Immutable rules govern our world such as the law that no matter the time or space in which it occurs, evil committed by humans against other human beings leaves its mark, and that regardless of the amount of time it takes, the truth will always surface. These ideas, as well as others, are explored in depth in Richard D. Bank’s I Am Terezin.
With meticulous historical research and great care, Bank has painted a vivid picture of the people and personalities associated with the events that took place at Theresienstadt during the Nazi Holocaust. I Am Terezin is a revolutionary memoir – unlike others, it is written from the point of view, not of a person but, of a physical entity, the camp itself – an omniscient narrator. The voice of the camp comes alive to relay the ominous reality of itself, and it tells the reader what Theresienstadt really was, a concentration camp and not the paradise ghetto for elderly Jews the Nazis claimed it was.
The changing tone and perspective of the omniscient voice is compelling. The voice of the camp takes on many roles – a caretaker in one moment, a silent observer in another. It can be argued that the voice of the camp is none other than that of a lamenting God, unable to intercede in the world of human atrocities and forced to watch insidious actions play out. No matter the tone or perspective, the abuse, injustice, and crime which occurred at Theresienstadt is resurrected for the reader, and the reader comes to learn intimately about the lives of innocents who were forced to be bound within the walls of Terezin. Each word and sentence of I Am Terezin is written with great care, paying homage to the many who lost their lives at Theresienstadt. In taking part in the arduous undertaking of researching and telling the story of those at Terezin, Bank has completed the ultimate labor of love in tribute to his grandparents, Ludwig and Sophie Frank, who were imprisoned at but subsequently survived Theresienstadt.
Bank is masterful in his knowledge of the history of Theresienstadt, and I Am Terezin is a must read for scholars of the Holocaust, as well as those interested in bettering the human condition. Reading this book will help the vigilant to reaffirm the oath of never again. Never again should sadism be allowed to hide behind laws and systems meant to dehumanize. Never again should humanity allow the atrocities of genocide to occur. Never again should any people be persecuted for the faith they follow or for the way in which they worship the Divine.
I Am Terezin is published by Auctus Publishers (www.auctuspublishers.com) and available at Amazon and Barnes and Nobles.
To find the auras of angels move your
misdirected field of vision from the sky
towards the opposite direction
to see cheerful children in personas of perfection,
not contemplating but knowing goodness,
with eyes full of wonder and love,
squeaking with joy, smiling with ready teeth for all,
without exception, pretense, or prejudice.
They lack mythical angel wings,
the true saviors of the world,
radiating lovely light
through exaggerated gestures.
But agony takes root and grows
in this silently screaming earth
as adversaries arise hurting children
with guns, deception, bombs.
Children’s deaths mean Armageddon,
humanity pushed to primal screams
which echo, echo over the entirety of the globe.
These sounds will deafen all inhabitants
of this impotent place, incapable of protecting
the most precious bearers of the future.
This is when the resonating light
of salvation truly dims.
As the water dries from disillusioned eyes,
something else emerges,
the other self I’d submerged.
She takes her chance to seep all the way in,
flourishing, allowing me release.
What good did being good get me but grief,
that woman has long enough grieved.
Where being good drowned me,
she helps me breath,
standing to give me peace,
protecting me from hereon in,
a sheltering self,
tough enough to face the world’s ignominy.
Maybe, one day, I’ll allow you reprieve,
but not now dear, I’ll hold you close,
watching you as you rest after trying your best.
How I love to see you sleep
while I grow strong, the bad seed.
You can trust the misfits more
than people who are cool,
the ones who always fit in,
able to change skins
like chameleons on catwalks.
Saturday’s ritual is discourse at diners,
when we talk while walking
to our regular hangout, The Green Kitchen.
As we wipe our feet on the mat on the floor,
we exit a pressure cooker, of sorts,
as worries are left at the door.
The mornings here mean so much more
than French Toast, eggs, home fries.
Forgetting brimming calendars,
we find a space of solace
where it’s just you and me,
fresh silverware, an easy cup of coffee.
Now protected within parameters
of peace, the havoc halts.
Relaxed, we breathe, and talk, and laugh.
She said, stop looking back,
the past ain’t got much,
just the ugliness of betrayal.”
I said, “I know, there’s much we don’t
see coming, so much despair,
but this winding trail has led me back there,
to that invisible tether running forward and back,
connecting me to everyone,to everything
that has been and will be,
while some force keeps moving me,
just like I was once propelled towards life
with all its challenges, its strife,
pushed from some unknown place,
just like I am now propelled
towards eventual death,
but the whole point always was and is
that everything, everyone, the you and me,
in that is the truth,
when we get to the end, we will forget
what was unimportant, the aggression,
the greed, and yes, the betrayal.
trust me, then…
we will only see the helpers,
the ones who really cared,
angels sent to be in our midst,
they are all that ever mattered
the only ones that were ever real.
Whenever you are dismayed,
your heart steering you towards
hating people who betrayed,
try to grasp at any shred,
any thread that you can use
to find your way back
to the fount of forgiveness
to the freedom that is love.