Page 10 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 8 (1949-1950)

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credible speed. We peer ahead with trepidation and dismay, with
resolution and with hope, but not always with certainty. A
people, such as are the Jews, steeped and steeled in human vi-
cissitudes, have through centuries been saying:
“That which has been is that which shall be,
And that which has been done is that which shall be
And there is nothing new under the sun” (Kohelet 1.9)
Our historical sense is always with us, however, it becomes active
only in times of unaccustomed crisis.
That consciousness is fully awakened now, and, for that reason,
it seems, many of us who turn to the year’s output of historical
and related writings will find our historical imagination still
further stirred.
Whatever the fate of those who have oppressed and persecuted
the Jews, it is inevitable that their role should endure in the
annals of the Jewish people for a long time to come. Though,
like Amalek, their remembrance may utterly be blotted out
from under heaven, what they have done to the Jews in recent
years must not be forgotten. “Write this for a memorial in the
book” (Exodus 17.14) is an injunction which many an eye wit-
ness to Nazi atrocities, able to do so, has followed and has in-
dieted the perpetrators for all time. Fridtjof Nansen, it will
be recalled, was the great Norwegian Arctic explorer and scien-
tist who, in the twilight years between wars, devoted himself
to the refugees of the world - what this callous age calls “displaced
persons” or just “D.P.” s - and won the 1922 Nobel Peace Prize.
His son, Odd Nansen, wrote a diary
From day to day
(N. Y.,
Putnam, 1949) in which he gives terse expression to the meaning
for our day of this injunction, when he says: “The worst crime
you can commit today, against yourself and society, is to for-
get what happened and sink back into indifference. What happen-
ed was worse than you have any idea of. And it was the indif-
ference of mankind that let it take place.” An inmate of prison
camps, first at Grini, near Oslo, then at Sachsenhausen and
at Neuengamme and other horror spots in the grim days of
Germany’s collapse, Nansen came to know many Jews, espe-
cially those who had miraculously survived the hell of the Au-
schwitz extermination camp and what they told of their ex-
periences made Dante’s conception of hell seem quite gentle.
He remarks: “I t will be hard for posterity, indeed for any other