Thursday, October 09, 2008

Yom Kippur 1945

What did it mean for survivors of the concentration camps to fast during the first Yom Kippur after the war - September '45? Some reporter for the Jerusalem Post in 2006 went around to survivors to interview them about that first post-genocide fast. "Edith Cohen recalls her hunger pangs in a sealed cattle car on the way to Auschwitz from her home in Hungary. When her food ran out she chewed on one piece of chicken skin for four days just to keep something in her mouth." So fasting a few months after liberation was easy. The article that resulted from this investigation is no great shakes (and indeed full of stupid puns - one survivor faster found fasting "easy as pie") but I find it fascinating nonetheless. If going without food was still the norm, what did fasting seem to mean to them? Did they momentarily thrive on the company of sufferers? Otherwise--as nearly every account and testimony suggests--these people felt extraordinarily alone.