Sunday, February 3, 2013

Interval Eight - The Debate and More

The Debate Between Nazi General Heinrich Strassel and Edward Wachter has finished.  Strassel  has declared himself to be the winner, and as the winner, he will now take the “prize”—Lusia and Genia. In short, Strassel has acted  as judge, jury and executioner, and has gratuitously assumes that Wachter has lost. 
Is that fair?  Did Strassel really win the debate on the merits of his argument?  Or, did he assume he won on the basis of his declaration that might makes right.
The debate scene of the play provides an excellent Holocaust teaching tool. It can be presented as  a staged reading by two actors. The goal is (1) to  rekindle memories of the Holocaust in adults, and (2),   arouse a new awareness of the Holocaust in students of high school and college age. 
Following the debate, the listeners are asked to offer their opinions as to what they have heard.  Here are some examples— 

·         Who do you think really won the debate?  

·         On what basis did the debaters win or lose? 

·         Should mankind remain diverse in race and creed, as Wachter maintains?       
·         (Or) Should mankind strive to become “one race”—a sort of super-race of beings who, as Strassel said, “. . . can work together toward a common goal—a utopia.”

·         At the end of his argument, Wachter falls back on the teachings of religion.  Is that the only way one can refute the teachings of Nazi-ism?

·          Strassel argues—  “ . . . it is necessary to eliminate the different ones to achieve mankind’s utopia.” Is that a valid solution to the problems of mankind?
·         Why were the Jews selected as a target for extermination—the first target.
·         How else can mankind achieve the desired utopia, other than  killing the “different” ones, as Strassel  advocates.

These and many  more questions can be asked.

The debate and additional  questions  are presented as a Holocaust teaching tool in a soon-to-be-published booklet titled The Great Debate:  Can Mankind Achieve Utopia Without Resorting to Genocide?


A Review of Chopin’s Piano, by Charles Ades Fishman.


Charles Fishman engraves indelibly the ravages of the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and the Israeli wars – and in colors reminiscent of Chagal’s  stained-glass Jerusalem windows – portrays those he loves in images moving and haunting. –Lynn Strongin
It is amazing how great trauma can evoke art from an artist, in this case, a poet. Fishman merits the name of Poet of the Holocaust. In the last Episode of A Ball for Genia, a photo of a woman with two children was shown, waiting to undress and be driven into the gas chamber.  Women with children were meat for death—they with their motherly instincts were useless as slave laborers. Those words that describe that woman and her children are mere narration.    Here is how the poet sees the fate of that woman and her children, and of all the Jewish women and their children—
(Remember, more sensitive viewers, when Genia holds her ears, be careful what you read. What follows shows the utter horror of the Holocaust as only a poet can tell it. Note: The Funnel is the mouth of the gas chamber.]


In the Funnel, panic overcame the women
who lost control of their bodies    Screamed at
by the guards, half-blinded by pain and terror –
 “a whiplash of beatings” -- they forgot who they were

All they could see was bare flesh, slashes of blood,
driblets of shit and urine, and the flash of green life
in the twisted wire     life already dead

No mercy soothed this passage or stemmed the surge
of death, the churn and whipped up slush   the raging
squalor of it   Jewish women   these Jewish women

but the sick and old were siphoned off    and the children
--they, too, were turned from the tidal crush and shifted
to the “Infirmary” with its white cloth flag and bright red
cross where they could be cured of Jewishness
and burned like rubbish

If you seek the full  impact of the Holocaust, this is the book to read.
Check with your local book dealer to obtain a copy.  Or, go to
Here is a review--

Chopin's Piano is not a book for poets and poetry lovers only. This is a book that should be read in schools, in libraries, in museums, and in the sanctuary of our homes. It's a book that should be carried around in the halls of academia; it's a book that should be absorbed carefully and then discussed amongst scholars, teachers, musicians, artists, attorneys, architects, bakers, doctors, inventors; and, let us not forget, the survivors, because this is a book about all of these people from all walks of life who made up the Holocaust victims....This is truly the best book of poetry I have read in years; it is so telling and beautiful.
- Mia, editor of Poetry Journal

But we don’t, and will not forget.

As we mentioned last week, the 27th of January 2013 was International Holocaust Memorial Day.  The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust in the United Kingdom works hard to foster remembrance of the Holocaust, and all instances of genocide, not just one day a year but every day.  This year there were several particularly poignant events across the country.

Two survivors, one of the Holocaust, and one from the Rwandan Genocide, gave their accounts of the horror they suffered at a beautiful ceremony in Westminster, central London.

Here are their accounts:

Kitty Hart-Moxon OBE spoke about her experience as a teenage girl in the Lublin Ghetto, at the extermination camp at Auschwitz Birkenau, on a death march, as a slave labourer, and her eventual liberation.

Kitty said:

“The theme for HMD this year is Communities Together: Build a Bridge. I experienced the best and the worst of what this theme is about. I saw the Jewish community of Zabia Wola annihilated. I was sent to Auschwitz because I was betrayed by a fellow-worker. But we would not have survived if the Catholic priest had not supplied us with non Jewish documents. I probably would have starved to death without the German woman who risked her life providing a few morsels of food in the factory.”

Rwandan genocide survivor Sophie told her story of how she survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Sophie said:

“Holocaust Memorial Day is very important, as today people are thinking about the Holocaust and about genocides that have happened since then. I know that the theme this year is Communities Together: Build a Bridge. Yes, my family suffered because our neighbours attacked us – but my life was saved by different people who were around me guided by my God. We must try to build bridges with others and respect humanity despite of differences.”

Lord Sacks, in his last address to mark HMD as Chief Rabbi, paid an eloquent and poignant tribute to the survivors of the Holocaust.

Lord Sacks said:

“I want to pay tribute to the survivors. How they survived I will never know. With an iron will they looked to the future, and with indomitable faith in life itself they refused to let evil have the final word and final victory. They have become my heroes.”

This information and more is available on their website,
Thankfully there are many instances of Remembrance in the news.  These brave, brave people are still around to remind us of the atrocities of genocide.  Here is a woman who lives in Golders Green, London:

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum observed the day with a candle lighting ceremony and a special talk from a resistance fighter from Poland.  Please read about it here
We would like to point out that the 2013 Days of Remembrance are the 7th to the 14th of April 2013.

We remember, and we hope you do to.

Lastly, we would point out how you can go back and read earlier Episodes and Intervals.

Please go to the right of the page, and click on any year, or any date. You will find all of the published posts there.