But there are topics that require an unresolved anger; that require more out of people and their attention spans and their minds and their hearts. And sometimes I just despair at the lack of all three. I’ve been trying for a few good months to pitch story ideas about the Holocaust to various media editors. Unsurprisingly, this is not considered a popular topic. It is difficult, and loaded, and doesn’t come with that magic traffic-and-hits formula of being ‘timely’. No, it isn’t timely. At most, we hear about it on memorial and remembrance days, and everyone says ‘how terrible’ and we move on. This is not unique to the Holocaust, we have a short memory and only tend to hear about tragedies, wars, massacres and injustices when they are ‘timely’. As if things are just neatly resolved and we can move on to the next ‘timely’ topic. I don’t blame editors, I really don’t: they have their restrictions on content and limited slots for articles and have to choose carefully what they allow to be published. But I’m not hampered by such constraints here.
What do I want out of people when they read this post? To care. I want them to care. To care. To care. It’s not that hard. I’m not stupid, I know that as soon as you say or write the word ‘Holocaust’, you might as well expect a certain level of silence in response. Because it is too difficult to talk about, and most decent people don’t know what to say. I’m also not stupid enough to believe that this post will be read with any degree of popularity or by many. Despite all this, I just want people to care. Sometimes it feels like the anger is flowing out of my veins and I have no idea what to do about it. And it’s not even my anger, I shouldn’t have any ownership over it. I feel guilty about it.
Here’s the thing I want anyone who reads this to know: we haven’t even reached the bottom of the Holocaust. In Primo Levi’s words:
I must repeat – we, the survivors, are not the true witnesses. This is an uncomfortable notion, of which I have become conscious little by little, reading the memoirs of others and reading mine at a distance of years. We survivors are not only an exiguous but also an anomalous minority: we are those who by their prevarications or abilities or good luck did not touch bottom.
-Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved
So what do we do with those who did touch bottom? Do we relegate them to lost history and stop reaching for ways to talk about them because it’s not timely? Do we only give them one day a year in which to remember them from the safe enclosure of national memorials? Am I being unfair and judgemental again when I ask these questions? After all, there are so many injustices that don’t even get one day. I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that the Holocaust is both about the Holocaust and is about so much more. It is beyond ‘timely’, just as so many injustices are beyond ‘timely’. So let me reiterate: I just want people to care.