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Twenty-nine years have passed since the destruction in Europe, the most bloody period of all time, in which a third of the Jewish people was murdered, six million souls. Six million worlds were destroyed during World War II when Hitler, may his name be blotted out, set out to destroy, God forbid, all the Jews to the last remnant of the people Israel. Just as happened with all the enemies of the Jews, he also had a despicable ending. However, before he died he managed to destroy the most beautiful Jewish community in Europe, to blot out forever thousands of old Jewish settlements which, at one time, played an important role in Jewish life, and to wipe out six million Jewish lives, amongst them over a million Jewish children.

We, the ones who escaped the gas chambers and crematoriums, the ones who were not murdered or incinerated, the remaining few from that huge community, when we were freed and met the Jews in free countries, experienced a certain disappointment and bitterness. There, in the concentration camps, we convinced ourselves that Jews in free lands, our sisters and brothers, had no peace the whole time, but rather stormed the entire world, organized street demonstrations and protest meetings; that they sent their children to fight the Nazis as volunteers; that they didn't celebrate any bar-mitzvahs or festivities. In our fantasy we saw all these manifestations and that gave us courage and strength to endure all the agonies. But, when we were freed, and saw the reality, we saw how naive we were--that there was only some political attempt, with intervention in Houses of Parliament where it was promised that something would be done, but nothing was actually done. Jews carried on with their festivities, celebrated anniversaries and even arranged dances. Quietly, some would, from time to time, utter a sigh. More sentimental men and women would let a tear drop and with that the matter ended. Other than in Israel, where they organized rescue operations and formed the Jewish Brigade, hardly anything was done in the diaspora to save the unfortunate ones in the concentration camps.


I did no writing in the concentration camps because I did not have the means to do so, but I did keep a diary in the ghetto, which I carried with me all the way to Auschwitz. There they took away from us all our baggage and all our documents and threw them on a large heap. We never got our things back. But, in my mind scenes were etched, pictures, episodes, events, meetings and experiences which left a deep mark in my heart and soul.

When I became a free man I felt compelled to write a book to immortalize all the tragic history; to recall names, so that their memory would be kept alive. I started to make notes, to write my memoirs and to gather material. But afterwards, seeing how people, Jews, relate to the material of the destruction, that many of them regret that their peace of mind is being disturbed, and that the enjoyment of their meals is being disturbed by the tragic accountings, I lost my desire to write and disclose my memoirs. I felt that it was an offence to my feelings, a profanation of the memory of the martyrs, such a cold and indifferent regard of their suffering and their martyred deaths.

On the other hand, though, I questioned why I wasn't writing and publishing my memoirs. This is historical material which I must not keep to myself. This is a monument for my friends who perished, whose memory I must immortalize, and last of all -- that my children and grandchildren must know what their father and grandfather endured, what the tattooed number on my left arm signifies. When my children were young and asked me what the number signifies, I told them that it was a telephone number which I needed to remember and I never did forget it...but now, when they are already grown, they must be told the truth. Perhaps they will learn something from this.

I also decided to fulfil the wishes of my many friends and dear ones who gave me no rest, but constantly urged me to write and publish my memoirs. And now, they will see the light of day. Though it is late, and the memories are old, it is never too late to tell the truth. Because all the horrors have paled a bit and people have started to forget what happened in our time, I will revive the memories and recall all the tragic events and disturb, somewhat, their peace, with my "nightmares".

K. Charmatz

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