Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Calculus of Death

Livia Bitton-Jackson was saved at least twice from the Nazi death machine by her blue eyes and blonde hair.  On the train ramp at Auschwitz, Mengele, may his name be blotted, noticed her long blond braids and blue eyes.  He asked her if she was Jewish.  She said yes.  He asked how old she was, and she answered 14.  He told her she is now 16 (the cut of age for work rather than immediate death), and allows her and her mother to move to the right.

Another time, women are sorted at a munitions plant.  The manager examines their hair and eye color.  Women with blond hair and blue eyes, like Bitton-Jackson, are given an easier assignment that are more intellectual challenging.  Darker woman are given more difficult jobs.

And so it goes in the Nazi Empire:  absurd rubrics and nonsense become the stuff of life and death.  Like many Holocaust memoirs, Bitton-Jackon’s Elli makes us wonder how any person could survive such ordeals.  Well ,many, most, did not.  And that was the point.  The Holocaust's awful calculus was that it was far more likely to die than to live.

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