Paris, Get Down on Your Knees and Mourn the Loss of Your Daughter
We, the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, grew up with stories that children should never hear. We grew up with stories of murder, rape, brutalisation, death marches and mass graves. We grew up with stories of days on end without shelter, or nourishment, a winter without shoes or a jacket. We learnt of the shunning of neighbours, co-workers, friends, the loss of jobs, and the loss of dignity. We, with our young ears and innocent eyes, heard of the loss of uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, parents, children, and babies. It is still so hard to fathom.
We, the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, are used to our grandparents looking at us, as if we are the ultimate revenge: the reward, the compensation for their years of suffering and their boundless loss. They grip us very tightly as we cross the road. They hold us a few extra seconds when we meet. They observe our every reaction and record it in some hidden place that they never share. They see in us all of their loss, and at the same time, all of their hope for things to be different. They look at us, as if we were the miracle – instead of them.
We, the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, look at our grandparents and see fragility and strength, suffering and resilience, thunderous noise and deafening silence. From an early age, we understand that we need to respect, revere and protect them. From an early age, we listen to their stories and try to learn from them. However, we, the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, don't always know how to digest what we hear. We try to empathise with what they have been through, but sometimes we are too young, or too naive to comprehend who is in front of us. It is only when they are gone that we grow to understand the magnitude of their strength and endurance. When our grandparents are no longer with us, we, the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, realise that we have questions that will remain unanswered, stories that will remain untold. With frustration, we accept the gaping holes in our family tree: huge chunks of our identity that will always remains rootless, lost, adrift...
We, the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, like our parents, are often unable to extract ourselves from the narrative of our grandparents, and what they went through. This shadowy and dark past affects our self-identity, our choices in what we do in life, how we behave to our fellow man, and how we educate our children. This traumatic backdrop also affects our desire to transform the narrative – to bring it out of the shadows and into the light. Their story strengthens our desire to make a better future for our children, to educate about tolerance and acceptance. Their experiences push us to stand up for what we believe in. It propels us to work towards a society wherein the stories that we grew up with, could only possibly be the dark fruit of someone's imagination, and not the reality on the ground.
We, the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, refuse to let the 'banality of evil' be status quo. We refuse to accept the recurrence of evil to be commonplace. We insist that evil be recognised when it occurs. We insist that society acknowledges its failures and takes action to make amends.
Society has failed Mireille Knoll. It has failed her family. In the aftermath of her dastardly murder, we need to see this as an opportunity to gather ourselves together, and to tell the stories again. We need to educate and punish those who are accountable. Mireille Knoll's death is a blight on the face of humanity. It is a universal loss. Her death is another horror story to be told by her grandchildren to their children – another generation traumatised. Mireille Knoll's murder cannot be tolerated.
Paris, get down on your knees and mourn the loss of your daughter.