Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Er, happy Holocaust Remembrance Day?...

It seems wrong to wish someone well for a day that reflects on the epic tragedy when millions of lives were extinguished. But it's an important day. People need to remember what occurred so it doesn't happen again.

My friend Michelle sent me a link to an article from the English version of Der Spiegel, a German news magazine. Esther Bejarano survived Auschwitz, where she was forced to play in a girls' orchestra as people destined for the gas chamber arrived on the trains. Bejarano escaped on a death march, filled the rest of her life with music and spent the majority of her adult life speaking about the Holocaust. In the past, she collaborated with her two children on albums of Jewish and anti-fascist songs, but her latest creation is distinctly street. Bejarano teamed up with the Cologne-based Microphone Mafia (the children of Italian and Turkish families who emigrated to post-war Germany) to produce a hip hop album to combat the work of those who prefer to pretend the mass murder never occurred.

Bejarano's survival of the Holocaust is mirrored to a degree by that of Ena Zinzi, a 69 year-old woman pulled from the rubble of the earthquake in Haiti seven days after it struck. The woman survived untenable conditions, and her first words to her South African rescuer Ahmed Bham upon reaching sunlight were "Je t'aime". According to those around Bham Zinzi, she then began singing a song of praise. The South African Gift of Givers group had partnered with a Mexican rescue group after a dog scented Zinzi among the debris. Bham had helped with the rescue efforts in Pakistan two years ago when an earthquake there resulted in thousands dead, according to the newspaper The Hindu. He went on to describe Haiti as "much, much worse," and thus seemed all the more grateful to find Zinzi alive.

(Photo courtesy of Der Spiegel)

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