The Human Face
Remember only that I was innocent
and, just like you, mortal on that day,
I, too, had a face marked by rage, by pity and joy,
quite simply, a human face!
From "Exodus," by Benjamin Fondane, murdered at Auschwitz in 1944
I was struck by these lines when I saw them two months ago at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum and Memorial in Jerusalem. "Innocent." "Just like you." "A human face."
What do we watch when we watch Anne Frank, and her family and fellow refugees? I think most of all we watch people aching to live – with all of their rage and pity and joy and imagination and love. They have a human face, just like we do. They are innocent, but they live under the threat of murder, because of who they are – because they are Jews.
When we arrived in Israel, at the airport a group of girls – the ages of Anne in the play – formed two lines to greet travelers, singing and waving a banner that said "Welcome home." I thought of the importance of finding home – for Jews over the centuries and now, for Anne, for refugees and immigrants throughout our world. They long for and deserve that safety. Just like us.
Through Anne's diary, through this play, we step into another world and time and culture. We see through the keen eyes of her passionate, human face much we recognize – the dreams of the young, the worries of parents, the fierceness of family bonds. We need to keep seeing through these eyes, to face, directly, the cost when one person, one group, one nation decides to squelch the rage, pity, joy, humanity of another. When Benjamin Fondane says he and the other victims of the Holocaust are "just like you" and me, he doesn't negate their particular beliefs and cultures. Rather, he calls us to empathy, to solidarity. He calls us to stand together, human face by human face.