I’ve known my grandmother was a holocaust survivor for as long as I can remember.
Holocaust. What’s in a word?
“I’m telling you nobody knows any of the story –just so you know, when I was going to write my book, after a while I realized there was so little information, like accurate information, that it was gonna have to be a fiction based on historical events. They all know a little of something and a lot of nothing. It’s very frustrating.”
That’s how it started. I started asking family members what they knew. Was there more to my grandmother’s story?
My relatives warned me in these interviews that I’d never find enough facts. However, what I discovered was an even greater gift. I found precious family anecdotes that even my own mother didn’t know. I discovered that every family member had a personal piece of history and in stringing them together, I was creating the family narrative.
“It was kind of an unstated rule when you’re with Holocaust survivors that you don’t go there. and nobody comes out and says it, but it’s true for all of us that are first generation – you just grew up knowing you didn’t go there.”
I come from a legacy of holocaust survivors. Why couldn’t I go there? Did anybody know the story?
After almost losing her own life at 18, a granddaughter seeks to understand her grandmother’s own suffering at 18, as a holocaust survivor, reflecting on the hostility her grandmother was met with after surviving Auschwitz, and the lack of understanding or tolerance for traumatized individuals in society. Unable to live fully when traumatized, the granddaughter yearns to understand how her grandmother felt, even when embraced by family, and seeks to answer how she herself can live a full life after trauma.
In interviewing nearly a dozen relatives she’s never met, she encounters a generation of lost stories, unfinished histories, and invaluable memories, and discovers an even greater gift – a connection to a legacy that takes the entire family by surprise, and a treasure chest of unbelievable, heartbreaking, and even humorous tales of survival, betrayal, devotion, and resilience.
Who wins in the battle between history and memory?
How do you save a legacy from the battlefield of forgetting?
And is anything “just” a story?
I interviewed nieces, nephews, great aunts, uncles, grandparents, distant cousins, and far distant cousins from Belgium, France, Prague, Israel, and San Francisco. I went to research and history archives and uncovered photographs and old documents from my past, including the ship that my grandparents came to America on. I logged hours transcribing tape upon tape and discovered that a word can become a whole world.
I connected with a great uncle I never even knew I had and came away with a closeness I never even knew was possible:
“It’s always been a puzzlement to me, for my survival, because I was such a sick child, knowing that many of my friends did not survive after the war, or my oldest brother. Unfortunately, everyone is gone right now, except myself. My own life story is…. difficult for me to believe. From a small town in Europe, we came to the greatest country in the world, and have been blessed with many brother’s sisters, aunts, uncles, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and cousins and…. many others who are now in all fields of human endeavors, touching so many lives as they go along the way. What we learn most from your grandmas is to carry on and do the right thing, and to set a good example for other to follow. I think that is the best way to honor their legacy.”
FIBERS is inspired by the literal sewing that enabled my grandmother to survive the death camps, as well as the act of sewing the family’s unfinished stories into a seamless narrative – a tapestry that reunites relatives across space, time, and understandings.
There are no unreliable memories. Just stories aching to be told.
Monologues from FIBERS are now published with PerformerStuff.com.
- Learn more about the project here, see more pictures, hear recordings, and read more articles at https://amyoes.com/2016/04/16/hannah-stochel/
- Read a 10-page excerpt of the FIBERS script here.
- View an entire video playlist of the premiere workshop reading here.
View the pictures used in the performance:
See an excerpt:
FIBERS is transcribed from hundreds of oral history interviews Amy conducted and transcribed. View one compelling interview in it’s full, untouched form here.
My Uncle Morris Schachne sample audio recording:
Read his transcribed Oral History Interviews here
Listen to Part One of my Grandfather’s audio recording:
Amy is currently developing a complimentary piece about her grandfather’s life in Poland. Learn more at www.amyoes.com/Irving
See pictures from the premiere reading:
Why is this the last picture I have of my grandmother? Find out here.
View more pictures used in FIBERS:
- READ about the play in The Times of Israel: Is history more important than memory? Questioning meaning, Holocaust legacies, and “questions” through theatre
- READ about the play for Wisdom Daily: THE STORYTELLING SHOWCASE THAT PROFILES THE LONGING OF IMMIGRANTS