February 2, 2012 in Features

Tribute to Holocaust survivor will feature Gurian’s poem

‘Eva’s Song’ captures Lassman’s voice
By The Spokesman-Review
File photo

Eva Lassman stands next to the Spokane Community Holocaust Memorial at Temple Beth Shalom in 2005. Lassman, a Holocaust survivor, died in 2011 at 91. She spent the last decades of her life talking to schoolchildren about the Holocaust. In “Eva’s Song,” a poem about her life written by Michael Gurian, Lassman says: “I am a Jew, and Jews were born to plant flowers even in the garden of a thousand sobs.”
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

If you go

What: Sabbath of Song service featuring “Eva’s Song,” by Michael Gurian. Musical composition “Prelude to Eva’s Song,” composed by Ben Vogel.

Where: Temple Beth Shalom, 1322 E. 30th Ave.

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

More information: (509) 747-3304

Audio: Michael Gurian reads from “Eva’s Song” at www.spokesman.com/audio

Writing contest

Temple Beth Shalom’s annual creative writing/scholarship contest is now open to high school and middle school students. This year, students will be asked to write a letter to their school principals urging them to adopt a Holocaust curriculum. For contest rules, go to www.spokanetbs.org and click on “Eva Lassman Memorial Writing Contest.”

Eva Lassman, a Holocaust survivor who died last year at 91, felt survivor’s guilt when she was a young woman. Imprisoned herself, she was powerless to protect others from the horror.

In “Eva’s Song,” Michael Gurian’s lyrical oratory poem written in Lassman’s “voice,” she expresses it this way:

Unable to save the people I loved,

I learned to read the book of God’s silence.

Friends, when you cannot save your own family,

forgiveness of yourself becomes

the worst cruelty imaginable.

Friday evening at Temple Beth Shalom, Gurian will read the poem during a Sabbath of Song service. Lassman – who was liberated from a Nazi death camp at the end of World War II and moved to Spokane in 1949 – began working with Gurian in 2006 to tell her story. Lassman did the remembering. Gurian, Spokane-based author of 25 books, did the writing.

She read over rough drafts but objected strongly to only one detail, Gurian said.

“In one version, it said that all of us will be gone one day. She said, ‘You can’t mention that I’m going to die.’ She probably had had enough death.”

“Eva’s Song” – finished after her death – includes the messages she imparted in talks throughout the Inland Northwest, including:

Choose hope over despair

Later, when I was old, people asked me:

“Eva, how did you few survive the camps of terror?”

My answer: We decided the footprints of the Jews

must not disappear from this earth.

We moved rocks from one wall to another

to prove we were alive enough

to move rocks from one wall to another.

Appreciate those around you

Ah my dears, you who, today, make love so difficult:

there are six million reasons to love,

and no reason not to.

Gurian said Lassman worked through her survivor’s guilt by telling her story whenever asked.

“In her 80s, she was no longer fighting an internal battle about that powerlessness,” he said. “She was speaking and changing the world.”

There is one comment on this story. Click here to view comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email