Nicole In A Nutshell

November 19, 2008

Miss me?

Filed under: On A Serious Note.. — by Nicole @ 9:51 pm

There hasn’t been much to blog about on my end lately, but I’m back. I have to say from the start that this isn’t going to be a happy post.

I take the opportunity to volunteer for every pro bono project that comes my way. I feel that it’s important, not only because it does a lot of people a lot of good, but that it breaks up the monotony of my otherwise boring and repetitive work life. My most recent project involves assisting Holocaust survivors in filling out applications for reparations from a German government program. We’re helping out people who lived and worked in the ghettos before being deported to concentration camps or elsewhere. It’s clearly an emotionally draining yet fascinating project, and I have become passionate about it. I’ve only been speaking with these people for a few days, but every survivor I speak to has such a moving story that it has sunk in really deep rather quickly.

My last call of the day was with an 86 year old Polish man. From the second he answered the phone, I could tell that it was going to be an incredible conversation. It was. He had lived in one of the largest ghettos in Poland as a teenager, and was shipped off to several concentration camps after the ghetto was liquidated. He told me about what he saw, what he experienced, what he felt. He told me about how while digging graves for the bodies of his fellow prisoners, a Nazi put a pistol to the head of a three year old girl playing in the sand, pulled the trigger, and forced my client to undress and bury her. He told me about how he was forced to dig graves, bury corpses, only to to be told that the graves weren’t deep enough, forced to dig the bodies back up and create a shallower pit. He told me about the death march he was forced to take. Did he have me in tears? You bet your ass he did.

I though about this man the whole way home. I thought about blogging the experience, but I didn’t want to get all depressy. Then, upon arriving at home, I’ll be damned if the next DVR’d 90210 episode on the list wasn’t the one where Andrea Zuckerman’s grandmother was a survivor of Buchenwald and the kids have to deal with that in the context of the arrival of a Holocaust denier on campus. I took it as a sign.

Yes, the dude on BH was fictitious, but it’s amazing that there really are lunatics out there (like Ahmadinejad) who still refuse to acknowledge that this happened. You simply can’t make this shit up. Millions of people aren’t collectively crafty enough to conspiriatorally invent such similar, horrific experiences. Obviously these denial maniacs are in the minority, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous.

The scary part of this is that it’s not all that distant in our past, but it’s still happening. I hope that the change we needed (and got, thank Jeebus) makes a much more concerted effort than this past douchebag administration has to stop the genocide in Darfur. If we can wage a bullshit war over oil, we can definitely step in to help resolve a genocide. We can also take the courageous step that FDR didn’t when he failed to help the Jews upon learning of Hitler’s machinations. Believe it or not, we can restore respect around the world, the respect reflected by my survivor client in the final minutes of our discussion:

CLIENT: Are you religious?

ME: No, sir.

CLIENT: I wasn’t either. You know how they are waiting for the Messiah, the Jews?

ME: Yes, sir.

CLIENT: For me, the Messiah came On May 6, 1945. The Messiah was in those American soldiers. A few more weeks, and I would have been dead.

At the risk of turning this into something about me, I have to say that all of this does make me want to put things in perspective. All of the bullshit that I constantly bitch about seems so trivial next to the monumental difficulties and horrors these people have lived through. I can’t tell you how many times throughout our conversation my client asked me, “Can you imagine?” No sir, I really cannot.

Most evenings, I get annoyed if I don’t get a seat on the train. Today, as I stood there and looked around for a non-existent seat, the first thing that came to my mind was, “At least this train isn’t taking me to a death camp.” I’m still waiting for the chills to subside…


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