Holocaust survivors endured the most atrocious of tortures. Their trauma is passed on from generation to generation, an incandescent baton standing for suffering, loss and death.
The celebrated British painter and sculptor Roman Halter (1927–2012) took this baton apart in his memoir Roman’s Journey, the experience of both his physical and mental journey as a young teenager in Poland during World War II. His memoirs have now been republished by the Netherlands-based Amsterdam Publishers. which specializes in memoirs by survivors and their (grand) children.
Roman’s Journey is his Holocaust: the loss of his loved ones by starvation or mass shootings, the constant abuse he went through, and the never-ending hatred that Jews would experience even after the apparent end of the nightmare. Despite the devastation, hope manages to shine through. Roman never loses hope to find his family again and, when he is certain he will never have it back, manages to endure the pain and create his own. But promises and responsibilities can be extremely delicate subjects for hurt individuals.
Being the son of a Holocaust survivor is something to take pride in. Even when said father, constantly burdened by his tragic past, led a secret life, abandoning everybody that belonged to it. Ardyn Halter knows it, and he tells about it in his beautiful and poignant memoir The Fire and the Bonfire: A Journey Into Memory.
He describes what it is to grow up with a father whose most lucid memories are those of the tragedy he lived through. The memories of another life, another family and three abandoned children who had to grow up without a father all fade in comparison.
Two different generations writing two memoirs from close to opposite perspectives. A father who cannot help but live in the past and a son looking for a transparent relationship with his dad.
Ardyn Halter will be speaking about his new release during Jewish Book Week on Sunday, March 5, at Kings Place in London.