Unlike them, Herzberg wrote within a year of his liberation from Bergen-Belsen, which lends his essays a unique combination of direct experience and raw anger on the one hand and, on the other, given what he had undergone, an almost superhuman rationality.
The seven essays were originally written for the weekly , to mark the first anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands from German occupation.
«It was only during the last war (…) when the thirty-year old me who in witnessing the suffering of others found himself for the first time (…), becoming conscious that the source of his love lay in others, and experiencing a hitherto unknown sense of freedom and joy of reality.» His encounter with Italy, which took place during the war, was destined to last.
For Congdon, the country’s two traits, suffering and piety, but also seduction and beauty, reflected the dual aspect of his own nature and creative talent, which seemed to blossom in conditions of isolation and inner struggle.
Norman held a party to celebrate his engagement to Gena at Belsen having been granted permission to do so by Major Leonard Berney, the commander of the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp (as it was then called).
When I was 17, I visited Germany with my family for the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
They have since found a new readership many times over, as younger people discover in Herzberg’s work an answer to the existential questions raised by the Holocaust.
As a survivor he wanted readers of his essays to understand ‘what human beings are capable of, and to what, unless we are vigilant, they can be reduced’.
I’ve been at Tonight I’ll be speaking at the Temple Emanuel Skirball Center in Manhattan as part of a Yom Ha Shoah program, along with several other contributors to the book.
I’ll probably talk about that trip in 2005, and all the questions I’ve had since then, and the places they’ve taken me.