EICHMANN’S ISRAELI PROSECUTOR relates this tale, and how it becomes personal through symbols.
A survivor of Auschwitz tells — in preparation to testify against Eichmann during his trial for crimes against humanity — of the moment in time when he and his family arrived at the camp. There were four of them: the man, his wife, their preteen son and their toddler daughter. When prisoners arrived at the camp, they were parsed, segregated, and dispatched according to criteria that suited the purposes of the Reich. There was always a need for slave labor, and so men with skills were sometimes sent to that task, rather than merely being warehoused in the camps until they were killed. So there was a kind of triage performed at the gates. Camp survivors’ stories tell of this myriad times over.
This particular man was an engineer. His wife was sent off in one direction, their daughter in tow, while the man was sent in another. The son, in temporary limbo was finally sent to run after his mother.
That was the last time he saw any of them, he said. As they receded in the distance, he could no longer pick them out from among the multitude. But their daughter — the precious little girl — was wearing a red coat. That he could see for a very long time after all else of them was lost in the distance.
The prosecutor relates how that detail hit home for him, because he had a daughter that age at the time of the trial, and had just bought her a red coat.
Someone telling a story should properly stop right there. The point of this kind of symbolism is to bury the image in the reader’s mind and let it linger there — seemingly forever — and have a continuing effect. I’m writing about this storytelling technique, so I go on to point this out. And then I stop.
Cross-posted at Musings of an Indie Writer.