INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY: Writer, broadcaster and actor Stephen Fry met Holocaust survivor Anita Lasker-Wallfisch at her home in north London. As a member of the Auschwitz Women’s Orchestra, Anita played cello for the notorious Dr Mengele. Stephen and Anita had already met once before, and he was keen to explore the idea of music and evil – and whether art can survive the worst of human atrocities.
Here is Stephen’s piece of writing in response to Anita’s story – first an excerpt, and then the full essay further down the page.
“In the end we can get lost in the history and lost in the search for meaning. That is why people like Anita matter so much.
I come from my meetings with Anita having learned three lessons. First that a lack of self-pity is amongst the finest and noblest of all human attributes. Anita does not want to repeat and relive the story of how she suffered and what suffering she witnessed. That, for her, is not any kind of answer. The answer is to remember not so much what happened as how it happened. The years of propaganda that led perfectly ordinary people to perform acts of perfectly extraordinary evil. Second, she would add too I think, there are problems that arise from the pliable obedient nature of a people who do not question authority. It is more than a good thing to question authority, it is a necessary thing. How appalling an irony of history it is that the people who gave us Immanuel Kant should have turned its back on his enlightenment and dived into so dreadful a darkness.