Solidarity: Walking to Auschwitz
This is the confession of someone who never much liked joining. I have joined; I joined the Communist Party; I joined the African National Council. But on the whole I’ve avoided churches and professional bodies of all kinds. I never felt the thrill and the challenge of solidarity more than the day I set out with my son to walk to Auschwitz. It was in January 2005, 60 years to the day after the death marches out of Auschwitz, when those deemed fit enough to walk were sent west, on foot, before the Russian Army. Along the old railway line we walked some 240 miles to Auschwitz from Budapest, where in the summer of 1944 the greatest number of Jews were deported to Auschwitz in the shortest time of any of the mass deportations, thanks to the relentless work of Adolf Eichmann. My son is named for his great-great-grandfather; many of our family, German Sephardic Jews who hailed from Poland, and before that from Turkey, and before that from Spain, died in the Shoah. Here I must break open the can of beans I bring with me to this gathering. I walked to Auschwitz with my son in a spirit of solidarity with the victims of the Shoah, and with my murdered family. But solidarity also, if that is the word—and you’re welcome to challenge it — with the SS; with the murderers. They are inside us, no less than the victims. Until we understand that we too have a murderer inside us, we have no right to claim solidarity with anyone. First and foremost our solidarity needs to be with human nature; with humanity, if you will, but humanity in all its guises. Then and only then may we choose sides. That was the challenge of our walk; to find in ourselves not only the persecuted, but the persecutors.
Carey Harrison was born in London during The Blitz, the Luftwaffe’s bombing onslaught, and as soon as the war ended he was taken to America, where he has lived on and off, for the past 72 years. The off periods have coincided with his British education, at Harrow School and Cambridge, and a teaching post at Essex University. He has subsequently taught Comparative Literature at Cornell, at UC San Diego, at UT Austin, at the Florida Institute of Technology, and for the past 20 years at the City University of New York. He is the author of 16 novels and over 200 plays and scripts for TV, theatre, radio, and film. His work has been shown in 37 countries, and translated into 13 languages. His novels have won him a Fellowship at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, where he is currently in residence. He has addressed the Einstein Forum before, on the subject on American humor, and is Professor of Humor at CUNY’s Brooklyn College.