Hope is the Last to Die
Tokyo Ushio Company, Tokyo 2000
Closing Section by the Translator Satoshi Kusakabe
In May 1995, I had a chance to visit Auschwitz that I had been longing for. It was raining occasionally. The place was so quiet as the peace itself amongst the wet green plants. It was hard to believe from the atmosphere that it was a symbolic place of the holocaust where over one million people were killed during the Second World War.
Most houses at that time remained in the center of the main camp. They were situated three kilometer away. (in use as the museum). The second camp (Birkenau) was enclosed by watchtowers and barbed wire, however, it looked mostly like a wide grass fields except some number of huts near the border and woods behind the exploded crematoria.
In a hut I found a wall on which something like personal names were written. I imagined that the prisoners, who had been robbed of their future, past, and even their own names, left their signs as the proof of once existed in this world. Tracing them by eyes, I felt as if I heard their screams. Even when I was walking through the wide field, the silent screams seemed to echo over the whole space.
How can we hand over the silent screams to the people after long years in the peaceful world? Thinking so, I bought a small book in the bookshop of the museum in memory of the visit. The book was a memoir of the holocaust by Halina Birenbaum issued by that museum.
As for the records of holocaust, I have read "Diary of Anne", (title of the Japanese translation: "A Young Girl in the Netherlands, Anne Frank). Another book was "Night and Fog" written by Viktor Frankel who was a psychologist in Austria and survivor himself. Anne had hidden herself from the Nazis together with her family, but they were finally arrested. Her diary finished. She was taken to Auschwitz and then transferred to other concentration camp in Germany. She died in Bergen Belsen, only 15 years old, just before the liberation by the Allied Armies. Thus, it can be said that her true suffering started after the end of the diary.
Although the heroin of this book, Halina, was just the same age to Anne, she survived in the midst of the holocaust for 5 years and 7 months. She experienced the start of the war in Warsaw in September 1939, lived in the Ghetto, survived four concentration camps, and was liberated by the Red Army.
After the war, she compiled the memories inscribed in her life into this book. Thus, this is the record which Anne should have written but could not.
Furthermore in this story, strong bondage of family and deep friendship are described emotionally. This may be different under inescapable sufferings which were the standpoint of the book "Night and Fog" written by a grown-up scholar. Reading Halina's book, I wished to send her message to Japanese young people, to begin with my daughter - that "you can have hope and grow up even at the worst time and place".
Consequently, I dared to write a letter to the Auschwitz museum asking the possibility of translation the book to Japanese. What a fortune it was! The author who lives in Israel, happened to be there at that time and read my fax where I recommended the translation to Japanese.
This story was published first in Poland in 1967. Then, translated into English, German, and Hebrew. This Japanese book was translated from the new English edition published in 1996 in USA. In this new edition, some memoirs were added to the original text, following the author's recent travels around the places of suffering, once again after 40 years from the end of the war. She was invited later to Germany to give lectures.
By reading the original text, the readers might accept it as a simple or a horror story. However, with this additional section they strongly feel as if the events are still happening in the present time through the description by the author visiting there as a sightseer and recalling the past events vividly.
We are forced to realize that the holocaust was not an act of the history but is an eternal truth beyond time that possibly may occur again in the present time and in future.
Living together on this Holocaust by the Nazi is real facts in the history earth with those who experienced the events, we may have duty to ask them and tell the descendants what they have experienced. Miss Chisato Arai, my friend in USA who encouraged my translation, told me, "Even if the readers of this know nothing about the Holocaust, they should be moved with warmth and strength of this book. How wonderful it is that not finally after 50 years but in so short time as 50 years, the screams of several million victims come to reach the Japanese people by this book!" I too wish that as large number of people as possible come to know Halina's story and tell it to the others, especially to the young generation. Only after memorized by large number of people, the silent scream will be inscribed as a memory of the human being.
In this translation, I followed the text as precisely as possible. However, additional notes were put in to those written in the original text in order to aid the readers understanding. Furthermore, pages of contents, maps, and photographs were prepared with the author's permission. Although I am an amateur of translation, I completed this work by the encouragement of the author and by a lot of support of many friends. I deeply appreciate them.
Back to Halina Birenbaum Page
Last updated October 3rd, 2003