Feb 19, 2014

"Speaking of the Holocaust," someone said when the movie, a German comedy, had concluded, "apropos of nothing, what do we think of these new Himmler letters?"  
Our hostess nearly fell out of her chair in a paroxysm of laughter. " 'Speaking of the Holocaust', she mimicked, and added, " 'Am off to Auschwitz. Kisses, Your Heini.' "
"Did he actually write that" the somone continued, referring to the newly released Himmler letters.
"Absolutely," replied our hostess. "Love you mommy. Your Heini.'"
"Your heinous," she added and now, in an instant, her temper switched.  She is not a little bi-polar.
"Yes, I read that too," said someone else getting up from the sofa to stretch. "Didn't he actually call his wife, 'Mommy'? How bizarre." 
"The unbearable lightness of being," our hostess replied, referring to Kundera's novel.  No one in the room seemed to understand the connection, and Margrit was in no position to explain. This late at night she's gone to the moon, even without substances.
Her husband pushed a button and the movie screen rolled up into the ceiling. 
In the silence, people in the room drew on their cigarettes and brandy. Our hostess scratched her right forearm where years ago she'd had a six-digit number tattooed.  You can barely see it now. At one point she decided she didn't want to live with the number after all and tried to remove it. The number had been on the arm of her mother, who was among the last Jews sent to Sachsenhausen from Warsaw in September, 1944 — when there should not have been any more deportations, and the Russian army was idling just on the other bank of the Vistula, and the allies were dropping money and supplies, nearly all of it landing in German hands.
Margrit is herself an expert on the Holocaust (And one of the peninsula's most distinguished psychoanalysts). She's read every book, seen every film, and visited many of the historical sites in both Belarus and Poland.  She can tell you all about Anna Klein, the chief supervisor at Ravensbruck, and Arthur Greisser, as well as those particular horrors, Reinefarth, Kaminski, and the incomparably evil, Dr. Oscar Dirlewanger, who you may remember started out as a convicted pedophile.
A friend of hers told me once that Margrit has erlentless nightmares where she is at the train station at one of the camps and the Gestapo captain is signaling, 'this way'; 'that way.' Over and over, 'this way'; 'that way'. And all the while the line is getting shorter and she's summoning up all her wiles, recasting herself as Scheherazade, and it works.  But always only for a moment and then she's back in the line, dreaming up ever newer, more provocative stories....