Wednesday, 13 October 2010

On Being Not Known

The seminar which is drawing to a close has focussed its attentions on several groups of people - naturally most significantly the victims (others being the perpetrators and the 'bystanders' within the frameworks of definitions that they imply). I was struck by an aspect of the Liberation which, when explained seem so obvious, and only serves to magnify the scale of the horror of the Shoah / Holocaust yet more.

Let me put this in a personal framework. In my life, I am 'daddy' to the girls, husband to my wife, Fr David to the Christians of Aylesbury (broadly), The Revd D Cloake to the postman, David to my family, Mr Cloake to retailers who have served me in the past. To so many people I am known. Even here, to those who less familiar with my personally might simply know me my blog-dentity - the Vernacular Curate. I am recognised by the children of the school where I minister. My face is familiar to my neighbours and to a good number of anonymous people in the town where I live. My sense of personal identity is to a greater or lesser extent, placed within the context of relationships that I have formed across the range of my life. My school memories, my former-work memories - and my part in them is a shared thing.

A factor that faced so many of the liberated Jews at the end of the Second World War was the overwhelming fact that for so many of them, there was no-one in the world who remembered them. If they died, they would be un-mourned and un-remembered. They did not exist in the framework of reference of another human soul. In so many ways, they became 'not known' - or even more palpably, no-one.

As human creatures, we exist in relationship to others. Our identity is in a significant way in their hands whether that should please us or not. Becoming 'not known' seems to be a cruel blow to those people who were robbed of 'self' and heritage by simply being incarcerated in those barracks awaiting their moments of death. Liberation to what? At least they were a number in the camps.

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