"I will protect you," sings Father in the opera The Lost Childhood to comfort his son Julek, the tragic irony being that shortly thereafter he, emblematic of so many Jewish fathers, will be marched out of his Lvov, Poland home and murdered by the Nazis.
Last Thursday, young Julek, now Dr. Yehuda Nir, a prominent Park Avenue psychiatrist and author of the memoir The Lost Childhood on which the opera, composed by Janice Hamer with libretto by Mary Azrael, is based, celebrated his 80th birthday at The Box on Chrystie Street. A hundred or so guests, family and close friends, rejoiced in his "childhood found," listening to selections sponsored by the American Opera Projects in a lavish celebration, the brainchild of his daughter Sarah Maslin Nir, a writer for the New York Times.
Dr. Nir endured these terrible times posing as an altar boy in a story that has as many twists as an action adventure thriller, defying the concept of survivor. As he often says, his life is a triumph over a million Nazis who set out to kill a 10 year old boy.
The Holocaust is further remembered this weekend with screenings of Blessed is the Match, Roberta Grossman's fine documentary portrait of the poet Hannah Senesh at the Center for Jewish History and an Anne Frank twitter campaign: http://twitter.com/UNandHolocaust .
The publication of A Jew Must Die, a novel based on a true story about a murder in his small town of Payerne by the Swiss Goncourt Prize winner Jacques Chessex (Bitter Lemon Press), underscores the Holocaust as a frontier of perspectives on what it means to be human. Now 65 years after World War II's end, the door does not close on the Holocaust, a subject that only continues to resonate, fascinate, and perplex.