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.”