By Ronald J. Berger
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Extra resources for Constructing a collective memory of the Holocaust: a life history of two brothers' survival
14 During the war this characteristic limited Jews' ability to pass as Christian Poles. This observation should not, however, be misconstrued as suggesting that Jews with strong religious commitments did not survive the war. 15 However, Michael and Shlomo's religious views can best be described as agnostic, although the Berger family did keep an orthodox Jewish home and the boys retained a respect for Jewish traditions. " As boys their parents expected them to follow the Jewish tradition of keeping their heads covered, but they often removed their caps when outside of the home.
I have no desire to ever go back to visit Poland. I dislike the Poles. It's unfortunate that I think that way, but I have to be truthful. In Poland at that time there were many Nazi sympathizers. I am convinced that without the Polish people's cooperation, Germany could not have accomplished what it did. " This attitude stems in part from the fact that Shlomo's subsequent survival outside of the camps exposed him even more than Michael to the actions of anti-Semitic Poles. As Sophie Caplan observes, it was (and is) easier for some Polish Jews to accept the fact that "the German Nazis were their absolute enemies and that only evil could be expected from them.
Afterward he recorded a narrative of his own that expanded on Michael's account of experiences they held in common and that described the particulars of his situation. In the next stage I tape-recorded (separate) open-ended interviews with the brothers and prompted them to further develop their narratives and fill in gaps in their reconstruction of the events. I made every effort not to take the initiative away from them. Michael and Shlomo's recall ability was rather impressive in spite of the time that had elapsed.