Closing Words to "Tears AloneŽare not Enough"

by Zacharias Zweig and Stefan Jerzy Zweig

(privately published)


I begin. I finish. I have not yet begun. I am not finished yet. There is nothing to say in an afterword to this book in which everything has already been said. One can try to say something, but the gaps which are the subject of this book (that has had to appear privately because no publisher could be found for it) are no gaps at all. They are full of people who could not be because they could not be anymore (nor any less), who could not be at all. The author, Stefan Jerzy Zweig, son of Dr. Zacharias Zweig, a lawyer in Poland before the Nazi occupation, husband of a murdered wife, father of a murdered daughter and of a son, wrote this book because he had to write it to assure himself that these people (he needed to pay tribute to them) really existed (he listed them in a family tree maternally and paternally yet again because they had all been on lists, and he recorded how many and which ones are no longer here because they were murdered, but they are still listed in the family tree although they've been eradicated). Beyond this book there is basically nothing to say, also nothing to say about this book, and after this book there is certainly nothing to say. George Tabori, also a survivor, once pointed out that Hamlet's famous last line, "The rest is silence" has always been translated into German wrong. It comes out sounding something like "The rest is muteness" where it should actually be "The rest is quiet". But the rest is, amidst countless memorial celebrations and many words which on these occasions are - no not lost, also not found - which are scattered and then people grow scatterbrained again upon the ashes that have been scattered to the winds - no, you can't say it that way, you can say nothing. I'm well aware of that but the rest really is a quiet that consists of crossing out names, crossing out a specific name from a list. And later it consists of crossing out a name from the collective memory (which is very uneducated or at least barely educated) or removing a commemorative plaque from the former stockroom of the Buchenwald Memorial. I read the chilling, straightforward, calm, objective report of the father, the Polish lawyer Dr. Zacharias Zweig, and I can't fathom it although it's not possible to write any more simply than he does. He writes in the objective language of those destined to be exterminated, a language that has stopped struggling because the subject writing was destined for nothing less than annihilation. Whoever has managed to survive is still supposed to owe the system of annihilation one (1) piece of life, one piece out of millions. Debts have to be payed off  to maintain the quiet. The muteness of these millions of obliterated is a muteness that maintains itself; even when heaped up before us again and again during these celebrations, it remains a sealed off muteness that we are confronted with because we cannot sustain the crush of all that being that was obliterated. That's where the gap in that silence comes from, and soon there will be no receptiveness for it anymore which might show why this silence is both there and not there simultaneously, just a blind patch, even when enunciating all those statements about Never Again. That is where the undead do the unspeakable. 

Maybe Stefan Jerzy Zweig is one of those undead because he still owes his life. He hasn't owed up to it yet. The Buchenwald Child as he is called still owes his life today. Yes, you can count on us, you can count us, you can count us down, yes you can count us up for all I care, but it always gets back to the same thing: Stefan Jerzy Zweig should actually be dead. One of them (and his father with him) got out, got away. It's even more (or less) than that. The writer Hans Joachim Schädlich has written in his novel "Anders" ("Otherwise") that instead of this three and a half year old child another is dead, a 16 year old Sinti died instead of this child. This Buchenwald Child, this boy, who arrived there at age three, who was kept pacified under unbelievable circumstances, hidden, protected by "red Kapos", i.e. political prisoners, was a blind patch among countless other blind patches and he still owes his death. His father of course owes it too, his death. Everyone who was able to snatch his death away from the Totality, still owes it in reality - because it's the criminals who have their say, even after the crime, and they speak sollicitously. Which is to say, the father who for the adjudication of his meager compensation after the liberation is required to prove that he should be counted as affiliated with the "German language and culture community". And he does so by holding a lecture on Goethe and Schiller ( let's not forget: Buchenwald is right near Weimar!). But a qualifications examiner, no, not God, but an especially qualified examiner who might have been invented by Kafka, is of the opinion that this performance does not suffice as evidence of affiliation because such abilitities "could be assumed for every Jewish intellectual". Thus the father was permitted to carry on a while as a kind of illegal of life, first in France, then in Israel. What was once erased remains eradicated from the cultural community; it has lost its right over itself. The proof that you're still alive, since you were also alive before you died and continue to be alive after death, this proof is rendered orally through speech, and it is accessible. It is inaccessible. This book is so intensely written - with such determination to speak (and simultaneously to remain silent because nothing is added to father Zweig's disciplined articulation of the truth, no poetic elaborations, no palliative turns of speech or exaggerations of the horror) that one cannot escape the impression that its language is somehow fused to the essence of this, of every man, that it belongs to the person who makes the decision whether he wants to tell the truth or not. But that can't be. Hannah Arendt points out that "the more determined a reporter returns to the world of the living, the more intensely will doubts about his own reliability seize him, as if he were confusing nightmare and reality." That is not the case in this book. It is different. You can read for yourself why it is different. I can't explain it to you. Maybe it is different from the statements of those who themselves couldn't believe what they experienced, maybe it is different because the son, Stefan J. still owes his death, as was explained to him after the fact. To owe something is to be guilty of something. Gimme your life! Not your money or your life, just your life, that's enough. The commemoration plaque with the name of the three and a half year old Jewish child has been removed from the  Buchenwald Memorial. The name has also been removed (the worst thing of all for a Jew, a renewed expunging of a life) and replaced by a more generally formulated inscription because the naming of individuals (which is to say of life itself because life always consists of individuals) was not permitted. Those born after the fact have the final word, and they have the freedom to steer things the way they were supposed to have been: Anne Frank has already raised too many hackles with her diary. In the New Germany we can't tolerate the idea that there were red Capos (communists, socialists of all shapes and kinds, the resistance fighter Robert Siewert and the post-War union leader Willi Bleicher symbolize all of them), red Capos who saved people. Nameless dust is there to be spread over nameless fields from highly active chimneys. It is not there to reconstitute the image of people who were saved as nameless blanks. An eye for an eye. A Jew for a Sinti and Roma. Everything has its place. It all gets counted out and counted up. The writer H.J. Schädlich settles his accounts with the real socialism by calculating that Stefan J. Zweig owes one death, namely his own and that he took another death for it. That's what Schädlich tells us. So that the accounts come out even and the people no one even misses will come away. But now Hans Joachim Schädlich breaks his silence with speech and breaks someone down, proving from a balance sheet that another person doesn't exist, that the best would be for him to be dead. He can't send another, he can only come himself and go away. That's what is said to a child hardly four years old who later as an adult has no memory of this time anymore. Schädlich is so kind as to proffer him this memory, because he remembers of course. He wasn't there and that is why he was really there. He has an overview. He got it from lists. This absurdity slips into the experience that everything is really possible even the impossible. In the totality of the extermination in the concentration camp it is literally all the same whether prisoners managed by chance to remain alive or not. They are, as Hannah Arendt says, more effectively cut off from the world of the living - as if they had died because terror forces us to forget. Death happens with no recognizition for the person. It's like squashing a gnat. But Author H.J. Schädlich accounts for people by counting them up one against the other and he can count on more attention that way than those left in the shadows or those who have become shadows (which is what the SS in the camp actually did, the accounting had to count, everything had to balance out. "To each his own", as is written on the gates of the camp. If there were too few inmates, well then a few more had to be left alive. When the camp was too full, well, more of them had to be murdered). Counting, counting, counting. The result is a condition in which death and life are both effectively inhibited.    

It has all been written down in this book. I can't say anything further about it. I can't grasp it, I can't outline it, I can't center it. I can only say that one should read it. Two victims speak for themselves. That is not self-evident, that means, the silence has been broken. Which still doesn't speak for them. They have to do that themselves because no one else will. Speech does not explicate itself through speech. Another person has spoken for them, Bruno Apitz in his international bestseller (which has already been filmed), "Naked among Wolves". He has spoken for them without speaking to the people who were his protagionists a single time (for simplicity's sake he lets father Zweig die right away even though he survived! A symbolic death. It doesn't matter anymore, one more or less…speech shatters silence like paper smothers rock to win or scissor cuts paper). The novelist from the defunct German Democratic Republic, by breaking his silence (while the true participants have already spoken, although the chilling description of Dr. Zweig was only printed in a miniscule edition, shortened, censored, which has anyway long ago disappeared) has become the man who locks the cells, locks them only, never unlocks them, because his "truth" is in truth the fogging of truth because he measures something he has no measure for  (Bruno Apitz, the author of "Naked among the Wolves" was himself in Buchenwald, but never met the Zweigs there. But he did earn a lot of money through them, something that the minor functionary Dr. Zweig managed to hear about in his substandard little room in Israel) by withstanding the crush of the truth of so much truth, it's as easy as that. When so many die, why shouldn't the truth die too, that poor, starving little guy? But the basic question is: when someone writes something, what relationship does his language have to what he intends to write? They owe their lives, and the son, Stefan Jerzy speaks up for his father who lives in Israel as a minor functionary for the Ministry of Finance in a tiny room on whose windows snippets of newspaper from the last air-raid blackout are still hanging (when his son visits him, they put another mattress in there, then the apartment is really stuffed to capacity), now only he is still there, and he speaks with his father who gets to speak himself in the book, but both of them shoot from the hip, as the expression goes. The character of language can be bad character. But language keeps its hold on Stefan J. Zweig through words and thus its hold on what has been. Stefan J. Zweig - a man enraged, a Marsyas, who has skinned himself, no, whose own skin skins him (Stefan J. Zweig suffers from a severe psoriasis and has to go to the Dead Sea frequently to literally "save his skin" as he expresses it) similar to the way people like us are uncomfortable "in our own skins", Stephan J. Zweig is angry about the multifariousness of all those words that deal with him and his father, words ready to make a deal with anyone who'll buy them. This book has no publisher but is unashamed of being seen in public - not because it is longwinded, just a lot of talk, but because it has been wrenched from the longwinded silence of eradication, of accountability, of German accountancy with bare hands and flayed skin. The vouchers have been selected from a huge pile and salvaged. Through non-stop speech this book proves that it is unstoppable, that it is derived from silence alone. Truth steps out from this book - out from some place that was formerly vacant and deceitful. Only silence could have rendered this book. Silence has engendered this book, no publisher has published it. And its speech is - in contrast to the creative writing of a Bruno Apitz or a Hans Joachim Schädlich - a TELLING. What does it tell and what does it tell us (telling and telling someone is really not the same thing!)? It tells names, quite simply, names names from the storeroom, from the stockroom where one takes stock of nothing or less than nothing (if something was there that is no longer there, then less than nothing is there) names on the edge of a precipice, at the break of silence, not for any concrete use, to justify something, not as proof that one exists although that wasn't supposed to be; but by telling one looks behind mere speech and talking. The rest consists of names. And this list in itself is long enough to be presented here. Shhh, shhhh, don't make any noise. Others make noise that comes from somewhere else. Who can be surprised that the truth is told so seldomly? Posing questions about the truth, one is questioning WHAT IS. Too many have vanished to be able to provide all too much truth.         

Translation: P.J. Blumenthal



KZ Buchenwald


Closing Words to "Tears AloneŽare not Enough" © 2005 Elfriede Jelinek


zur Startseite von