Ruth Bondy was an Israeli writer who wrote in Hebrew and Czech, journalist, translator and an author of biographies. She passed away last month, at the age of 94 (on Nov. 14, 2017). She left a chilling will.
In her will, she imagined how the world would be after all the Holocaust survivors die out. Given that World War II ended in 1945, the vast majority of Holocaust survivors have already passed the age of 80.
Bondy’s will is an indictment of the treatment of Holocaust survivors. Her view is that the calamity of the survivors was cynically used and served as a tool for making money and for political or academic ambitions. Her will painfully and bitterly laments the futile attempt of the survivors to leave a mark on life. After their death, life will continue as usual, and evil will still be present. For some, the survivors were a burden. When the survivors die, they will no longer present claims, correct Holocaust research, or request accountability of attorneys for their legal work. There are those who benefit from speaking in the name of the survivors; their motives are selfish, hypocritical and political, and their presentation is inaccurate.
Ruth Bondy was born in Prague in 1923. The majority of her family was annihilated in the Holocaust. During the Second World War she was incarcerated in the Ghetto. Then she was in concentration camps for three years. She immigrated to Israel in 1949, where she worked for thirty years in journalism. She published many books, including a book about the history of Jews in Czechoslovakia, a memoir and biographies. She also translated books, particularly Czech literature, and edited books. She is the recipient of many awards.
Some background remarks about this are in order.
Most of Europe's Jews were murdered by the Nazis in World War II, but there were also Holocaust survivors. There is not one definition of a Holocaust survivor. Differences or changes in the definition of "Holocaust survivor" cause differences in the estimation of the number of Holocaust survivors. For example, one expert determined that in 2014 there were 687,900 Holocaust survivors in the world. Another expert included the Jews of North Africa, stating that there were 1,093,000 Holocaust survivors in the world in 2014. And another expert said that there were no more than 170,000, because in his opinion Holocaust survivors are only those who were physically persecuted by the Nazis, lived in ghettos or in hiding places, were in concentration camps, or were partisans. In this expert opinion in order to be a Holocaust survivor, it is not enough that Jews fled the Nazi regime and left behind their property and suffered racist and discriminatory laws. And there are those who define Holocaust survivors as those who survived persecution, deportations, and murder of the Jews by the Nazis.
More than half a million Jews immigrated to Israel from Europe from the end of the Second World War until the 1960’s. Most of them were Holocaust survivors or their children. In 2012 there were 198,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel, in 2013 - 192,000, in 2014 - 193,000, in 2015 - 189,00, in 2016 - 200,000, and in 2017 - 180,572. As noted, changes in the definition of "Holocaust survivor" and the deaths of survivors change the number of survivors.
The estimated number of Holocaust survivors in the US in 2017 is 100,000. One-third of them live at or bellow the poverty line.
Holocaust survivors experienced horrific traumas. They were scarred on their souls and bodies. They felt guilty that they - and not others – survived. Their families were murdered, and yet many of them succeeded in rebuilding their lives.
There are those Holocaust survivors who claim that at the beginning of their arrival in Israel to have felt rejected, treated like sheep who were taken to the slaughter by the Nazis, all of which was contrary to the image of the Israeli born man. Over time, the survivors came to hold important positions in Israel.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, West Germany paid Israel about 3 billion marks to compensate for the damage and suffering of Jews during the Holocaust. West Germany also passed laws to compensate victims of the Nazi regime, and there were survivors who received compensation from Germany. Israel has passed various laws to help Holocaust survivors, but over the years there has been criticism of the rehabilitation of disabled Holocaust survivors, and of the work of the Bureau for Rehabilitation of the Disabled, of the neglect in hostels for Holocaust survivors. In the data published every year, the number of survivors living below the poverty line is estimated at 45,000. Israelis express concern for Holocaust survivors on account of their loneliness, poverty, the bureaucratic difficulties they face and their fear of a second Holocaust.
Here is a section of Ruth Bondy’s will:
After we are gone [die], nothing will happen. Life will go on in its same order or disorder.
Many will be relieved, [such as] the German reparations offices; and The Israel Ministry of Finance’s Bureau of Rehabilitation of the Disabled Holocaust Survivors – that will get rid of expenses. [It will be a relief also] to the institutions for the restitution of the property of the Holocaust victims, [because] the claims will diminish and the attorneys, who have handled or not handled them will be able to fly together in the Business Class and to stay in luxury hotels. It will also be made easier for the Holocaust scholars, who have exciting theses, that all that is needed is to adapt the data to theirs. At last the Holocaust scholars got rid of Holocaust survivors, who only bothered them [because they thought that]; What do they know, they who lie in filthy bunks, dreaming of bread. [After all,] they just were there, while the scholars researched in depth.
As to others, our departure [death] will weigh on them – they will no longer be able to speak in the name of the Holocaust survivors against playing of music of Richard Wagner [music], which the bands of the prisoners at the gates of the concentration camps supposedly played, while in reality they played light rhythmic music suitable for going out to work or returning from it. Nor will they be able to disqualify a swastika in an Israel artist’s performance that is supposed to offend them, while there are no reservations voiced on their behalf about the Rabin figure in SS uniforms.
I, too, was not authorized to speak on behalf of the survivors of the Holocaust, because they are not made up of one piece. But [may I present] a personal request: change the central Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem, so that in the future no politician - on the right or the left - will make a speech for his own needs. After all, we do not lack poems written by children of the Holocaust, diaries and authentic farewell letters.
And stop with the infuriating "Marches of Life", with school trips to places of Jewish death instead of [travelling to] the places Jews lived in - Toledo and Segovia, the Holland of Rembrandt and Shpinoza, Odessa, and perhaps ever Baghdad.
As we travel, the pain about an extinct world that has accompanied us all our lives will disappear.
Still, even with all the research and reading, I cannot grasp: how could the extermination of the Jews could happened at all. And the evil was not extinct.
The will was published in Yediot Aharonot, 24 hours Supplement, 5.4.2016