Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Leon Salomon - June 18, 1990

Religious Attitudes After the War

What about your attitudes toward your religion at this point?

Yeah, that's a very good question. The war was over, religion didn't come into question. To me, it was taboo, it was taboo for a very, very long time. Very long time, although I come from a very religious family and so on, anybody you mention my town may not know perhaps exactly my name, but if you tell them that the grandchild of this dayan, everybody knew. My family was kind of prominent. After you see things like this, I just don't know how in the world you can think of religion exists. Religion was out, it took a long, long time, very, very long time. I would say till about ten years ago, except for the high holidays, I use to go into shul, synagogue just for, because I am Jewish. The funny part of it is, when I was in the army, I was fasting on Yom Kipper. I don't know why I was doing that, although religion was not into question.

When you look back on all of this, let me continue this, you said until ten years ago, what changed your mind?

I don't know, I started going, religion in these United States is intervened not just with religion itself, it's of being a Jew, it's part of belonging, it's part of belonging mainly. I am, I call myself conservative, I'm not what you call an observant Jew that I drive on Saturdays, I do things that according to Halakhah, I'm not supposed to do those things. It's a good question and I'll reframe it differently. I was in Israel in 1968 and in 1968 on the high holidays, you know where I went. On the high holidays I went to the beach. And the beach was packed. And I had a conversation with some Israelis down there, Jews, all Jews. I says, "I just can't believe it, on the high holiday that that's where you guys are hanging out, on the beaches." He says, "Well, in America you have to have an identity, and the only identity you have if you belong to a shul, you have some identity. Otherwise, you intermingle. Here, I'm not going to mingle. I am Jewish regardless what I'm doing for the high holidays. I'm going to marry a Jew, I'm going to stay Jewish and that's that." So, I feel in order to keep my identity and the identity maybe of my kids, I thought it would not be a bad thing for me to belong to a synagogue. Not as much of deeply of religious feeling.

The issue with God is still problematic?

Yes. It has not escaped, no. There is no justification what has been done, it can't be justified. It just cannot be justified. And there is no answers to it. And if you confront this, a real Orthodox Jew, he's tried to shy away from that answer, he does not want to talk about it. I'll say it even better yet. In Auschwitz, I had an uncle, I'm sorry, I had a grandfather who was the dayan from the city, which is the judge of the city, and then when he died, my uncle was, he was actually elected by the city. Now, I happen to come in contact in Fort Lauderdale with a guy who worked with this particular guy, his name is ??? I'm talking about my uncle. He is an uncle through my aunt. My aunt is my immediate family and they got married, of course, he is my uncle. He worked in the Sonderkommado. And this guy used to ask him all the time, why is those things done, and the only answer he could give him he says, "Please," he says, "let me, I cannot give you an answer," he says, he says, "like let me live." "Leave me alone," or something of that sort. I overheard that this particular guy, that's what he told me. He saw it with his own eyes. He was every day, he had a diary, he was burying this diary in bottles, for every day was going on. Now when the uprising was in one of the crematories, you heard about that, that's when he perished. His name is ???

October '44?

1944, yes.

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