Only A Glimpse into the Darkness of the Past
by Dr. Karin Doerr

During my research of "How Jewish Holocaust Survivors Remember the German Language," Charlotte Lintzel insisted that she "does not remember anything of that time." How indeed does one contemplate the Nazis' notion of "a life not worth living" (lebensunwertes Leben), and how does one verbalize the shame felt for one's devalued life, for the negation of one's person?

She is one of many who has tried hard to forget her ordeals, concentrating instead, as she emphatically states, on the present rather then the past and future. For her, this has been the mechanism to cope after the terrible rupture in her life, after having been uprooted from her family, language and culture because of her country's persecution of herself and other Jews.

Charlotte Lintzel is originally from Berlin. She survived in hiding in Germany, being placed in different homes with different people. She has blocked out the where, when and who, but she has been impacted to this day, by memories confinement and fear. She is restless and prefers to be outside, preferably on a mountain which for her represents no better image of freedom and independence. In this way she tries to maintain an optimistic outlook on her life and the world in general.

It is this optimism that "shines through" in her short poetic expression "Light". It is her first "official" statement regarding her Holocaust past and, in a nutshell, her life and her attitude to it. The title points in the direction she wants to go and offers the reader entry into a certain frame of mind.

In two out of three stanzas she permits herself and those who read her poem a glimpse of the fright she experienced as a Jewish child in Nazi Germany. But she merely makes allusions without giving details of exactly what and who made her feel abandoned in her country. She does not want to verbalize Nazi words and their murderous meaning, such as judengelb ("Jew yellow") and ausrotten (to eradicate) that she tries so hard to remove from memory.

In the last lines of her poem she looks beyond her ordeal as a hidden Jewish child who was caught in the vortex of the Third Reich. There she sees another child, unlike herself, whose little world is intact - happy, carefree, unburdened and moving in sunlight.

If the reader thinks it is Charlotte, it is not. She says it is the image of her grandson who skips happily amongst the ancient stones of his country, Israel. His life vindicates the child she was not ever allowed to be. To her, that child means hope and the future and God (?) - in her words "with a question mark."

by Charlotte Lintzel

I often wander back in time,
a time when fire
scotched the earth,
when shivering with fear
I was a child alone
and death was everywhere

Again, I must go back in time
to times of fear
when even God
would hide his face from me.
I walk on silent stones
and tears fall from my eyes

And as I travel back in time
I see a child
Through rays of sun.
I see it laugh and skip
amongst the silent stones -
and light is everywhere.

The article and the poem have been published here with the permission of the authors.