Monday, October 02, 2006

Valuable reminders

It is not often that I get to meet someone who starts a sentence by saying: "when I met doctor Joseph Mengele..."

Mr. Arnost Lustig met Mengele when he was put into a long queue with others, who were taken out of the train onto the platform, at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Lustig was 17 then, and Mengele showed by a quick movement of his thumb, that he can proceed to the shorter queue on the right. Nine out of ten people were told to move to the left. These people went directly to the gas chambers.

On the next day, one of the people directed to the line on the left was father of Mr. Lustig. The basic reason for dostor's immediate decision and Lustig senior's death sentence was that he had glasses.

Very sympathetic, intelligent and charismatic Lustig visited Finland (Helsinki, and Turku bookfair) last week, as his wonderful book came out. It is a story about a young woman, Katarzyna Horowitzova, who is getting closer and closer to "the ultimate solution".

But really, it is a story about losing everything – but gaining dignity.

For a prisoner, to have dignity in Auschwitz, sounds impossible.

Sorry to be this vague about the plot, but I do not want to go into detail now, as it is something one is able to and should read herself.

I think one the most important things Mr. Lustig said, was that "Auschwitz is not over, it is happening again".

Think about that. It might not be happening is such a systematic and horribly effective scale as was the case in the Nazist Germany, but the refugee camps and torture chambers in the war zones of today certainly do have resemblance with the concentration camps of the last century. (A very good site:

Some stories have happy ends. Mr. Lustig has children (his nice son was with him in Finland) and grandchildren. Even though he said Auschwitz will be part of him forever, on his skin and in his mind, he doesn't seem to be bitter or depressed. Good.

Thank you for writing the excellent book.


The picture above is Frankfurt in 1945. That's where we are leaving for, on Wednesday. Last summer I went to the excellent Jewish museum, and now I want to visit that again, as I want to show that to Mr. HP, too.

We will meet a good bunch of friends in Frankfurt, at the biggest bookfair in the world. I am so much looking forward to that! But after the fair, I have to take a deep breath and carefully start planning my schedule for the rest of the year, and next year.

My full-time job will change dramatically, soon...

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