And the Sun kept Shining (Un Di Zun Hot Geshaynt)
AND THE SUN KEPT SHINING (Un di zun hot geshaynt)
Memoir by Bertha Ferderber-Salz, 1965
And the Sun Kept Shining, originally published in Yiddish in 1965 and in English translation in 1980, is Bertha Ferderber-Salz's first-person account of her horrific experiences as a Jewish woman in Nazi-occupied Poland and her survival of the death camps Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Ferderber-Salz tells of her futile attempts to escape the Nazi terror, first fleeing Kraków, then hiding in a small village. She describes the hardship of life in the Kraków ghetto and finally the dehumanizing existence in the camps, first at Plaszow, where her husband falls ill and is condemned to die, then at Auschwitz, and finally at Bergen-Belsen. In addition to the deadly diseases of the camps caused by the deliberate starvation, the insurmountable work and the inhuman treatment at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators, and the ever present danger of being sentenced to death, Ferderber-Salz must constantly fear for the lives and well-being of her two daughters whom she had left in the care of a Polish woman in Kraków. Ferderber-Salz's ordeal does not end with her liberation from Bergen-Belsen by the British troops. She must fight for the right to her children and her two nephews, who together with two older children are the only survivors of her once large family. After a devastating journey though Western Galicia in a futile attempt to find surviving members of her family, Ferderber-Salz and her children leave Poland for the United States.
Ferderber-Salz tells her story in a straightforward manner with little regard for aesthetic concerns. Like other Holocaust survivors' personal narratives, Ferderber-Salz's memoir is intended as a testimony to the victims of the Holocaust and their sufferings as well as a warning to future generations. For her, writing her story, reliving the past, and keeping the memory alive is the price she has to pay for surviving. The biblical precept "And you shall tell it to your children" provides the answer to the question "Why did I survive" asked by so many of the survivors. In order to establish narrative authority, Ferderber-Salz emphasizes the immediacy of her memories: She recorded them shortly after her liberation from Bergen-Belsen. Moreover, she diminishes her authorship in them: "But it is almost as if the pages were written by themselves … or perhaps the sighs of those who were burned and slaughtered dictated to me what I should write."
Although the narrative centers on Ferderber-Salz's own experiences, they are imbedded in the larger sufferings and faith of the Polish Jewish population. Her own desperate attempts to keep her family safe and alive and her loyalty, kindness, and selfless concern for those around her are mirrored in the actions of the other Jewish victims. They help each other to find employment so the Nazis would not think them dispensable, they take on part of the work of those who could not keep up with the ordered quota, and they sacrifice themselves for the children and others. The inmates of the concentration camps suffer starvation, torturous working conditions, and sadistic abuse and degradation by prison guards without compromising their dignity or spiritual belief. In their refusal to abandon their ethical standards, Ferderber-Salz's Jewish victims triumph over the Nazis and their conspirators who have long relinquished their humanity.
Ferderber-Salz relates the unspeakable acts of terror and brutality committed by the Nazis in a factual, nondramatic manner. With equal restrain she tells stories of repeated betrayals of Polish Jews by their compatriots who ruthlessly profit from their desperate situation. Bitterness over the world's indifference to the suffering of the Jews, however, is evident in the title of her memoir, the meaning of which she explains at the end: "Our tormented people suffered a thousand tortures, was massacred and burned. AND THE SUN KEPT SHINING."