Have Lived A Thousand Years: Important quotes with page
1. “For you, the third generation, the Holocaust has slipped into the realm of history, or legend. Or, into the realm of sensational subjects on the silver screen. Reading my personal account I believe you will feel — you will know — that the Holocaust was neither a legend nor a Hollywood fiction but a lesson for the future. A lesson to help future generations prevent the causes of the twentieth-century catastrophe from being transmitted into the twenty-first. ” (Foreword, Page 14) Bitton-Jackson’s memoir is classified as a young adult book, and this section addresses her audience of teen readers two generations removed from the Holocaust.
They are growing up in a world of rapid technological advancement, which has become even more marked in the more than twenty years that have passed since her book? s publication. Responsibility is a theme of her book, and here she applies it to the next generation. It will be up to them to ensure the future does not repeat the horrors of the past.
2. “Why should Daddy show me the spot? Why? Why should I know about the jewels?Why? Tell me, why? Tell me! I don? t want to know the spot! I don? t want to be the one to survive! I don? t want to survive alone! Alone, I don? t want to live. Oh, God, I don? t want to live if you don? t! I don? t want to know about anything! I don? t want to know! ” (Chapter 3, Page 28) Before being deported to the ghetto, Jewish residents surrender their valuables to authorities. The Friedmanns hide their most precious and valuable items in their house? s cellar. Markus shows each family member the hiding place since they do not know who will survive.
Bitton-Jackson cannot bear the thought of surviving alone. She is just thirteen years old, still a child, but asked to take on the responsibility of an adult.
3. “I don? t know if I am proud to be a Jew. I had never thought about it. But I know I do not want to be marked as a Jew or as anything else. I am hurt and outraged at being made to wear a glaring label, a thing intended to set me apart and humiliate me. A criminal, or Jew, what? s the difference in their intent? What? s the difference in my shame? I am no longer a human being. I am singled out at will, an object.” (Chapter 4, Page 31)
Following the German occupation, one of the first changes authorities institute is mandating that all Jewish residents wear a yellow Star of David. It is intended to mark them as “other” and enable monitoring of the Jewish population. Laura tells Bitton-Jackson the star simply identifies her as Jewish and asks if she is proud to be Jewish, but Bitton-Jackson believes the intent of the star renders Laura? s question irrelevant. What matters is that the star criminalizes being Jewish.
4. “I cannot see the road ahead.I am facing the past as it slips into oblivion. The steel-spiked cart wheels churn up a cloud of dust sprinkled with tiny pebbles. My birthplace is disappearing rapidly. Will I ever see it again? ” (Chapter 5, Page 38) Hungarian soldiers transport Jewish deportees by cart. Sitting on a rear-facing bench, Bitton-Jackson watches her town disappear and with it her old life, the security and sense of home she felt in her hometown. She will return to the town after the war, but it will never again be home.
5. “Our life is taking on a bearable course.The early confusion changed into a harmonious hustle and bustle. Together we prepare meals, eat at long tables, retire for the night, and rise for morning prayers. The mood is shifting to optimistic, even confident. There is a hopeful tone to the rhythm of life. The worst is over. We have been uprooted from our homes; our property was confiscated; we have been humiliated, herded and crowded like cattle into an enclosure, stared at from behind a fence like animals in a zoo. Yet, God in His mercy made it all manageable. And bearable. We know we are not cattle or captured beasts in a zoo.we have carved a dignified lifestyle onto our confines.
We are going to make it. We are making it! ” (Chapter 6, Page 40) Here Button-Jackson describes her experience in the ghetto, where she feels “happy to be a Jew” for the first time in her life (41). Rather than crumbling in the face of adversity, the community works together in hope and optimism. She does not realize the worst is still to come, but her experience in the ghetto deepens her connection to her Jewish identity, shared in this moment and with Jews across history.
6.“The cock-feathered policemen who had trampled on our sofas and our self-esteem, the Gentile neighbors who were afraid to say good-bye, the Jancsi Novaks, the kind, gentle friends who have not attempted to send a note of sympathy, the peasant wagon drivers who dutifully accepted wages from us for delivering us to the enemy, the villagers who lines the roads and watched the carts taking us to the prison compound, and kept their silence … they are all on the other side of the fence. A tall fence separates us. A world separates us because they do not understand. ” (Chapter 6, Page 41)
This passage further expresses how her experiences in the ghetto deepen Bitton-Jackson? s Jewish identification. In Samorja, Christians and Jews appeared to live together harmoniously, but the events of 1944 reveal that assimilation to have been superficial. Persecution of Jewish citizens meets no evident resistance from their Christian neighbors. Bitton-Jackson realizes the Jewish people? s history and suffering is not and cannot be understood by those outside of it.
7. “Below my feet, the flames are dancing no more. Only a huge, flat heap of gray ashes remains, a fluttery, flat heap framed by a wide edge of scorched earth.The accumulation of hundreds of lives. Mementoes of the past and affirmations of the future. My brother? s tefillin, my diploma, and my honor scroll. My grandparents? picture that hung above the bed, and the novel I had been writing. My father? s letters and all his Talmud. All transformed into this light fluttery gray mass. ” (Chapter 9, Page 54) At the Nagymagyar ghetto, authorities order Jewish residents to surrender all their books, photos, and personal documents, telling them they will receive them back later. Instead, they burn everything in a public bonfire.
Bitton-Jackson watches all traces of their past livesdissipate into ash, another step in the systematic erasure of their individual identities.
8. “We join the crowd of people with bundles on their backs at the gate. I recognize the picture from a history book: It was entitled ? The Wandering Jews. Bearded men, bedraggled women, and weeping children, with bundles on their backs. I am part of that picture now. I? m one of the figures in a medieval scene. So is Mommy in her blue raincoat, hauling an outsized bundle on her back. And so is my brother in Daddy? s overcoat, bent like a question mark under the weight of his enormous bundle.” (Chapter 10, Page 59)
Here, Button-Jackson describes the Jewish deporteesprepared for exile. Their experience repeats the history of Jews in Europe, as France, England, and Spain had all expelled their Jewish populations at various points during the Middle Ages. It is a traumatic moment but also one that connects her to Jewish history as she shares the fate of her people.
9. “Golden Hagar! ” He exclaims and takes one of my long braids into his hand. I am not certain I heard right. Did he say ? golden hair? about my braidsBits du Juden Are you Jewish? The question startles me. ?Yes, I am Jewish. ” (Chapter 12, Page 65)
The “he” is Dr.Mengele, who is overseeing selection at Auschwitz. Bitton-Jackson says he looks at her with “friendly” eyes and is captivated by her blond hair. He ultimately sends her to the right, the side of life, and instructs her to lie about her age, which she attributes to her Aryan features, so prized by the Nazis.
10. “The shaving of hair has a startling effect. The absence of hair transforms individual women into like bodies. Indistinguishable. Age melts away. Other personal differences melt away. Facial expressions disappear. In their place, a blank, senseless stare emerges on the thousand faces of one naked, unappealing body.
In a matter of minutes even the physical aspect of our numbers seem reduced—there is less substance to our dimensions. We become a monolithic mass. Inconsequential. ” (Chapter 13, Page 70) Bitton-Jackson is describing her initiation into Auschwitz, which includes having her hair shaved. In their shapeless gray prison dresses with their bare heads, the women become indistinguishable from oneanother. Their individual identities and identifying characteristics are stripped away, which is paradoxically both traumatizing and freeing.
11. “The shaving of hair has another curious effect. A burden is lifted.The burden of individuality. The burden of associations. Of identity. The burden of the recent past. Girls who had continually wept since the separation from parents, sisters, and brothers, now keep giggling at their friends? strange appearances—shorn heads, nude bodies, faceless faces. ” (Chapter 13, Page 70) Here, Bitton-Jackson further explores how losing their individual identities frees the women from their pasts, which may help them focus singularly on the goal to survive. Authorities have taken everything from them, severing their connection to the past. It is a devastating loss but also a clarifying one.Bitton-Jackson will wrestle with this paradoxical nature as a survivor as well.
12. “An abyss separated us from the past. The rapid succession of events this morning was an evolution of aeons. Our parents and families belonged to the prehistoric past. Our clothes, our shoes, our hair—had they been real? The homes we left only recently were in distant lands, perhaps of make-believe. ” (Chapter 14, Page 73) In this passage, Bitton-Jackson shows how the horror of her present makes her previous life seem unreal, though it has only been a short time since she left that life behind.
This is part of the lesson to future generations: what seems real can be taken away more quickly than anyone can imagine until they live through it. The other caution implicit here is that time and change can make the past seem like “a Hollywood fiction,” the phrase Bitton-Jackson uses in her foreword to describe how the Holocaust may seem to her audience (14).
13. “I had known with all my heart that Mommy or I would be dead today at dawn. I had felt the pain of the entering bullet, had tasted the blood. I had seen my body corpse strewn in the dust among the others. I had experienced death.
And now I am alive. I have seen the sun rise. I am touching the earth, the grass. I am here on the mountain. It is so simple, to be alive. You move, you breathe, you touch. You feel the air about you. You can see, see far about you. The mountain, the people, the barracks. The sky. I stop being afraid. ” (Chapter 20, Page 101) After a group of inmates is accused of sabotage, authorities inform their barrack that they will be “decimated,” meaning lined up for a firing squad. One out of every ten women will be shot, but no one knows where the authorities will begin or end shooting.
Bitton-Jackson is terrified she or her mother will be one of the victims. The time set for decimation passes with no word. The kapos collect their groups for work assignments as usual. Having been so close to death, Bitton-Jackson feels the desire to live more keenly, another paradox.
14. “We saw this train station seven-and-a-half weeks ago, when we arrived. Only seven-and-a-half weeks ago. Yet, long, long ago. Before I became part of death and blood and naked horror. Before I experienced decimation, tasted death itself. It was before I saw people tortured and shot. It was before I knew that there were no limits to human cruelty.” (Chapter 21, Page 103) In fewer than two months, Bitton-Jackson? s world has changed. Her idyllic childhood transformed into unimaginable horror. She has heard interrogations and witnessed executions, shattering her innocent view of the world as a place of wonder and beauty.
15. “Suddenly, a marching column appears. Men and women and—children! They are marching in rows of five. Women with hair, wearing colorful clothes, some with hats on. Men and young boys and little children! A little girl is clutching a doll. Their faces are white, without blisters and sores. They walk fast, breathless, afraid.
But they walk like people, nervous and alert. They are not robots animated by an unseen external force. They are people, moved by a force within. ” (Chapter 24, Page 117) While kneeling in punishment for sneaking communication with her mother in the infirmary, Bitton-Jackson sees a large group of new arrivals marching along a dusty road. Most striking to her is their sense of individual agency. They are anxious but animated by their own sense of purpose. They are vibrant, as yet unscathed as Bitton-Jackson was, when she first arrived.
16. “Selection! How will Mommy pass selection?I have just smuggled her out of the Revier to avoid selection, to save her from the gas chamber. And now … Oh my God, what have I done? ” (Chapter 25, Page 121) This passage points to the unpredictability of events in the camps, which Nazis cultivate as a form of mental torture.
The absence of credible sources of information forces inmates to rely on rumors, and their decisions may either save their lives or hasten their deaths. Bitton-Jackson experiences this when she believes she saves her mother from selection only to find she has subjected her to another selection that she may not pass.The next morning, she confronts another unexpected outcome: Her mother passes selection, but Bitton-Jackson does not.
17. “A long row of cattle cars await us at the train station. I help Mommy, slowly, painfully, up into the boxcar. Then I climb up, smothering a cry of pain. A sense of triumph overwhelms the anguish. I have won. I have attained the first, and greatest, triumph of my life. ” (Chapter 27, Page 130) After she fails the selection due to a festering wound on her leg, Bitton-Jackson sneaks back to the line, this time covering her wound with her dress.
She passes and finds her mother when guards send the inmates through the showers before leaving the camp. A female guard twists Laura? s arm, and Bitton-Jackson retaliates by pushing and screaming at the guard. She beats Bitton-Jackson in response but does not prevent her from joining the transport. Bitton-Jackson has committed the Nazi version of sabotage but survives, which instills her with a feeling of victory.
18. “As we get out of the showers, a secret spark of self-esteem is nurtured deep within. It? s a divine message. A promise of redemption. A message of faith. Of hope. ” (Chapter 28, Page 134)In this section, Bitton-Jackson is at the German factory in Augsburg. As at Auschwitz, they begin with showers, but these are different from the Auschwitz showers: they have taps for hot and cold water that inmates can control. They can turn them on and off at will and are given fragrant soap and clean towels. Their guards treat them with humanity, and it kindles a spark of hope in the women.
19. “All the minute parts of the gadget are then set in motion and begin to move in harmonious complexity, sending a fine set of whirring and ticking sounds like discreet bells through the entire expanse of Montage.
It is a proud sound, a happy sound. The instrument is working perfect, and we made it. We have created something intricate, and complex, and difficult. It is also a tragic sound. The success of our work contributes to the success of the German war effort. We are toiling against ourselves. ” (Chapter 29, Page 138) Bitton-Jackson reflects on her work at the factory. She is a child doing adult work and takes pride in completing difficult tasks well, showing the German factory worker who looks down on Jews that she is capable and competent.
Yet it is a tragic pride because her competence works towards her own destruction. The instruments she constructs at the factory ensure German bombs hit enemy targets effectively, but the Germans? enemies are Bitton-Jackson? s would-be liberators.
20. “Leah Kohn? s coat is not longer a source of delight for me. It has become an agonizing burden. And so has the pretty pink dress of a nameless owner. I have become an accomplice to SS brutality and plunder by wearing these clothes. I have become a participant in Nazi crimes by benefitting from pillage and perhaps even murder. How dare I wear this coat?
How dare I wear this dress? ” (Chapter 30,Page 143) At Augsburg, Bitton-Jackson receives colorful civilian clothes—a pink dress and tweed coat. She feels like a normal girl, until she notices the name “Leah Kohn” stitched along the hem of her coat. The desire to survive has been her singular goal, but here she confronts that her comfort, her survival, come at someone else? s expense. She is both a victim and beneficiary of Nazi crimes, as she has been both a victim and beneficiary of the Aryan physical ideal.
21. “The frequency and intensity of the bombings heighten our anticipation.We feel that the Allies have the upper hand. The end of the war just has to be near. The taste of liberation is becoming ever more tangible. And with growing hope, fear of death becomes an actuality. There is palpable tension in the air. ” (Chapter 31, Page 144) The factory where Bitton-Jackson works is located in a German town hit hard by bombings. As their intensity increases, inmates sense their liberation grows near. Yet this intensifies their anxiety by reminding them how fiercely they want to survive to liberation, which remains out of reach and out of their control.
22.“We are once again prisoners locked behind bars, still hungry, thirsty, dazed. And very tired. Except those who are lying dead in the cornfield. For them the game is over. Their bid for freedom was silenced suddenly, arbitrarily. Have they lost the game? Or have we? ” (Chapter 35, Page 167) At the end of the war, Germans evacuate Dachau. Inmates spend a week without food or water traveling by train through Germany with no idea where they are going and what will happen when they get there. At one point, Bitton-Jackson hears that they are free, but then American planes attack their train.
The Germans herd the inmates back on the train, prisoners again. Chaos reigns as the train resumes moving, and Bitton-Jackson wonders if the dead are perhaps more fortunate than the survivors who lie bloody and starving, with no knowledge of when, if, or how their suffering will end.
23. “What? s America like? Are there people in America who can understand? The compulsion to fill the void? The search, the reaching out? The sense of futility? The irrevocable statement that is Auschwitz? The loss of perspective? The total, irreconcilable loss? ” (Chapter 38, Page 185)
Bitton-Jackson tells her mother she prefers to immigrate to Palestine overAmerica. She fears that while they can “make it” in America, they will always be foreigners there. She wants to be among her people, where she feels she belongs and where her pain can be understood. Laura respects her feelings, but in the end, she and Bubi choose America as the practical choice.
24. “Can anyone understand the pain of the uprooted? This was my home once, my town, my country. The pasture beyond our house was my childhood playground. The path leading to the Danube was my path.I can still hear Daddy? s firm, light footsteps next to me in the grass as we hurry for a quick swim in our river. I can hear Mommy’ s cheerful chatter, Aunt Serena? s soft singing far behind us. I can see Bubi and his friends striding ahead with fishing gear, partially swallowed up by the tall grass. I can see the poplars swaying in the distance and the deep shady forest looming far beyond. I can smell the mist of the water, mingled with the odor of wet moss. I can hear the pealing of church bells and their echoes booming in the surrounding hills.
It is all part of the fabric of my inner world—the Danube, the meadow, the Carpathian foothills, and the town. Without it I am not whole. Yet, it is no longer mine. It is not my home anymore. ” (Chapter 37, Page 185) In this passage, Bitton-Jackson reflects on the irretrievable past. When she left Samorja, she wondered if she would ever see her hometown again. She does, but it is not hers anymore. The war annihilated her community and her place within it. Samorja defines a part of her, but it is not the home she left, just as she is not the same girl who left a year earlier, “brutally expelled” from her motherland (188).
25. “My heart is brimming. I look around. The deck of the refugee boat is full now. A mass of faces, full of awe and anticipation, focused on the Statue of Liberty as the boat chugs past it. The grande dame of our dreams now rises respondent against the first rays of the sun. ” (Chapter 40, Page 194) Here Bitton-Jackson finds hope in the symbol of freedom that has greeted generations of immigrants who arrived by New York Harbor. She has lost her home, her childhood, her father, aunts, and cousins, but she is a survivor who steps into her new life with hope.