'The last one'

In a childhood full of emotional experiences one memory has served as a constant inspiration to me as a Jew and as a writer who tries to speak out on behalf of the Jewish people.

My family was standing around in our kitchen after returning from my grandfather’s funeral steeped in a morbid daze. After a prolonged silence my ailing grandmother heaved a great sigh and mumbled something in Hungarian that, while I could not understand, possessed the unmistakable tone of defeat. I asked my mother what she said but she was too choked-up to reply. My uncle stared at the wall blankly and whispered “she said she’s the last one.” Silence dominated the room once more.

I didn’t have to ask what my grandmother meant. I was blessed to know my grandparents for the formative years of my life. I was equally blessed to understand and appreciate the profound wisdom and inspiration that could be drawn by such amazing successful Jews (and human beings) who emerged from the darkest days of modern time.
I understood that their success was driven by their unparalleled thirst for life. How else does a young Jewish boy or girl survive years of horrors perpetrated upon them as well as on their friends and family? Being a survivor of the Holocaust was a badge they wore, not just for themselves, but for capital L ‘Life’. The day my grandparents and the other survivors were liberated was Victory Day for human existence. The day they began rebuilding from the ashes with a strong emphasis on Judaism was a colossal win for Jewish pride and eternality.
Thus, when my grandmother lamented her being “the last one” it was clear to me what she meant. She was the last of this unbelievable breed of Jewish heroes who defeated all odds to ensure Judaism would go on. She was the last of our family to embody these tremendous lessons that would be so integral to the forming of the next generation of Jews.
I understood the message immediately and have carried it with me as a mark of pride as well as a burden of responsibility throughout my life.
Never in a million years did I think this message would come under attack by a fellow Jew. Perhaps a lesson from those terrible times that I must internalize more resolutely is that humanity is capable of all things, for better or worse.
Put Anna Breslaw’s Tablet magazine article “Breaking Bad Karma” in the ‘worse’ column.
In Breslaw’s revolting pen-produced sludge, which features the sub-headline “how the cancer victim at the center of the AMC series justifies my skepticism of Holocaust survivors”, she opens with an explanation of her “unappealing, didactic distrust of people with the extreme will to live.” While this bizarre sentiment is a good enough reason to disregard what may follow, it is only the first in a number of increasingly offensive statements made by the apparently boardline-suicidal author. By the end of her first paragraph, however, the contemptible Ms. Breslaw really hits her stride.
After acknowledging that she had received a proper Holocaust education Breslaw unfathomably pens, “but the more information I received, the less sympathy the survivors elicited from me. Each time we clapped for the old Hungarian lady who spoke about Dachau…I eyed it askance, thinking what did you do that you’re not talking about?”
If you haven’t yet thrown your computer across the room like an angry Bruce Banner, as I was tempted to after reading just one paragraph, let us read on. Breslaw, not content to merely cast a suspicious eye upon the world’s most inspiring symbols of human goodness, continues “I had the gut instinct that these were villains masquerading as victims who, solely by virtue of surviving…felt that they had earned the right to be heroes, their basic, animal self-interest dressed up with glorified phrases like ‘triumph of the human spirit.’”
At this point in reading I realized I was filled with a rage I had only experienced once before. It was the exact blinding anger that surged through my body after walking out of the Auschwitz gas chamber where my grandmother’s family was slaughtered. How could anybody question the actions of the poor boys and girls of the camps who were subjected to terrors not meant for this earth?!
Defying my rising blood pressure I read on and my mood shifted yet again. “I wondered,” Breslaw further spews, “if anyone had alerted Hitler that in the event that the final solution didn’t pan out, only the handful of Jews who actually fulfilled the stereotype of the Judenscheisse (because every group has a few) would remain to carry on the Jewish race-conniving, indestructible, taking and taking.” She then proceeds to (unsuccessfully) mask her anti-Semitic comments with comparisons of the Holocaust to a cable television show.  I was no longer angry, I was sad.
Sad because I knew that this was anything but fringe extremism since Tablet magazine is a mainstream Jewish publication. Sad because Tablet is a mainstream Jewish publication. Sad that Breslaw is Jewish. Sad that she hates that she is Jewish and hates her fellow Jews. And I was sad because my grandparents, who were the opposite of all these terrible insinuations, were no longer here to help silence disturbed individuals such as Anna Breslaw.
After reading Breslaw’s essay in insanity I have rededicated myself to combating this type of ignorance and (self) hate. While my grandmother may have been correct that she was one of the “last” of a generation of physical tangible proof of what is beautiful about life, I swear that I will do everything in my power to ensure that the legacy she and my grandfather passed on to me would never cease to be at the forefront of the world’s collective conscience.
Anna Breslaw is a sick and twisted soul but she cannot be ignored. Ignorance has been our destroyer far too many times before. I hope, for the sake of all who love and value life, that everyone who reads this joins me in pursuit of ensuring that Anna Beslaw is one of the “the last ones” of her kind.
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