Three months later and i am FINISHED with the second draft of my screenplay. Yippiiiii! My whole body is humming with the glee of accomplishment! (The other humming sound followed by blood-curdling screetches is the sound of my printer which insists on jamming every five page.)
As a writer and as a person it has been a journey as harrowing as it has been enriching. It's been an intensely emotional experience because --there was no other way-- I had to put myself in the skin, brains and bodies of the characters as they suffered every loss imaginable being, as they were, Jews during the holocaust.
What made it impossible to distance myself from their pain is that it is in fact the story of real people that I have personally met. Every time one of them suffered torture, lost a baby, a mother, a brother, a limb, there was no way to pretend this was 'just fiction'. I cried a lot over it, and was in a bad mood a lot too.
As I said I did not want to take this on at first. I felt it was not my business, not my thing. But it presented itself to me and it became clear soon enough that if I did not take it on, no one else would. And I could not live with the guilt, basically. I felt it was my responsibility.
What has happened in the process of this work is that I had to stare my worst fears in the face. I am the kind of person who never wanted to see Shindler's list because i was afraid it would be 'too depressing' . I am the kind of person who lies awake at night imagining all kinds of morbid things happening to my loved ones for no good reason at all. I am the kind of person who used to read mostly sci-fi because everything else felt a bit too real. Finally, I'm the kind of person who can easily be sucked into depression and i don't want to go there. ever. again.
To refuse to face my fear and my ignorance all this time was idiocy, i can see it now. It didn't make the fear go away, it just amplified it. I think now i'm wiser, stronger, not to mention a heaping lot more educated about the war years.
It is so essential to me that we don't forget the holocaust, but it also transcends the holocaust. The idea of the extermination of one segment of the population of the world at the hands of another is neither new nor original. But this one is recent, we have it well-documented, we have plenty of first-hand accounts, and there is so much to learn from it about what humanity is capable of, good and bad: resilience, love, the human spirit, and the kind of butcher man can be for man given just a little push.
People, this ain't the past. Genocide is still happening every day, on this planet. Hell-o! And we're looking away. We feel it's not our business and it's not our thing, and anyway it's happening far away, in Africa, in Eastern Europe, what do we care?
What, am I annoying you now?
I think writers, historians, artists, feel compelled to understand what is impossible to understand, and shout it in the ears of people like my old self who refuse to listen. Why the compulsion I'm not sure but it sure is strong.
This screenplay will probably never be made into a movie, but to use the (real life) words of one of the protagonists, "Tell it to the world, please tell everybody what happened to us. This was the most fervent wish of those who died."
So I feel i learned, I worked, I contributed and now I feel like I might have helped repair a minuscule part of the tear.