A World After This
A Memoir of Loss and Redemption
By Lola Lieber
Devora Publishing, 2010, 278 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - May 3, 2011
The State of Israel declared the twenty-seventh of the Jewish month Nisan as Yom Hashoah V’hagevurah, "The Day commemorating the Holocaust and the Heroic Courage." This occurred on May 1 in 2011. Thus Jews throughout the world remember the murder of six million Jews during the holocaust, along with millions of others that Hitler killed. But in a somewhat positive way, they recall also the heroism of those who stood up to the Nazis, such as the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto who held out longer than some nations, and takes note of the heroic courage of those who survived the holocaust and, despite losing families - parents, husbands, wives, children, and other relatives – were determined to show Hitler that he did not succeed, for they would remarry, have new children, raise them as Jews, and live the kind of life that Hitler wanted to deny them.
This day also recalls other past persecutions and murders. But "nothing," Lola Lieber states, "compares to the magnitude of the death toll during the Shoah (the Hebrew name for the holocaust) and its resultant devastation of Jewish life. Of the six million Jews who were lost, one and a half were children. This is an important statistic when you calculate that with their deaths, many future generations died along with them." So, too, a vibrant culture died, that could not be resurrected by the Shoah’s survivors.
Lieber, born in what was then called Czechoslovakia in 1923 to a privileged family, tells us many things about this culture, her life before, during, and after the horrors and murders. She tells how she went to school with Christian children who were then, but not later, her friends. She had a German governess. She studied Heine, Schiller, Goethe, and other German writers. She listened to German music. While she and her family lived in Czechoslovakia, they considered Germany the pinnacle of culture. They learnt and spoke German. Yet her family were observant Jews. Her grandfather was a well-respected leader in the Jewish community. They prayed daily. She attended the first school dedicated to teach Jewish girls, called Bais Yaakov, and she tells us about this school, its worldview and curriculum, and its insistence that the girls know Hebrew, the language of Israel.
The problems she faced as a child were in hindsight minor. She wore her hair with beautiful curls, like Shirley Temple. But the girls in her class saw this as an indication of religious laxity. They also criticized her stockings and the length of her dresses.
But, then, in 1938, her world was turned upside down. The family was evicted from their home, a house they owned, after German soldiers came and looted it at gunpoint and after she sees a German soldier slam a baby’s head against a wall and kill it. Lieber tells how she was able to survive the next six years, how her religious beliefs sustained her. She tells about Mechel, who she met when she was 16, who was eight years her senior, who courted her persistently, who was jealous when another man wanted to marry her, who helped her through the holocaust, who she married.
Today, in her eighties, she has shown "heroic courage." She is a successful artist. Her paintings, some of which are shown in the book, are displayed in many galleries.