Marking the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau
A German married couple crosses the Atlantic in 1960. Walter is a diplomat and his wife, Lisa is happy to be leaving Germany behind her. A female passenger on board unsettles Lisa. The woman seems familiar to her. She feels threatened by her presence and tells Walter about previously undisclosed things from her past. The passenger’s name is Marta, and she was a prisoner in Auschwitz concentration camp. Lisa was an overseer there. When Lisa sees the passenger, it catapults her back into her past and forces her to admit the truth to both her husband and herself.
In her novel ‘The Passenger‘ (1962) the Auschwitz survivor Zofia Posmysz describes a fictitious encounter between perpetrator and victim. Bit by bit Lisa tells about the events Auschwitz and about her relationship to Marta. Lisa is convinced that she always helped Marta and even enabled her to meet her beloved Tadeusz. But as the shock sinks in deeper, Lisa becomes more and more entangled in her own contradictions, until she finally tries to save herself through a direct confrontation. But she cannot stand up to Marta’s gaze.
In 2012 Zofia Posmysz received the Federal Cross of Merit. On the occasion Christoph Heubner, the Executive Vice President of the International Auschwitz Committee, said:
‘You are being honoured not only for your writing and your educational work, but also for your humane and Christian attitude towards your fellow human beings and life. However – and this applies all the more – it is also an honour for the Federal Republic of Germany, that you, dear Ms Posmycz, who suffered so much through the Germans and who witnessed the suffering of your fellow prisoners, are accepting this award – as a sign of a new beginning.
Out of the darkness of Auschwitz you piece together, with infinite patience and never fading hope, the words dictated to you by your memory and your heart. You describe the people, you describe us, so that we recognise who we are and what can happen to us too: You are a human being! You must decide! Time and again, each and every day, here and now.’