Monday, February 2, 2009

Memories in a Minox

Renee Lichtman, a friend and former co-worker of my mother, gave this German-made Minox to me as a gift. The miniature camera came in a beautiful hand-sewn leather case. Renee knew that I had a camera collection and thought I would enjoy it. The camera was a silky-smooth mechanical jewel.

Later, upon further inspection, I found that the camera contained an unprocessed roll of color film. The film couldn't be processed in E-6 chemistry, so I did some sleuthing and found a specialty lab, Rocky Mountain Lab Laboratory in Colorado that could process and print the film for me. The camera served as a light-tight miniature time capsule and preserved the film for well-over twenty years.

My thought was to present the photos as a return gift to Renee for his generosity. The intention was genuine, but was perhaps flawed by my naiveté. Behind my twenty-something rose-colored glasses, memories were golden and cherished. Hence my confusion at Renee's response. He opened the envelope and slowly sifted through the photos, one-by-one. Renee said they were photos from the late 60s or early 70s and politely thanked me. I wanted to ask for more details, but left it at that.

Now I sit here years after the event as I'm adding a description to a set on Flickr, and my eyes are finally opened, if only a bit. The unprocessed question that lay dormant in the dark corners of my mind has finally been answered by time and the illuminating power of the Web. I finally saw the light. My thoughts and understanding were now clear and salient, like Saul when the scales fell off of his eyes.

And I am disturbed.

Not at Renee's blank reaction, but rather to my tactless deed. I type in Renee Lichtman, to check the correct spelling of his last name, and the Web feeds me understanding. Renee is a child survivor of the holocaust, much in the same way as Anne Frank. I cannot even attempt to understand the complex web of emotions that arise with Renee and memory of his family.

I scold myself for not knowing, but how could I have known? Should some memories be left hidden in dark places and kept as shadows of the past?

I am comforted knowing that Renee has chosen to share of his past on the Web for others to see how evil affects everyone. An interview with Renee, and other hidden children, is available through the University of Michigan Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive.
Other information can be found here.

Dr. Renee Lichtman co-chairs the Hidden Children and Child Survivors of Michigan and is President of the Holocaust Education Coalition. He is a founding member and vice-president of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust.

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