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Thursday, March 23, 2006

 

Holocaust Revisited

André Schwarz-Bart's "The Last Of The Just"

Last year I wrote about the Holocaust when the world remembered Auschwitz and the unprecedented acts of barbarism committed against the Jews in Europe during Hitler's Third Reich. This year I failed to mention it. There are people who deny that the Holocaust occurred. I am not one of them.

I recently did what many other booklovers do. In the absence of something new to read we go back to old favorites. I pulled out a book from my meager collection and re-read it. A work of fiction, but fiction with Holocaust in the background contains historical facts.

Le Dernier des Justes by André Schwarz-Bart appeared in print in French in 1959. It was translated by Stephen Becker and published in 1960 as "Last Of The Just" by Atheneum House. "André Schwarz-Bart, a French Jew of Polish descent, was born in Metz in 1924. Fifteen years later the Germans arrested his parents and shipped them to one of the extermination camps. Mr. Schwarz-Bart joined the Resistance, was arrested, escaped and rejoined the Maquis. Last of the Just, his first book, won the Prix de Goncourt, France's most important literary award."



"Yes, at times one's heart could break in sorrow. But often too,preferably in the evening,I can't help thinking that Ernie Levy,dead six million times,is still alive somewhere. I don't know where.....Yesterday,as I stood in the street trembling in despair, rooted to the spot,a drop of pity fell from above upon my face. But there was no breeze in the air,no cloud in the sky.....There was only a presence."

Great writing. The copy I have is a somewhat battered Bantam paperback, published October 1961.
*****


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