Page 37 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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SICHER / BURDEN OF REMEMBRANCE
29
term for reparation which literally means “making good again,”
opened old wounds among Jews and Germans when victims
of Nazi persecution were not only forced to relive their expe­
rience, often hitherto repressed, but also to prove the veracity
of their stories. Some refused to submit claims, arguing that
the money was tainted with Jewish blood or that payment only
aggravated an injustice immeasurable in currency. Others were
needy and suffered further degradation when their claims were
questioned by the bureaucratic machinery of
Wiedergutmachung.
Wiedergutmachung
was thus far from a “making good again.”
Israeli psychiatrist Henry Szor has nevertheless made a debat­
able use of the term to refer to therapy of the second generation
as an exorcism of the evil presence of the Holocaust.5 The writ­
ers to be discussed in this essay who deal with the problems
of the second generation would strongly deny the possibility
of any “making good.”
Wiedergutmachung
is the ironic title of
the last chapter of K-Tsetnik’s
Star Eternal
(1971). The author
considers the shoes taken from his father, his mother’s hair re­
cycled for clothing and his sister’s body used for prostitution
and he decides that to take “compensation” would make him
a pimp. We recall also the aimless wanderings of Aharon
Appelfeld’s camp survivors; nothing can be the same as it was
before. As if
Everything will be returned to its place,
paragraph after paragraph.
The scream back into the throat.
The gold teeth back into the gums.
(Dan Pagis, “Draft o f a Reparations Agreement”)
As if the dead could conveniently be brought back to life, the
finality of the Holocaust reversed.
The controversial issue of financial reparations by the West
German government is, moreover, an issue which touches on
personal and artistic morality. In Lionel Davidson’s thriller
Mak­
ing Good Again
(1968) an English lawyer called Raison discovers
all the ambiguities of the phrase in his own life and in his mission
in Germany on behalf of a client in a reparations case. Davidson
ends his story with the possibility of a personal “making good
5. “The Second Generation — Between Reality and Metaphor,” paper de­
livered at the First International Jerusalem Conference o f Children o f Hol­
ocaust Survivors, December 1988.