the holocaust was a part of this huge war that happened years ago. history, books, stories, movies had built what it was in my head. it was huge. it was drastic. it was despicable. but it was very distant. as an indian, it wasn’t my fight. it had never been. my people at that time were waging another war – on the british raj, for our independence!
on that day, in berlin. it became very real.
there is so much to see in berlin. the walk across berlin, following the line. the remnants of the wall. the east-side gallery. the bunkers. stories about hilter dying under there. but it remained a story. just that the story was slowly coming alive, with every piece, every monument, even line adding to it. it was a quiet morning, with a lot to digest. lot to think. lot to pause. not something a first visit to a city normally does.
after all the sites, i walked to the holocaust museum. there were grey tombs outside, some small, some big. not real tombs the guide explained, it was an art installation in memory of the unnamed jew. the unnamable, faceless but innumerable jew.
below these tombs, in the museum there were many stories, of different atrocities… i slowly walked through it all, but i got bored and skipped the last section.
when i went back up, bathed in the evening light, the tombs took on another air. it was almost like a hang-out. people were sitting on them. a spread of food, laughing, taking pictures. making that entire grey area seem lively. with the sun setting in the distance, the orange sky against the grey tombs. i wanted a perfect shot. took multiple from different angles. clicking furiously.
then i met her. she was quiet looking, with flat hair, plain clothes… and she said, can you take a picture of me here?
she posed among the tombs and i clicked, a couple of times…
my parents were part of this… i was in the camp. i was separated from my parents and then i lost my mother… my dad and i live in australia. i have never been able to come here, i cannot get over all of that.
look at these people here, eating on these tombs, jumping over them, playing… for me it’s my story, it’s my life. i am in these tombs. shouldn’t the authorities ban it? they should mention that this is a serious monument, that this is a cemetery.
i was in europe for a conference, and didn’t want to visit berlin. others said i should… something made me come but i don’t think i want to come back…
the holocaust was no longer a part of history. it is her story.