Frag­ments of Mem­o­ry: From Kolin to Jerusalem

Hana Green­field
  • Review
By – April 2, 2012
This col­lec­tion of sto­ries writ­ten by Green­field over a peri­od of years, and col­lect­ed from var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions, is divid­ed into three sec­tions: A World Dis­in­te­grates,” Pieces of the Shat­tered Puz­zle,” and The Need To Remem­ber.” Green­field, who lives in Israel, was born in Kolin, Czechoslovkia, from where she was deport­ed first to Terezin, then to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, and final­ly to a slave labor camp in Ger­many from which she was lib­er­at­ed. As mem­o­ries struck her over the years, she wrote about them. The brief vignettes that pre­cede the Bia­ly­stock episode are so poignant — the part­ing from friends: Alice,” a friend known only because their nor­mal world had fall­en apart, and Vera in Say­ing Good­bye” whose let­ter reflects her intu­ition that they will nev­er meet again; and Pen Pals,” when Michael, a first love whose arrival in Terezin she waits for anx­ious­ly, only to find soon after his fam­i­ly arrives, he will die from a burst appen­dix; and her friend, the frag­ile Esti, for whom she finds extra food in Terezin, but who dies in Auschwitz. Greenfield’s descrip­tion of Auschwitz as The Gate to Hell” in unfor­get­table as is her sto­ry of her last day in Bergen-Belsen when, on the day her group is des­tined for the gas, she wants to be loved before say­ing good­bye and climbs up to a top shelf where five men are sleep­ing and makes love with the young doc­tor who was kind to her when she first arrived. The most heart­break­ing is the sto­ry of the 1,196 chil­dren from the Bia­ly­stock ghet­to who were being nursed back to health in the Terezin ghet­to, since they were going to be sent to Pales­tine in trade for Ger­man pris­on­ers. They are accom­pa­nied by the camp’s doc­tors and nurs­es, includ­ing the author’s own moth­er, for the trip — except that the mufti of Jerusalem told Hitler he didn’t want them grow­ing up to pop­u­late Pales­tine, and Himm­ler had them all gassed. Green­field has the tal­ent to catch the affect­ing, telling and heart-break­ing moments in each of her true sto­ries. This pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished but now revised, slen­der paper­back (most sto­ries are only 2 1/2 pages) is one of the most sig­nif­i­cant books on the Holo­caust I have read. Illus­trat­ed with draw­ings from Terezin and pho­tographs. For mature teens and adults.
Mar­cia W. Pos­ner, Ph.D., of the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty, is the library and pro­gram direc­tor. An author and play­wright her­self, she loves review­ing for JBW and read­ing all the oth­er reviews and arti­cles in this mar­velous periodical.

Discussion Questions