a minor parish official who serves a ceremonial function
They called him Moishe the
Beadle, as if his entire life he had never had a surname.
a state of extreme poverty or destitution
He was poor and lived in utter
the act of delivering from sin or saving from evil
He sang, or rather he chanted, and the few snatches I caught here and there spoke of divine suffering, of the Shekhinah in Exile, where, according to Kabbalah, it awaits its
redemption linked to that of man.
the condition of being honored
The Jewish community of Sighet held him in highest
esteem; his advice on public and even private matters was frequently sought.
make a mistake
After a long silence, he said, “There are a thousand and one gates allowing entry into the orchard of mystical truth. Every human being has his own gate. He must not
err and wish to enter the orchard through a gate other than his own. That would present a danger not only for the one entering but also for those who are already inside.”
a state in which all hope is lost or absent
“You don’t understand,” he said in
kill in large numbers
Annihilate an entire people?
distributed or spread over a considerable extent
Wipe out a population
dispersed throughout so many nations?
negotiation between nations
And thus my elders concerned themselves with all manner of things—strategy,
diplomacy, politics, and Zionism—but not with their own fate.
someone who rules during the absence of the monarch
regent Miklos Horthy was forced to ask a leader of the pro-Nazi Nyilas party to form a new government. Yet we still were not worried.
a legally binding command or decision
edict: Jews were prohibited from leaving their residences for three days, under penalty of death.
conspicuous in position or importance
prominent members of the community came to consult with my father, who had connections at the upper levels of the Hungarian police; they wanted to know what he thought of the situation.
offering little or no hope
My father’s view was that it was not all
bleak, or perhaps he just did not want to discourage the others, to throw salt on their wounds: “The yellow star? So what? It’s not lethal...”
very difficult to accept or bear
We were stunned, yet we wanted to fully absorb the
My father was running right and left, exhausted, consoling friends, checking with the Jewish Council just in case the order had been
spread by scattering
Valuable objects, precious rugs, silver candlesticks, Bibles and other ritual objects were
strewn over the dusty grounds—pitiful relics that seemed never to have had a home.
characterized by fantastic and incongruous imagery
His very presence in the procession was enough to make the scene seem
have and exercise
wielding clubs were shouting: “All Jews outside!”
speed up the progress of; facilitate
I looked at my house in which I had spent years seeking my God, fasting to
hasten the coming of the Messiah, imagining what my life would be like later.
a state of individual psychological well-being
morale was not so bad: we were beginning to get used to the situation.
expel from a country
Tragically for those who had already been
deported, it would be too late.
a very intense and uncontrolled fire
No one was praying for the night to pass quickly. The stars were but sparks of the immense
conflagration that was consuming us. Were this
conflagration to be extinguished one day, nothing would be left in the sky but extinct stars and unseeing eyes.
the act of forcing out someone or something
Saturday, the day of rest, was the day chosen for our
causing fear or dread or terror
The twenty-four hours we spent there were
incapable of being retracted
The doors were nailed, the way back irrevocably cut off.
having or showing or expressing reverence for a deity
Her husband was a
pious man who spent most of his days and nights in the house of study.
a bottomless gulf or pit
Some pressed against the bars to see. There was nothing. Only the darkness of night. It took us a long time to recover from this harsh awakening. We were still trembling, and with every screech of the wheels, we felt the
abyss opening beneath us.
deprive of oxygen and prevent from breathing
The heat, the thirst, the stench, the lack of air, were
abusive language used to express blame or censure
Another inmate appeared, unleashing a stream of
invectives: “Sons of bitches, why have you come here? Tell me, why?”
put up with something or somebody unpleasant
Still, I told him that I could not believe that human beings were being burned in our times; the world would never
tolerate such crimes.
characteristic of or resembling Hell
We were coming closer and closer to the pit, from which an
infernal heat was rising.
given a completely different form or appearance
Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw
transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
a clear state of mind
In one terrifying moment of
lucidity, I thought of us as damned souls wandering through the void, souls condemned to wander through space until the end of time, seeking redemption, seeking oblivion, without any hope of finding either.
harangued us from the center of the barrack: “You are in a concentration camp.
learn or discover with confidence
As if he wished to
ascertain that the person addressing him was actually a creature of flesh and bone, a human being with a body and a belly.
a feeling of deep regret, usually for some misdeed
Remorse began to gnaw at me.
required by rule
These were the showers, a
marked by concern with the alleviation of suffering
At the start of the third week, our Blockalteste was removed; he was judged too
not counterfeit or copied
The new one was ferocious and his aides were
refuse to accept or believe
I was not
denying His existence, but I doubted His absolute justice.