Page 50 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 36

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
4 2
not the victim within the concentration camp universe. T he
survivor who demonstrates a quest for life, normalcy and
nationhood lives in the post-Holocaust era. Perhaps the Is-
raeli playwright is guided by an ancient, optimistic Jewish
literary tradition. The book of
Lamentations
ends on a hope-
ful note, a promise at the end of catastrophe and calamity.
For Jewish Holocaust drama such a stance is a severe limita-
tion. I t is w ithin these old-new Jewish literary traditions and
Israeli reality tha t the Israeli playwright tries to come to terms
with the Holocaust.
AMICHATS PLAY
Yehuda Amichai’s
Bells and Trains,8
is a powerful short
radio play. I t is about the visit of Hans Wolf, now Yohanan,
to an old-age home in his native town Singburg. T h e old-
age home was bu ilt by the German government “out of a
guilty feeling.” I t is a paradise of ghosts in the midst of a Ger-
man town where many of its thriving businessmen were former
S.S. and Gestapo men. In the background the church bells toll
and the trains run on their punctual schedule. T he old live
by those painful sounds and their ghastly memories. Aunt
Henrietta points out to her visitors the inhabitants of the old-
age home.
In the rocking chair is Doctor Rieger, the dentist . . .
Nine of his family died there . . . Mrs. Gruenfeld’s three
brothers were also burned . . . T h a t ’s Herr Levin. Both
his sons were shot the same day.9
Each old person with his own dead. Hans feels tha t he is like
Orpheus who descends to hell to fetch his dead. He wants
to bring his aunt to Jerusalem, bu t she belongs in Singburg
among the living dead. The old-age home assumes the symbolic
dimensions of the death of Jewish civilization in Europe, while
the visitor from Jerusalem represents the continuity of Jewish
life.
Gavriel Dagan’s play
The Reun ion
10 also takes place in
8 Yehuda Amichai, “Bells and Trains,”
M idstream ,
October 1966, pp. 55-66.
9
Ib id .,
pp. 56-57.
10 Gabriel Dagan, “The Reunion,”
M idstream ,
April 1, 1973, pp. 3-32.