I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust : Mathias Freese
When someone is upset, really sorry about an event or something in they have caused, experienced or grieve they often lament. If you lament something than you are truly sorry about it and made a serious mistake. But, how does this apply to the profound, compelling and graphic short stories that Mathias B. Freese shares with readers as we take a journey back in time to the Holocaust. Take a shovel and dig a huge hole and throw hundreds of bodies in this open pit. Take another shovel and dig more ditches, hit some of those shoveling over the head, then throw the bodies into an open pit filled with flames. The Holocaust really did happen and the end result was death for so many. Millions found their way inside the vast crematoriums created just for the Jews. One man, a monster, lived out his dream to destroy a people that he came to hate because he felt that his race was superior. The suicide of this man and his girlfriend, pale in comparison to the fact that someone would have been glad to fire up one more oven for them both.
Each story focuses on different aspects of the Holocaust told in the voices of many. The first is Golem: I Need Your Help! A Golem is defined as “Hebrew for Unformed, a man artificially created by kabalistic rites: a robot. Throughout the first story we hear the voice of a Jewish Prisoner trying to escape and the banter between him and this imaginary figure. Words are Useless: The saying at the start of the story: So true. Next we hear the prisoner fighting for food and we meet the man of the future. Linking the thoughts and conversation to the favorite foods that many of use eat and enjoy, the conversation centers around whether the person should eat the food, whether it is safe and what happens when he asks if he should give it back. The conversation is typical of someone who wants food, another who seems to control what he gets and is this person really trying to make him feel human? What is the real purpose? The next story is an interview with Eva Braun, which is quite humorous and enlightening. Listen to the conversation; hear what she says about Hitler, his wants and needs and you decide if suicide was good enough for them both and just who the pawn is in this relationship. The next stories are difficult to read as Herr Doktor brought it too close to home. Imagine the fear in the eyes and hearts of the women who endure the unspeakable experiments and tortures inflicted on them by doctors claiming to follow orders. Herr Doktor tries to explain what he did, why and rationalizes what he did and does not seem to care or even feel any remorse for those that died at his own hand or were permanently scarred mentally and physically. Patients had no anesthesia. Doctors operating without sufficient drugs on people that were human guinea pigs or worse. Herr Doktor denies any responsibility, blame or even acknowledges the charges. A man who took the Hippocratic Oath to heal but in this case commit death or murder. Not passing the procedure to another doctor, not seeing the error of his ways, Herr Doktor: The operating table in the next room has some sharp knives all ready for you; Won’t you lie down please! My grandmother was a victim of these operations and experiments and so were her sisters.
The Indifferent Golem is followed by stories that are quite graphic, quite heartbreaking as the author allows readers to enter the camps, hear the voices of the prisoners, the cruelties inflicted by the guards, the stench, the death, decay and the inhuman treatment so many endured. Meet Max Weber the Revisionist and next the story titled: Of No Use. Imagine feeling like nothing, not a person anymore and being treated like less than dirt. Imagine trying to hide from the wrath of the guards, dealing with their punishments, their torments and being forced to stand firm on the ground. Imagine watching your friend killed with a spade knocked against his skull and you might be next. See the barbed wire fence. The many who would be cremated and trenches that were dug because one sick man had a dream! As the back of a shovel as smashed against our narrator’s head colors exploded within his mind and the earth in the “trench overlapped itself.” The prisoner fell forward and felt like he was outside of his body floating into an unknown place that would swallow him whole. Read his description and hear his voice on pages 79-80. Snow Globe I is where you learn more about the camps, the deaths of so many and how they endured the cold. Gunther, the guard speaks, you listen, you do not question and you are like dead drones following orders while they are warm, you are freezing and your mind begins to wonder as these events invade your every dream or waking hour. Even living in the present or finally out of the camp the horrors and memories never fade.
Slaves were treated better than these prisoners and the barracks “ laid out grids, barbed wire in rectangular enclosures.” There freedoms gone, their voices not heard and the morning roll call for the pleasure of those in charge of the fate. How they even survived digging trenches knowing that it might be for them or the last thing they ever saw is quite remarkable. Do they please the taskmaster, endure his brutality or will they finally find a way to fight back but how? Is working harder and doing their deeds the only way to survive? Is if worth it?
The story Soap is bone chilling and the research and evidence given will make you cringe. Are Hitler’s shorts are fact! Jews as bars of soap not!
Meet Cantor Matyas Balogh and Rebecca who meet by chance in a chocolate shop. Hear their discussions, smile at their encounters and Cantor Balogh loved chocolates and meeting with Rebecca they shared their interests. She a lawyer and he a Cantor. The cantor who read Mein Kampf even underlining his favorite passages that dealt with anti-Semitism. He had no living relatives yet had friends everywhere. Join them on their short journey and taste the delicious chocolates and find out what happens when reality sets in as Rebecca shares her life about her parents, his family and camps. Their business confiscated, their lives gone and not knowing if all of them were dead or alive. The horrors come full circle and the ending will bring tears to your eyes. Hummingbird is quite compelling and the ending will bring it into focus: prisoners kept alive with the smallest or barest thread of existence. The author brings the story to life and the harsh realities of what was done to so many are quite hard to deny although some still do. How can they go willingly to their extermination? The cold hearts, the evil demeanor and the joy that that they inflicted pain and terror on so many comes through loud and clear each time you hear the voices of the guards, the interviews with Herr Doktor, the Golem and even just hearing each narrator’s account in the story they are telling you feel more than just their final moments. “ Life in the camps only became clearer after I lived it. Although I am distant from it, it still lies in me as a quivering, gaseous haze, a mirage. But was it ?
The next story once again focuses on the camp and what was done to many by Mueller. Taught not to answer! Silence is hard and the guards wallowed in their pain. As you read pages 147-148 and hear the prisoner’s account of the guards, their behaviors and how they come across it is amazing that they even tried to survive. February 1944 and standing in the frigid cold and wondering where the only God you know is and why he is not helping you out of the living nightmare. Snowstorms, blizzards, hungry and terrified are just some of what is described in the story titled Longing: longing to be free, eat and survive! Away is the story of what happens when one young boys mother is taken away. This story is followed by Hand and the memories of a young child. Sincerely, Max Weber is a letter to the author explaining why he disagrees with his description of how the Jewish people were treated, the inconsistencies he found and the fact that he disagrees with the numbers of those murdered, or sent to the ovens, the fact that he states no every camp had a crematoria and the depiction of the events. Read Sincerely, Max Weber and maybe you, the reader will answer him. Food, Part II: Past Forward is followed by “A Way Up,” which focuses on a man named Pincus who is told he cannot make a purchase in a store owned by a man named Herr Earhardt and the reasons why you just will believe. How can you exist but not in the minds of others? How can he stand there and be insulted and wait for a response. Read this story: A WAY UP and find out who can deal with evil and who cannot!
The Tea Table and the Disenchanted Golem round out the collection as author Mathias Freese reminds us that these events did happen, the stories might be fiction but the events are not. A golem is created by the Jew he states. They have feelings but not human ones. They are called upon to help Jews and safe them. Their jobs are different but are made from the same construction. Golems are “More than the last recourse.” Golems are death emissaries. When you invoke one not only do they kill for the person that invokes them but something in you, the person is killed too.
Read the story and learn why the Golem comes. Do Golems feel your pain or do you feel their pain? Listen to the Rabbi, Alexandra as the author helps readers understand why they come, what they do and what the end result will be. Golems fear nothing and hate Jews? Why call them up? Listen to his description of his feelings for Jews and understand the meaning of the word: Neshamah: NO SOUL! Stories that need to be told and voices within that should not be silenced. I Truly Lament: Sorry for the events, sorry for the mistakes • “The definition of lament is an expression of loss, sometimes through artistic expression.”( free dictionary.com) But, who is truly lamenting and who is really sorry!
Fran Lewis: Reviewer