In the beginning of August, 1944, after thirty days of raw terror–of frightening smoke and flames, of vicious barking dogs, of ruthless shouts of “ Raus!” (Out!) and “ Schnell!” (Quick!), followed by the heart wrenching cries of Jews, their hideouts discovered by Nazis out to get every last one of them–it was suddenly quiet . . . eerily quiet in the Kovno ghetto in Lithuania. . . . And ten people, still in their underground hideout, wondered what to do next.
Regardless of what anyone said, my mother stubbornly insisted that she alone would run out to appraise the situation, and did. (My mother knew how to be stubborn when she felt she was right!) The panorama that “greeted” her though, was one she would forever remember. Where once there was a bridge, there was the burnt remnant of one. Where once there were people’s houses, there was charred desolation. And where once there were people, there was a dreadful silence and a smell of death. To my mother, generally hopelessly optimistic, everything suddenly seemed completely hopeless . . .
But then, in the far distance, she could just about make out a soldier . . . an Allied soldier . . .
Strange, in the retelling it almost seems like some made-up movie. But, it’s the truth, and related here just as it was to me . . .
From Lithuania, my parents and brother traveled to a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany, run by the Allies. I was born there. And, with the years, I would learn of the many kindnesses of those soldiers vis-à-vis the camp’s inmates–all Holocaust survivors.
So, indeed, years and miles later, it’s not at all surprising that I would remember and want to do something for our enlisted men and women. During the Vietnam War I joined a variety troupe to entertain them at military bases. Now, at the Pace, Pleasantville campus I created the variety troupe to entertain them at the Bronx Veteran’s Hospital. It’s the least I can do. It’s the least we all can do . . . for those who have done so very much for us all . . .
Many thanks to my dedicated troupe of players and to the Pace Centennial Committee for funding this project.
By Diane Cypkin, Professor, Media & Communication Arts