REVIEW by Willard Manus
THE BLIND MEN DREAMING? is really three books in one. The first contains
a diary written by Lili Jaffe (nee Stern) during and after WW II. Lili
grew up in a Serbian town and began keeping a diary in 1944 (at the age
of sixteen) when the Nazis rounded up the Jewish colony and shipped it
to Auschwitz, where she and her three cousins were assigned to kitchen
duty. Later, after learning that her mother had been murdered in Auschwitz,
Lili was transferred to Belsen, where the Nazis, who were now terrified
of the advancing Russian army, emptied the camp and sent the starving
inmates to a town in Germany, where they worked briefly in a war factory,
only to be transferred to another camp near Hamburg.
After Germany capitulated, Lili found herself in the care of the Danish
Red Cross, who put her on a train to Sweden, where she and her cousins
were treated like brave soldiers who came back from the front, victorious.
Sent to yet another camp where she could recuperate, Lili slowly felt
herself becoming a woman-to such an extent that she could fall in
love with a fellow-Serbian, a non-Jewish Holocaust survivor.
The second part of BLIND MEN was written by Lilis daughter, Noemi
Jaffe, who grew up in Brazil (Lilis last home) and decided, in 2009,
after reading Lilis diary, to visit Auschwitz and relive some of
her mothers experiences. Her reflections on the meaning of the Holocaust--and
the history that caused it-- are complex, deeply felt, and profoundly
Book Three is a short one written by Noemis daughter, Leda Cartum,
who accompanied her mother to Auschwitz and has her own, quite different
thoughts about the visit.
The linked writings of these three women are, as the books publisher
has said, a testimony to the power of literature as a means to bear