could be placed in orderly fashion.
Avinoam describes his spiritual development in his book: 'The Little Prince Lands'. Here he wishes to add few more thoughts regarding the editing of the memories.
The artistic occupation with the holocaust is prevalent among the second generation. But this relation comes always from a present and a scholary point of view. What became the most common approach is taking a limited piece of memory and combining it in an artwork.
Holocaust survivors, without a clock or calendar in the camps, found it very hard to describe in a dependable form what happened to them.
The remaining Nazis remained regular citizens during and after the war. They pretended to be innocent and the duty of proof was imposed on the survivors.
Additional paradox is that one of the most typical characteristics of modern societies is 'Simultaneity'. It is the tendency to think in the present tense and the shortsightedness in the management of issues. The survivors lived in camps where there was a need to 'live for the moment' in order to survive. In this way the holocaust was subconsciously integrated with modern reality. The terrible significance of this combination remained in the rear.
To the tendency to see what happened as a 'black hole' joined some of the most important spokesmen of the holocaust, for example Elie Wiesel. They regard what happened as inexplicable and beyond imagination. This approach is understood, but it became dominant. It serves the holocaust deniers and monopoles.
A literary evidence for this refinement is the diary of Anne Frank which is very popular, but it is not about the Nazi concentration camps.
What pressed Avinoam for a different, thorough attitude was the fact that he recorded not only the full memories of his mother, but that of his father too, who survived the war in the Gulags, but his wife and two children perished in Treblinka.
The son was placed in a unique situation, where his parents' past was known to him completely. This is an extraordinary situation according to any standard.
Yet they were not transparent. The weight of the memories made frankness as a legitimate way of expression.
So he was left to try to deal directly with the memoirs in the fullness of their extent. He had to put himself in his parents' shoes, and see the unbelievable suffering as it happened, without any explanation, any reason or any reference to anything known to him.
The long, comprehensive testimonies, created a shock, a real revolution in his life. The problem which he encountered required a spark of insight. He could not imagine that his parents, whom he knew as ordinary people, were survivors of such hardship. He took upon himself to write the recordings in a literary style, since he was afraid that no professional writer will be able to write these biographies in an authentic way. Everything he did was systematically for this purpose, but the cluster of impressions was too strong.
The shock of handling suddenly both parents' memories erased all his young man's knowledge base. He was left only with a general belief in the spirit of God.
Parents, especially mother, are everything for their children. He could not rely on simple feelings, as expressed in novels. He had to search for feelings above and beyond, as in myths. There was not any suitable myth in existence.
He had to find first, Like Archimedes at his time, a new point for a lever and lift with it the world. He had to look at the subject from a new perspective, enlightenment. Then He had to create his own myth.
He felt that there is another major problem with the entire explanation of the causes for the holocaust. There isn't any historian who explains clearly why Germany was transformed swiftly into a wild beast. Avinoam write a book on The Connection between the Holocaust and Aviation, due to the efforts of the Nazis to become the rulers of the world through accelerated Aviation development.
Documentation of the holocaust a giant project, but it is mostly for archives and study, and not destined directly for the public. The researcher tries to avoid an emotional attachment to the subject.
A point of departure for the proper expression of the memories were few autobiographies of survivors, for example that of Martin Grey. They didn't only survive, but also succeeded to divert a glimpse to the past, and with the help of a shadow author or in their own hands, wrote their memoirs which became masterpieces.
The most significant decision that Avinoam made when he started to edit the recordings, was to use a standard Hebrew language. Undoubtedly the broken Hebrew of the recordings, which combined emotional tons with weeping and sighs, transferred in the best way the message, but these are not possible in writing. So the whole structure of the spoken language had to be transformed. He preferred a simple and light written language, which required a good control in Hebrew, which he acquired during the years.
The more he progressed in editing, there increased the feeling of 'a return to the womb'. As a result, he understood that he is doing something like an expedition into the time and self, and what happened to his mother have a possibility to be changed into an improved depiction, through the alternation done by his viewpoint; as in Quantum Physics.
It demanded a shift toward more constructed and carefully pronounced language, which started to resemble poetry. The best form of writing is an epic poem. And he would like to compare his result to the Iliad by homer. In the end, after many rewritings, he found surprisingly that he used almost only the phrases of his mother, and just amended them a little bit. The book became in reality almost a synoptic transcript.
One edition technique was to pass to and fro between broadening the recordings' phrases for some more insight, or minimizing them to just accurate copying. Lastly He sensed that he located the right sentences. He omitted all the repetitions and placed everything in a chronological order. The shorter is better, and if he could have the chance of a second edition, he would eliminate more words, so the result will be as close as possible to the source.
After he had a result which barely satisfied him, he wanted to publish the book as soon as possible. Therefore when the opportunity appeared, he did not add the memoirs of his father, the book 'The Little Prince Lands', or his thoughts about 'Aviation and the Holocaust'. What remained from all of it was only the division of his mother's stories to three parts: 'Time', 'Amendment', 'Elevation', to reflect his spiritual journey.
The book is written as his mother told, in first body. From reading the book, it seems at times that the flow of the stories is easy. A mother tells her child some stories. The content cancels the easy impression. This is just as in fairy tales, where the naïve style is confronted with the amazing plot and we are forced to think of a meaning above and behind the simple story.
Avinoam is proud that he succeeded, in a trusted voice, to tell the story as it was conveyed to him, and to overcome the double chaos of the emotional and technical difficulties. He wanted that the book will have a rough cover and will transmit actuality, but this was not permitted. In spite of this he sense that the main point of the message passed: There are reflections for what happened to his mother.
He still hopes that the book, which is not more then 135 pages in Hebrew, will reach commercial and international success. He applies here to any publisher to consider translating the book to his local language. The truth is some times very hard to understand and our duty is to do the best we can in this respect.