My Mother’s Name Was Miriam

The murder in Toulouse brings to mind images of Nazi soldiers taking lives with ease during the Holocaust.

For two days and nights now Ihave been unable to shake the image from my head: the black-clad man, identity concealed by a motorcycle helmet, gun in hand, chases 8-year old Miriam Monsone go into the courtyard of Toulouse’s Ozar Hatorah school, grabs her by the hair,puts the barrel of his .45 to her temple and fires.

It jams.

Calmly, still holding onto Miriam’s hair, he switches guns to another, a 9 mm., puts the barrel to her temple, fires so closely that her skin gets powder-burned.

The calm cold calculation of it reminds of the ease of Nazi soldiers, portrayed in films such as ‘Schindler’sList’ and ‘In Darkness’, as they took Jewish lives, including those of one million Jewish children.

My mother’s name was Miriam. She was a French-Jewish Holocaust survivor.

Before her death in 1994 she recounted to me her experiences as a yellow star-wearing 12 year old in Paris under German occupation and later on, first in the south of France following her extraordinary escape from the round-up of Parisian Jews on July 21, 1942, and then in Italy, after yet another escape from the internment camp at Borgo.

Fleeing into the forests,starved, she was taken up by Italian partisans with whom she remained until the end of the war. When she returned to Paris to seek relatives, she found her name on a transport list for Auschwitz.She had been classified as dead.

I have a photograph of her as a girl of seven or eight, wearing a little white dress and white gloves. For reasons beyond my ken it reminds me of the photo of Miriam Monsonego in her little white dress, posted in the news media. It also reminds me of my daughter, Isadora, who as a child in Israel, at the age of three, spent days holed up in a plastic-lined Tel Aviv hotel room, wearing a gas mask, as Saddam Hussein’s missiles rained on the city.

There is no end to it, this hunting of Jewish children throughout the ages and it is this single fact alone which trumps any political fact, any theory of social justice, any ideology or religious doctrine, any opinion poll, any foreign policy, any words of a popular world leader, or the entire collective voice of the United Nations, that seeks to discredit the raison d’etre for Israel’s existence as a Jewish State.

It is Miriam Monsonego’s little body lying dead on the courtyard ground that must silence for once and all the world’s cacophonous quibbling over Jewish rights versus Palestinian rights, Zionism versus globalism, capitalism versus socialism, religiosity versus secularism, or war versus peace.

Enough! One need only imagine Miriam held fast by her hair in the gunman’s fist as he placed the barrel to her temple and fired, to hear the true answer to all these specious hollow arguments.

For the sound of that gun’s report calls into question not the right of the State of Israel to exist but the right of such a world as this to exist at all, and should cause the veryfoundations of this world to tremble.

Alan Kaufman is author of the memoirs Jew Boy and Drunken Angel. He holds Israeli, French and American citizenships.