There’s still laughter

By Alyssa Creamer

Inge Deutschkron as a young woman.  (Courtesy of Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt)

Inge Deutschkron as a young woman. (Photo courtesy of Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt)

At 92, former journalist and Holocaust survivor Inge Deutschkron speaks with fluid wit in a tongue she hasn’t spoken for years about a time unfamiliar to the young journalists hanging on her every word. The fellows, at least 60 years her junior, are trying to imagine the building-turned-museum they sit in as it stood from 1933 to 1945.

The place is Berlin’s Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt, which translates to Museum Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind. Deutschkron’s smiles as she reflects on Weidt, a man she calls a hero for his commitment to helping many Jews. She talks about the room hidden behind a false closet in Weidt’s workshop where Jews avoided deportation.

With vivid details and without a trace of weariness, she spoke about various other hiding places as well, diving back in time to explain how she came to work at Weidt’s and how he and many others helped her. Her gratefulness toward them stood out, despite the darkness she described. There were moments when her recollections made her laugh, made us laugh even.

I wondered later, “How many times has she had to tell her story?” As one of the sharpest and most famous remaining Jewish survivors of the war still living in Germany, Deutschkron has shared her story in writings and surely on hundreds of (or perhaps more) similar speaking occasions.

There are many reasons why people should and do tell their darkest stories. In Deutschkron’s case, it seems she tells her story, in part, out of moral imperative. The world must have victims’ stories so that it does not forget what happened. Telling these stories keeps alive heroes, like Weidt, who, with limited choices, helped keep Deutschkron’s story from ending too soon.

After hearing Deutschkron’s reflections, it seemed to me that an important takeaway is that human resiliency gains strength through speaking, through story-telling. It may be that pain cannot disappear through talking. But with every telling, a story can validate hope. So long as you speak out, you are no longer hiding.

(5/27/15)

 

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