Alice Lok Cahana
None of us is capable to hear 6 million voices at the same time. None of us is capable to imagine the landscape of Auschwitz, Birkenau, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen and the many other concentration and death camps. None of us can describe the odor of Auschwitz or the pain of a parent whose child was torn away. No words are adequate for this task. Neither can the art express it.
And still, all of us who survived took a silent oath, made a promise to tell a glimpse of the story. Not to let the world forget.
My art and my writing are my KADDISH for those who did not survive.
Alice's family lived in Sarvar, Hungary, not far from the Austrian border. Her family was community-oriented and very committed to its welfare. Her grandfather was the president of the orthodox community.
The Germans entered the city on March 19, 1944. Shortly after that, the Jewish men were taken to labor camps; the women, children and the elderly were herded into a ghetto. Alice, 15 years old, and her sister Edith, 17, opened a kindergarten in the ghetto to teach the children songs and poems in order to ease their fear.
One day, Alice obtained permission from the Hungarian policeman who guarded the ghetto gate to take the children to the ritual bath, that was outside the ghetto, to clean them before Shabbat.
This daring and risky act gave her courage in Auschwitz to go beyond the strict perimeters of the camp when she looked for ways to be reunited with her sister Edith (who was sent to another lager). When they became reunited, they initiated Shabbat services in one of the latrines. Many children joined them for a moment of Shabbat experience. Alice and Edith struggled to stay together in spite of the many selections that took place in Auschwitz. One day, a group of children that included Alice was taken to the gas chamber. It was on October 7th, the same day that another gas chamber was sabotaged. The S.S. people panicked, and the group was taken back to the barracks. Together they were on the death march to Bergen-Belsen. They escaped from the March but three days later were caught and brought to Bergen-Belsen. Two days after the liberation Alice and Edith were separated from each other when Edith became very ill and was taken to a Red Cross Hospital. Edith was never found.
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All images © Alice Lok Cahana.