Memorial Library (Old house of the late Olga Lengyel)
Monday, May 14, 2012
Video: Olga Lengyel (author of Five Chimneys)
Synopsis: Olga speaks of how her father bought her a man’s broach for her birthday when she was young and that was all that she wanted. She still had the broach with her in New York City because she had given it to a family friend to safeguard it for her when she went into the concentration camp. Olga’s mother was always the center of attention and everything. Olga did not believe her British friend when he said that the Germans had placed Jews in gas chambers and killed them. She only knew Germany to be reasonable and full of scientists and progressive innovations. Olga’s father said to her while saying goodbye, “My God, you are the best child ever existed.” She trusted the Germans and thus unknowingly condemned her father to death in the gas chambers (by sending him to the Red Cross ambulance) along with her grandmother and two sons. “The wound was so deep that people did not feel like sitting down and reliving the horrors.” Her responsibility and duty to record this (she did this before anyone else) stemmed from the fact that when someone endangers one group it endangers all of us. When one person, who is considered criminally insane masterminds something, 6,000,000 people can die in a matter of 2-3 years. That is unthinkable!
My thoughts: I am glad that in the video, Olga pointed out that her purpose for writing Five Chimneys was not to make people know how awful this travesty was and cry about all of the people who died because of this evil… She wanted people to know about this so they may recognize behaviors and trends of the same sort if and when they arise, for they undoubtedly will arise. She made a great example of learning from her experience and abuses in using them to facilitate not only her own moving on, but to her moving on to teach and inspire others to be aware of the world they live in daily. Olga mentioned how she cannot sleep much anymore because she has insomnia and these scenes of the concentration camps and (presumably) the moments when she parted ways with her family members, not knowing that this meant certain death and she would never see them again. She is haunted by nightmares and perturbed times of some sleep or no sleep at all. What an incredible spirit must this woman have, to be strong enough to share these horrors with the world in hopes that she could prevent the same thing from ever happening again? She felt compelled to write the book and share with the future generations. Her mother said she needed to worry about herself in the camps because she tended to worry about others always. Maybe her family being separated from her allowed her peace to care for herself? Was her naïve and innocent uplifting of her family members to what she assumed was safety really an act of mercy? Is a swift and painless death better than a slow decline of starvation and work?
In the book, we find that the absence of her family haunted her still, and that she continued to worry about others throughout her stay at Birkenau. She became a nurse, which not only gave her the energy of knowing that she was helping some of the people, but it kept her safer than a regular internee by elevating her status just slightly. She ends her book by asking what the reader can do to be sure that such dreadful things may never be repeated? She concludes that her hope in the goodness of mankind was saved through Birkenau by the knowledge that even a few tortured people there maintained their humanity and kept good morals through this most hellish time in their lives.
Faith so strong it’s glad
that Germany betrayed you
How are you not mad?