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The Land That Broke Its Promise : THE SEVENTH MILLION: The Israelis and the Holocaust, By Tom Segev (Hill & Wang: $27.50; 580 pp.)

May 23, 1993|Elie Wiesel | Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. His latest novel is "The Forgotten" (Summit Books). This review was translated from the French by Marion Wiesel

They needed to bear witness and no one wanted to listen. Except if the stories glorified Jewish heroes and partisans. The proud citizens of Eretz Israel did not want to hear about the suffering, the oppression, the agony, the humiliation of hundreds of thousands, of millions of their own people. It was only after the trial of Gestapo head Adolf Eichmann that the teaching of the shoah , a term as inadequate as the term "Holocaust," began to be taken seriously in Israel.

Of all that Segev reports in this singular book--the unsuccessful plans for revenge, German reparations, the complex relations with Bonn--the chapter about the Israelis' attitude toward survivors is the most painful.

While it is not my role to corroborate his claims, I can relate my own experience when I arrived in Israel in June 1949 on my first visit there. I had been sent by a Parisian weekly to write a series of articles on the metamorphoses death camp survivors were undergoing in their new homeland. The survivors' comments fill me with sadness, as they did then. They spoke of the arrogance of old-timers who asked why they had not immigrated to Israel earlier. And why they had gone "like sheep to slaughter." And why, why, and why . . .

I shall stop here. Read Segev's book and you will understand why.

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