Franklin, Ruth
November 2003
New Republic;11/17/2003, Vol. 229 Issue 20, p42
The author describes the events of the Tribute to Holocaust Survivors, which took place last weekend as part of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's tenth-anniversary festivities, and discusses the continued relevance of the Holocaust to contemporary society. Around 2,000 survivors, accompanied by nearly 5,000 friends and family members, came to Washington for this "Reunion of a Special Family," as it was billed. I count myself a member of this family: My grandparents, originally from Poland, are survivors, and my mother was born in a displaced-persons' camp shortly after the war. Like all families, this" special family" has its customs and its secrets, its taboos and its private jokes. Most of the weekend's events were carefully designed to keep the survivors in the foreground.But palpable, if largely undiscussed, was the fact that this was almost certainly the last such gathering. As the generation of survivors disappears, the question of what role their descendants must play in the coming years takes on a new urgency. The highlight of the ceremony was the burial of a time capsule containing photographs, copies of speeches, and other items commemorating the event in front of the museum's Hall of Remembrance. This time capsule, with its clear emphasis on the here and now, suggests that the museum is still uncertain about how to commemorate the survivors as well as the victims. For every mention of the Holocaust as a unique event, it seemed, there had to be another reinforcing its relevance to contemporary society.


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