Friday, August 8, 2014

Letter from a Reader

The Artist and His Mother. Arshile Gorky. Source: Wikipedia 
Dear Terese and Danusha,

Today I came upon the website www.holocaustforgotten.com while I was searching for information on some history I was going to write for my family. I want to take a moment to thank you very much for your website and for both of your efforts in educating people about the "Others". When sharing family history with people I do know I too have heard, "I didn't know you were Jewish." The next time I hear this I will respectfully refer them to your site.

My grandfather is a survivor of both The Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust. My Grandfather, Grandmother, Father, and his Aunt together survived The Holocaust and immigrated to United States. After their DP camp in Linz Austria was liberated, my grandfather collected a couple hundred Armenians. He helped them to leave and go to Argentina, Chile, and the United States. At that time the United States did not consider Armenians appropriate to come to the country. My grandfather's persistence with the assistance of many helpful people, including but not limited to, American soldiers, Armenian American citizens and Aid Workers got the United States to accept Armenians as refugees. This is why I have the privilege of being an American citizen.

My grandfather escaped the Armenian genocide as a young boy with his parents and ended up in Greece. They were never citizens of Greece, but had a decent life there until World War II. My grandfather, grandmother, her sister and my father all left Greece on a train to Germany and ended up in a camp which had a gas chamber. They then experienced the inside of the gas chamber.

When my grandfather spoke of it he noted that men, women and children were pressed together for hours; naked, hot, embarrassed and afraid. My grandfather had heard rumors of the gas, when they took their clothes off this time for a shower he knew it was different. The clothes were thrown into a pile as opposed to being folded and the men women and children were together. My grandfather commented on how bad he felt for the women being exposed like that. My grandfather would say to us that when the water finally came..."Those lousy bastards, the water was cold". When I tell people this, they look at me strangely and after a minute they usually get it. Then there are those that will never get it. Those who say geez the gas didn't come, why did your grandfather just talk about how the water was cold. They don't really understand survival and how without humor is difficult to move on.

My grandfather, Kevork Berberian, survived two genocides. The 1st, The Armenian massacre as a boy, He and his family were targeted because he was Armenian and Christian. Family members were slaughtered, they lost everything they owned along with their homeland, became refugees, and barely escaped with their lives. The 2nd, The Holocaust he was a young man with his own family. He was not targeted because he was Jewish since he wasn't, family members were lost ,they fled their home and left their belongings behind, became refugees and barely escaped with their lives. I know when my grandfather reflected on both experiences and their effect on his and his family's lives, it did not matter whether he was targeted because he was an Armenian or was one of "The Others". Both experiences were unfathomable.

We all have our own perspectives and experience, though I doubt many have survived two holocausts as my grandfather did. Those without experience can never truly understand, but they can learn and empathize and take measures so there is not a repeat. As you both well know and have cited; Hitler said "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

To this day the Turks have not taken responsibility for their actions and around the world genocide still occurs. When the truth is skewed for whatever purpose, well-meaning or not, bad things continue to happen.

I still remember coming home from school one day and telling my dad he was wrong about 11- 12,000,000 people dying in the Holocaust as I just learned in school it was 6 million Jewish people had died. Imagine his surprise.

Lisa Berberian-Fernandez

2 comments:

  1. This blogspot shows, once again, that the genocide of Jews (commonly called the Holocaust or Shoah), is given center stage in the American educational system. As usual, the genocides of other peoples are ignored or slighted.

    It is not a question of "getting the word out" about others' genocides. It is a matter of politics: It is a question of changing the policies of the American educational system.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, Lisa. It was a very interesting story.

    ReplyDelete

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