Thoughts Upon Waking in BerlinJune 25, 1999
The fear of terror, the strickenness of heart as the realization breaks upon it that the time here is finished, that all is to be left behind, forsaken, not again to be retrieved.
The memorabilia, photographs, albums, paintings and prints, coveted books (dog-eared and marked, a stub or slip of paper inserted to a place where one hoped to return for further reflection), prescriptions that will not again need to be refilled, extra glasses that will no longer be needed. The kitchen utensils and gadgets that crushed garlic, extracted juices, withdrew corks...familiar, dear, accessible - to be left behind. Dead sentinels. Letters, parchments, degrees, the saved programs of memorable concerts, lectures, synagogue events - rarely turned to - but whose known presence is warmly comforting. The suits, custom-tailored, hardly worn, saved for special occasions forsaken together with the jackets and coats, the scarves, and hats of everyday use. Fifty kilos, one suitcase. What to take - and leave behind. It tears one's guts out. What value to any stranger but so much disposable glut?
How long before the dread pounding at the door? The abrupt rude entry and harsh manners of the booted goyim, coarse illiterates, lumpen proletariat, armed with authority to sweep off the shelves the leather-bound collected works of Goethe, Graezel's History of the Jews (two volumes!), art portfolios, the great masterpieces, contemporary masters, the World Atlas, Schiller, history, philosophy, thought...The phonograph albums, Mozart, the great symphonies, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, memorable arias of classic opera, the great tenors, lyric lieder of the romantic light operas...that together with a good wine graced many a Saturday afternoon. An end to Sunday strolls? Alpine walks concluded with a zesty fondue, a good beer, coffee, torte. The glow of contentment for a secure and well-ordered life, the security of sound investments, of a faithful pension, the daily newspaper and the weekend supplements on books, theater and travel falling to the carpet around the comfortable stuffed chair as one falls off into a weekend afternoon doze.
Who will visit now the gravesites? Light the jahrzeit candles of remembrance? Care for the graves of the bubbas and zadehs who preceded us? The stillborn, the children who died suddenly and tragically? The place set aside for ourselves? A final monument to a life lived in hopeful significance and righteousness toward society and men? Who will leave a small stone on the gravesite to mark a visit in remembrance of the dead? What will be my own end now? Where will I be buried? Remembered? How can all this be happening? Take place so suddenly? Who could have thought? Ever imagined? Unthinkable in the best of all worlds, most beloved of all nations, most respected of all ancient peoples?
O the loud shouts. The banging doors! The heavy tread on the steps. It's here - the strident knock - no time to think. It's here.