Yishai Sarid is practicing in his new novel, criticism of the Israeli and the German culture of remembrance. In a DW Interview he talks about Auschwitz and the pornography of Evil.
DW: your book is called in the German Translation of “Monster”. Literally from the Hebrew Original, translated, would be the title of even “memory monster”. The extent to which the memory of the Holocaust is a Monster?
Yishai Sarid: The story of the Holocaust is not something that simply disappears. Until today, she has a great influence on Jewish life and on Israel, both as a personal family trauma, as well as at the institutional level. Emotions such as hatred and hostilities, which may arise, will go in all possible directions, as in the case of a Monster that you can’t control.
The Protagonist of your book historian, the memorial is working in Israel’s national Holocaust. In the name of Yad Vashem, he accompanied Israeli groups to Poland and takes you through the Nazi extermination camps, like Auschwitz, Majdanek and Treblinka. Is he the cold-blooded planning of the Nazis, the murder of six million Jews, in his thoughts literally eaten. Time he introduces himself, he was one of the perpetrators, then again he sees him, the eyes of a victim visions. What these places do with him?
The Holocaust is his personal Monster. Every day he lives in this destruction process again and again. He is obsessive, addicted to this dark fascination. It is almost like pornography. Evil has an appeal.
The “Hall of Names” at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem
It is no wonder that the biographies of Nazis are everywhere published to the world: We are fascinated by their deeds. My Protagonist searches for the meaning in all of this and begins to wonder to whom do we remember? We remember the German perpetrators, because they remained alive, and they carried out the acts, they were the active part. That’s not fair. The protagonists should be the victims, not the perpetrators.
So he searches for Survivors, so how in reality, many journalists and historians. Nowadays, many people want to speak with the last witness. To seem we these old and traumatized people too much?
It is important for the Survivors to listen and to document their testimonies, because soon you will no longer be among us. But for many of them is very difficult. In my book, the Protagonist finally finds a Survivor and convinced him to accompany the group, by bringing him first to his native town in Poland and then to Auschwitz, where he was trapped. But this is too much for this old man. He is collapsing.
Every year on Yom HaShoah , the Israeli Holocaust remembrance day is sounded across Israel, a siren and makes people stop for a Minute and remember the victims. What cultural memory means in Israel?
That’s why it goes in my book: The lesson that we draw from the Holocaust and how institutionally with the memory is handled, is very problematic. In the first place, the doctrine is concluded that the Jewish people must be strong and defend yourself, which is after all what happened – quite a good lesson for the Jewish people. I don’t want to underestimate.
Yad Vashem: a memorial event for the annual “Holocaust remembrance day” in Israel
But we Vashem, watch at Yad Vashem. The Holocaust is primarily a Jewish tragedy, but it is also a tragedy for the entire humanity. They do not teach the young people but the universal lesson of the Holocaust: What would you do if you find yourself in such a Situation again would you like to? How can we ensure that something like this never happens again and nowhere to be?
What should be remembered instead?
First and foremost, it is important to know the facts. This is the Basis for everything. If one begins to twist the facts, it is dangerous. Therefore, I wanted to invent any story about the Holocaust. “Monster” is a slim book, but many historical facts are included and all are correct. The story I’ve invented, is playing in Today. I think it’s important that artists deal with the Holocaust. The facts must be correct, but the Lessons you draw from it, may not lie solely in the hands of a few institutions.
Visitors in the permanent exhibition at the concentration camp memorial of Auschwitz-Birkenau
Every Israeli High School sends their students for a trip to Poland to visit the Nazi extermination camps. The Hero of your ROMs leading such groups. He looks as you wrap yourself in the Israeli flag, the Israeli national anthem, sing and cry. What do you think about this travel?
I have a Problem with that, because you are twisting the story. Instead of starting such Trips in Germany, go to Poland. This is a mistake.
If you ask Israeli students, who is responsible for the Holocaust, then you know that the Germans were. But if you have a little bit of demand, particularly during these trips to Poland, then one quickly comes to the point where you make the poles responsible for that. This is historically wrong of course. There was also bad in Poland that the Germans collaborated, and terrible things done, but you have not triggered this thing, of course, and planned.
The whole of Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany. Also, many non-Jewish poles were in the extermination camp of Auschwitz, imprisoned, tortured, and murdered.
Properly, therefore, the poles see themselves as victims. Because of the long history of the Jewish people in Poland, however, is full of pogroms and persecution, see the Jews, the poles as collaborators of the Nazis.
Of course, there was also in Germany a concentration camp, but the huge Nazi extermination camp, where most of the Jews were murdered, were in Poland. This made the Germans deliberately to soil your beautiful Germany. The dirty work should not take place on German soil. And historically, they were so successful.
April 1945: Liberated prisoners from the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen
Today, Israelis view Germany as a holiday destination. Friends of mine go this summer in the black forest. You have asked me if I wanted to come with my family. I told you, I’m not going to go on a family holiday in the black forest, even if it is in there nice and the people are nice. But you should not overdo it.
Many Israelis today live in Berlin. There are also a number of German-Israeli love and couples…
First is that the Germans of today responsible. I don’t want the Israelis of German hate. That is not my Intention. But we should remember who was on what side.
Sometimes, discussions between the Israelis and the Germans run so that it looks as if the Holocaust was a common experience. You were there and we were there and everything was so awful and the Germans emphasize how sorry you are, and we accept the apology. This is a little too comfortable. What I say in the book, the dividing line between murderers and Victims should be respected. It is not a common experience. You killed and we were killed. We should keep clarity.
Visitors in the permanent exhibition at the concentration camp memorial of Auschwitz-Birkenau
The Hero of her book, listening in the extermination camp of Israeli students whisper: “Arabs, this should be done with the Arabs”.
This is just a part of the monster: feelings of Hatred, this desire for revenge not just disappear. They are directed only against others: against Poland and the Arabs. The Germans no longer hate today. I think that is a problem.
The tour guide in your book works for the Israeli army, which wants to bring an elite unit to Poland, to conquer there, symbolic of one of the extermination camps. Don’t push the Satire here is a little bit far?
For the state of Israel, it is not very important, to never again be weak, to be dependent on others. I think, this is until today the most important motive to go to the army. In 2003, the Israeli air force, graduated with F15 fighter aircraft for a flight over Auschwitz, so to speak, as an image of victory. This photo is very famous, and hangs in the offices of many generals.
Controversial novel: “Monster” by Yishai Sarid
Also I was moved at that time, with his statement: Look where we came from and where we are now. On the other hand, the image is a historical falsification. To try to pull a victory out of this tragedy, wrong. In the Auschwitz memorial and Museum should be silent and mourn, was impressed about what the Jewish people and of humanity. There is no victory. I do this in my book on the top, to say: This should not be the teaching of the Holocaust. Is respectful to each other and provides for security structures to prevent such things from happening ever again. The first Time you hold a Person with violence and Evil doing, it is the beginning of the end, because we people wear this cruelty in the us.
To criticize Israel as a German, is a very sensitive topic. How are you? You may practice as a German criticism of Israel?
I am a critic of the Israeli policy of occupation of the Palestinians. However, I don’t think – honestly – that Germany is the right country to urge the state of Israel anything, or to teach about human rights.
That is what I expect of other Nations, of the United States, for example, but not of Germany. However, I expect Germany to be honest with Israel and not to support any wrong or immoral tactics of the Israeli policy.
Book author and staff of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial: Yishai Sarid
I do not want to reveal the conclusion of your book. But I think I can say that it comes at the end of the confrontation between a German Director and her protagonist.
In the end, my husband makes it very clear: enough with the bullshit. Let us finally do what we should do, even before long have.
The Interview was conducted by Sarah Judith Hofmann in Tel Aviv.
“Monster” is Yishai Sarids fourth novel. After he had served for six years as a intelligence officer in the Israeli army, he studied law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the American Elite University of Harvard. Today, Yishai Sarid has worked as a lawyer in Tel Aviv. Yishai Sarid: Monster. Roman. Publisher Kein & Aber. 2019.