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What Time and Sadness Spared

What Time and Sadness Spared: Mother and Son Confront the Holocaust

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    What Time and Sadness Spared
    Book Description:

    Roma Ben-Atar resisted until late in life the urging of her family to share the memories of her Nazi-era experiences. The Holocaust exerted a dark pressure on all of their lives but was never openly discussed. It was only when her granddaughter insisted on hearing the whole truth, with a directness partly generational, that Mrs. Ben-Atar agreed to tell her story.

    What Time and Sadness Sparedis a journey of both loss and endurance, moving with shocking speed from a carefree adolescence in upper-middle-class Warsaw to the horrors of the Final Solution. The young girl sees her neighborhood transformed into a ghetto populated by skeletal figures both alive and dead. Unbelievably, things only grow worse as this ruin gives way to the death factories of Majdanek and Auschwitz and the death marches of 1945. Life in the camps changes her in less than a day, as if "the person in my body was a stranger I had never met." Her only consolation is to lie on her wooden bunk, no mattress, and speak to the soul of her mother, who, like virtually her entire family, had already been swept away. Roma must summon astonishing powers of adaptation simply to survive, bringing her finally through the wreckage of postwar Europe and to an entirely new life in Israel.

    In this unique family collaboration Roma Ben-Atar's son Doron, a historian who brings with him fluency in psychoanalysis, contributes through his commentary an awareness of the difficulties presented by historical narrative and memory. A visitor to the much-changed sites in which his mother grew up and was interned by the Nazis, he also voices the perspective of the survivors' children and their ambivalence over being "protected" from this past. As the generation that endured the camps passes from this world, What Time and Sadness Spared illustrates with particular urgency the historical responsibilities of the survivors' descendants, who must become the new vessels for a story that will not remain alive on its own but demands our courage and curiosity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3496-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. PROLOGUE Whose Voice and Whose Memory?
    (pp. 1-14)

    This account is the collaborative work of a Holocaust survivor and her historian son. It recalls my mother’s adolescence during World War II. On some basic level we have written a Holocaust memoir—a testimony of the sufferings and tortures inflicted by the Germans on European Jewry that is part of the grand project of inscribing into the pages of history the memory of those who perished. However, no memoir can claim to be merely a transparent record of the past, and survivors’ recollections are no exception. My urge to tell what really happened in as much detail as possible...

  5. What Time and Sadness Spared
    (pp. 15-182)

    My life did not begin in the ghetto, Majdanek, or Auschwitz. I had a normal childhood in an upper-middle-class family. I was born and raised in Warsaw, a city of over a million people whose 380,000 Jews made up a third of the residents. My immediate surroundings were exclusively Jewish, even though we did not reside in the traditionally Jewish part of the city. My parents’ friends were Jewish. Our neighbors were Jewish. The only non-Jewish presence in my life was the house’s superintendent, Anthony. I knew non-Jewish Poles existed. I saw them. I met them. I was surrounded by...

  6. EPILOGUE Back in the Cursed Places
    (pp. 183-196)

    The radio reporter Yehudit Hendel was one of the first prominent Israeli figures to visit Poland in the mid-1980s, following the loosening of the Communist grip on Eastern Europe. Her impressions were broadcast in five moving segments on Israeli radio early in 1987. When the printed version, entitledNear Quiet Places,came out in the spring, my mother immediately bought me a copy. Instead of a dedication, which she rarely inscribes in books she gives me, she inserted a small white piece of paper with the following: “‘Only a person who is forgotten from a heart is dead.’ For those...