GUEST POST // The Holocaust Box by Paol Soren

I have a box on my desk. Here is where my father lived.

One year ago today I received a large box with all Papa’s papers in it. It came from Douglass and Cohn, Solicitors of Bank Place, Melbourne. In it were all the records of my family’s dealings with the law as long as I can remember. They keep all documentation for twenty years and then destroy it unless any of the family wants it and I am the only family.

I have two fathers. I know that now but I only found out one year ago. One year ago I only knew Papa. Mama died when I was twelve and I loved her dearly. She was always such a happy person. I really could do with her now but that is asking too much – I am eighty years old and I will join them all soon.

Papa died in 1993. He was as old as I am now and he never told me who I was.

Here is where my other father lived – in a box.

My first real memory was of the ocean. I cannot remember my childish feelings but I do know the ocean was cold and then very hot and then quite cold again and we were on a boat with thousands of other people, old and young but mostly sad. I remember coming to Melbourne although I didn’t know what a Melbourne was, then. But it was a house and it was quiet and peaceful and I think I know that because I felt that it was different.

At home we spoke German. At school I spoke English and as the years went by I spoke German less and English more. But on Sunday we all spoke only German for Papa was the pastor at the German Lutheran Church in our suburb.

I was proud of my father. He spoke well. His sermons were clear. The congregation were very supportive. But as I grew and went to school I learned that being German was not as good in this world as I had thought. I learned about Hitler and the things that had happened in Europe. I put my age and the dates together and knew that we had been involved.

I knew without asking that something momentous had happened in our small family but I was busy with my school and although they said little I asked even less.

At school I learned that Australian soldiers had died in the war against Germany. I knew that some Australians hated Germans with a clear and open hatred. And I was included in that. And I wondered what I had done.

But as the years went by, and as I grew and my friends grew we forgot the early hatreds of the war and established our lives and established our families and I married and went to work.

At the church where my father had been pastor we stopped using German and all services were in English. Many parishioners were ordinary Australians and the German character changed and we became an ordinary old “Aussie” church. I became a member of the church council and some people suggested that my commitment was such that I should study to become a pastor as my Papa had been but work was also an attraction and I never did commit myself. I knew, always, that I was a true and faithful Christian.

This is not about my life and my marriage and my children and all that that entails. I could talk forever if I was writing a history of my life but I am not. Because everything that my life, my marriage, my children were to me, changed that day, one year ago, when I opened the box.

I am Jewish. I am not my father’s son. My mother, whom I loved dearly, lied to me all those years. In the box I learned the truth. I learned that I am Jewish. I am a ‘Yid’. I am supposed to have curly hair and a big nose. Oh, and I am supposed to be in the financial world. And I am not. I knew nothing of being Jewish, only those stereotypes.

And in the box I learned that Papa, and Mama, whom I loved dearly, were no longer my parents. And I slammed the lid of the box shut and cried and cried as only an old man can cry. I had few tears left inside my head but I sobbed and sobbed.

And I opened the lid of the box again and read. And again I slammed the lid of the box shut and cried and cried as only an old man can cry.

And then I stopped. I stopped sobbing for I am an old man and sobbing is for old women.

And I will tell you the box.

The box spoke of Hitler and the Brown shirts and Kristallnacht which I didn’t need to learn because I had learned it at school. At school it had just been one more factor in our year twelve Modern History Course – just another subject to pass to get into University. Make sure you impress the examiners if you want a good score. Do you want to study Law? Modern History is a fairly easy way to get a good score. Crystal Night. They burnt books. Or was that another night. I don’t remember. It was the Jews.

I am a Jew! I slammed the box shut. I will leave it for a while. Maybe it will be a dream.

But the dream did not let me alone.

I opened the box. I will tell you the box’s story.

The box told of the Jews disappearing. They got on a train and were never seen anymore. Papa was a young Pastor then. But he had a very old friend from when he was a boy in school in the village. Yakob Aronheim and Papa had played together as friends. And now Yacob was a Rabbi. And Papa and Yacob were still friends. The Nazis knew that Papa was sympathetic toward the Jews. Many Christians were not. Papa was so concerned that he was soon to be targeted by the Nazis. He decided to go quietly to Belgium. He spoke with Yakob and Yakob’s wife and suggested that they should also leave. But Yacob could not get the right papers. I know this sounds very terse but it is as the box told it.

What way can I help you?

Miriam and I have talked. Would you take Yacob, our son, and have him as your son?

Of course.

And do not tell him we left him.

Of course not.

And don’t let him be Jewish or he will die as we will.

Of course. But No! Not of course. He must know who he is.

Then when he is old enough to understand.

But I do not understand and I am old. And I slammed the lid.

I opened the lid. The box will tell. But the box told no more.

And I am a Jew. And I have two fathers and two mothers and I knew only one father and for a short time a mother. And I am a Jew and I have nothing to say – nothing to think – nothing to know.

And I started to run – to run to books – to run to friends – to run to my father. But my father was dead. Who is my father? Papa, are you my father or is Yakob my father?

And as I cried this time I cried, ‘My father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy …… ‘ And I slammed the lid shut.

I am a Jew. I am a Christian. My God, My God, who am I. Why hast thou forsaken me? Who am I now?

And I ran to the box but the lid was shut. There was no more in the box. I knew I was alone. No father, no parent, no God.

And I stopped crying like an old lady.

There is a suburb in Melbourne that I drove through every day to work. Carlisle Street, Balaklava. Strange men walking with large black hats on their head. Young men with yarmulkes keeping their heads covered whether they know why or not. So I stopped and walked down Carlisle Street. I won’t say I felt at home. But I was quite at ease. A young man in a beard and a black suit with his white shirt hanging out and tassels stopped me.

“Are you Jewish?” he asked.

“No,” I answered. “Do I look Jewish?”

“Well, yes you do.”

“Well I am not. What do you want?”

“We are praying for peace in Israel,” he said, winding some black string around his arm. I ignored that.

“No,” I said, a little more gently than before, “But I think I am on your side.” And I walked away feeling quite pleased with my self although I had no idea why.

I looked up Jewish Museum in the phone book. I lived quite close and it was Friday and I drove and parked and walked and it was closed. It is always closed on Fridays and Saturdays when all the other museums in Australia are opened.

And the days passed. And the weeks. And I went to libraries and read and read and read and then I started to cry again.

When I was in school we learned of things that the box had said. The box spoke of Hitler and the Brown shirts and Kristallnacht. But I already told you that. At school it had just been one more factor in our year twelve Modern History Course. And I told you that as well. I don’t remember Year Twelve Modern History. I learned more now. I learned of Crystal Night and Dachau and burning and gas. But now it was personal. I went back to the box.

And in the bottom was a small dark letter and my father Yacob was dead in Auschwitz. My father and mother had made it to Belgium but that was not enough. My mother was Miriam.

And I am a Jew. The box could tell me no more. It told me where to start but I had to find my own way.

The next Sunday I went to church – as I have done for all my life. And I know that when I got up, halfway through the sermon they all looked at me. Is Jacob all right? Why is he leaving? Why doesn’t someone go after him? He doesn’t look well.

I will tell you this. Jacob is not well. I am Yacob, and I am not well.

My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me? No I am not well.

I walked that day right in to town. I left my car. I did not notice the tram. I walked all the way to the Cathedral. If God is here, here will he be.

I knelt to pray. But I could not pray. “Father forgive me for I have sinned.”

My God! My God! Why did you forsake me? Why did you forsake my father and my mother? How many did you forsake?

I was Jacob wrestling with the angel. I was Job in all his torment. And God replied but I could not listen.

For I am a Jew and I haven’t learned to forgive God.

And I closed the lid, and I took the box.

And I burned my own private holocaust.

I am glad I will die soon.

 

by PAOL SOREN
© All rights reserved 2015

GUEST POST // Interlude by Gordon Flanders

I didn’t smoke weed, and I didn’t drink, but under the fluorescent lights of Canal Street Station I feel like a thing that slithers. Somehow my fingernails got dirty. I was walking with the girl who I was formerly obsessed with, and I was telling her what I thought was a very interesting story. What I know was an interesting story, in fact, from her gasps every time we hit a pivotal point. And then, in the middle, we ran into some old friends of hers she hadn’t seen in a while. She’s from here and she’s popular, so this happens a lot. There were eight of them. Normally I would just smile and shake everyone’s hand and all that, but I just couldn’t give a fuck about these people and how they knew each other and anything like that, so I stood off to the side and waited for her to ask for her bag so she could go with them. I enjoyed the breeze and I checked my phone. Finally she called me over and her friends were like wtf why are you just standing over there! Meanwhile she had just asked minutes ago why I never do what I want. So that was the thing I wanted, to not talk to these people. I was really fine with her leaving with them, very convenient escape for me, but I did not want to meet them all for no reason. But I did anyway because what kind of asshole would I have to be to hand her her bag and say goodbye and nothing else. So I shook hands with every single one of them. There were people she didn’t even know and I shook hands with them, too. One guy said now repeat our names back to us. I said, I value you guys as people but I don’t have a memory like that. Everyone thought that was funny. You had to be there. So now I look awesome. From weirdo to awesome in sixty seconds. After five excruciating minutes where everyone tried to pretend that we could have an inclusive conversation, they ask what’s up next. I hand my friend her bag and say goodbye, shaking hands with enthusiasm and warmth and real kindness in my eyes. Eight people I will never see again, now they all have a piece of my soul. The train just won’t seem to arrive.

by GORDON FLANDERS
© All rights reserved 2017

COMFY CONFABS // Elly Kellner

Hullo, Dear Reader. Welcome to what shall hopefully become an ongoing feature where I pester fellow creatives to chat about themselves and their process of birthing art.

As many of you would already know, art can and does take many forms. Sure, it can be a standard landscape on a gallery wall, but it can also pop up as a stirring folk song or taboo busting webcomic. Art doesn’t need permission to appear however it wants. As long as people from different walks of life are making it then it’s going to bust preconceptions wherever it goes.

There’s someone who was born in Antwerp that I’d like you to meet. She’s half Flemish, half Dutch, and she lives in the Netherlands. I’m not sure if she paints scenes of the countryside but she definitely sings songs and draws comics, ergo she’s an artist. So, hey, let’s break out the billiard chalk and buff our eyes for the click clack of words that follow…

TONY: Welcome, Elly Kellner. I’ve spent the morning listening to your rather pleasant vocal stylings at Creatieve Vlo. You see, I hadn’t even realised that you’re an accomplished singer ’til I tore my eyes away from your comics to find a clearly visible Music tab at the top of your site. As soon as I clicked on that… Well, all I can say is my hearing aid did a little flip of approval! How long have you been singing for?

ELLY: Well I’m glad you liked what you hear! Gosh, I’ve sang ever since I can remember! And when I was 9 years old I started picking up the guitar and after a while songs magically started to appear in my head.

TONY: Wow! What kinds of things were you singing about at that age? Do you remember?

ELLY: I read a lot of books from the library then and would sometimes be inspired by things I read, for instance a story about a girl that got run over by a car and died. I first performed my own song ‘Rain’ in music class at age twelve. It described the sun smiling at a dark rover (a dark cloud with a gun) as he took over the night shift and looked down on us with a grumpy frown. And how his rain made my clothes all wet and how I wished to be home beside the warm fire.

TONY: It’s clear that you had quite an active imagination from a very young age. And empathy too. Where do you think that empathy came from? Was yours an idyllic childhood?

ELLY: Oh dear, idyllic? No, my upbringing was like a fairy tale to me, filled with monsters, witches and much darkness. I was just trying to find out if I was the only one going through what I experienced. I left home at age 15 and lived ‘ever after’ and I still put a lot of energy and focus into the ‘happily’ part every day.

TONY: Yes, people do tend to forget that fairy tales were a lot darker back in the day. I’m glad you were able to find a way out of yours into a much happier story. So, what things make you happy these days?

ELLY: The first that comes to mind is drawing! It was my first creative love as a child but as soon as the music appeared my focus shifted and drawing took the backseat. But now, after some 30 years of focusing on making music my inspiration has decided to not come out in songs anymore. I spent a year without inspiration and then it suddenly came to me in images! It’s a bit scary seeing my dear friend ‘Music’ wander off… but I’m happy my long lost friend ‘Drawing’ came back to me as a replacement. In July 2016 I started creating my own comic and it’s been a fun journey so far!

I’m also quite proud of the give away shop that a friend and I set up a year and a half ago. The shop is open to the public to come shopping for free or to drop off things they don’t use anymore and that someone else may be happy with. It’s a great joy and shows the light side of life; everything in the shop we received from kind people including the shop interior and even the space where our shop is we may use for free. I find that’s pretty amazing! I’ve recently left the shop to focus more on my drawing and it is now run by my friend and six volunteers but the whole thing just proves to me that if you set out to do good and ask for help people are very willing to support you.

TONY: How on earth did you come up with the idea of a give away shop? That’s a quiet kind of genius that could change the world!

ELLY: Here in the Netherlands we have about 40 give away shops so for most of us it’s a normal thing. Of course there are special places all around the world for the needy and poor (I assume?) but a give away shop is for everyone! Even someone who has enough money may enjoy up-cycling and durability. They may enjoy rummaging through old clothes and finding that one gem!

TONY: I don’t think we have an equivalent to be honest. The closest perhaps are the charity shops here that sell second hand essentials at severely reduced prices. I prefer the Netherlands’s approach though. It feels more generous! Do you give away books as well? And what books do you personally love to read? Do you have a favourite author?

ELLY: Yes people can pick books as well as DVDs and some choose to return them once they´re done with them. Hmm, Haruki Murakami´s Kafka on the Shore remains a favorite as is Alice in Wonderland. I don´t read much though, I don´t have the peace in me to quietly sit and read.

TONY: Which explains why you have your fingers in so many creative pies in a way. So, could you tell me a little about your webcomic, and how and why you started it?

ELLY: I guess I’ve always needed a creative outlet to let off steam about my day to day experiences and emotions. I used to put it all in my songs but since that musical inspiration went on a holiday I just had to find something else. I slowly started getting images in my head and tried to draw me! It took a while before I found the right way to draw me.

We have to take into consideration that I’ve never much read any comics before, I had no interest in it whatsoever, except as a child I read the Donald Duck and old Flintstones comics. And I don’t research stuff, I just do it my way. It was the same with music making and writing songs, I just gave it a go and didn’t research what others were doing or how it was meant to be done. And I quite like that tactic in life.

With drawing it works the same… I do follow artists on Instagram, and I just discovered Chuckdrawsthings who draws pigeons that make me laugh or gets me teary eyed sometimes. It can be very inspiring but I don’t want it to influence me too much. The main thing I draw about is me. Anything I draw in these Creatieve Vlo web comics is about my experiences and my feelings. With dating and trying out a polyamorous lifestyle there was enough stuff happening to draw about so I started off with that. Positive body image, me being silly, my relationship with food, mental issues and life with its darker and lighter moments also come into view. And then I have many more ideas to work on…

TONY: Has drawing your strip been as satisfying as you’d hoped it would be? What are some elements of it that you wish to develop going forward?

ELLY: As I’m getting more practice and seeing there’s development in the drawings it gets more and more satisfying. But also, I have so many ideas to draw and it’s just so much fun to get it out on paper and see it actually work! I’d like to keep trying to be open and honest in my work, so try to go into the core, to areas that many would possibly recognize but not many would openly talk about. That way I can be of some help I hope! I think hurt starts the moment one thinks he or she is alone in it. And it can be very comforting to realize there’s many more people feeling the same as you do. I have more ideas that go more towards the ridiculous, talking poop or talking penises for instance. They seem to lead a life of their own so I’ve started drawing them too. I bet they’re very pleased with me.

TONY: I’ll bet they are too! In fact, you mention penises, and there’s something I’ve noticed with that. I get the distinct impression that you are completely enamoured of them! Is this the case? I ask because you seem to draw them on a regular basis.

ELLY: Yes, to me a penis definitely has a certain charm (as an entity of its own) and I also find them aesthetically pleasing, just like ladybugs, boobs, trees and birds. The penis is just another beautiful thing in this world that I enjoy drawing. Now this isn’t a shout out for males, ladybugs or trees to come tug at my sleeve so they can model in the nude for me. No thank you, don’t call us, we’ll call you…

TONY: Yes, this isn’t a cattle call, Dear Readers. Elly’s doing just fine, thanks very much. Well, I guess all that remains is for me to thank you for taking part in this interview. Is there a question that you wish I’d asked?

ELLY: Hmm, did you ask about where the name Creatieve Vlo came from?

TONY: Oh my god. Yes! Of course! That!

ELLY: Creatieve Vlo is Dutch for creative flea! Sometimes when I get a creative idea it’s like it’s an itch that needs to be scratched or dealt with asap. Once I was telling a friend that I was in a good flow with so many creative plans while I was thoughtlessly scratching my head. He smiled and commented that I might have the creative flea. So I really owe the name to this friend.

 

Interview by TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2017

THE CRUMBCAST // Lovers of a Lesser God

I hate being preachy, but I feel I might have crossed that line with the latest Crumbcast. I guess this stems from the fact that I’m finally ready to reveal what I really think when it comes to relationship and religion (with a dash of sexy sex thrown in for good measure). Of course, it’s not as if the world is breathlessly awaiting my opinions! I’m certainly under no illusions about that. Really, I’m only doing this because I want to. If someone’s willing to listen… then great!

Also, it’s only fair that I warn my religious friends and readers that some of the views expressed in this episode may be offensive to them. While I don’t feel it necessary to apologise for said views, I do want to acknowledge the distress that they may cause. So, please do be aware that I don’t take this lightly, and that I hope we can at least agree to disagree. It would be grand if we could still be chums anyway. Yeah, let’s give peace a chance, man!

Oh, and please do feel free to read Matching Jeremy Tang for some much needed context regarding this installment of the podcast (which can be found below). Crumble Cult is my baby, so I enjoy having people fuss over it! Hint. Nudge. Insert winking smiley here…

 

by TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2017