Young Moshe's Diary: The Spiritual Torment of a Jewish Boy in Nazi Europe (Hana'ar Moshe: Yoman Shel Moshe Flinker)

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Diary by Moshe Flinker, 1958

When Moshe Flinker's sisters returned to Brussels after the end of the World War II, they discovered their murdered brother's diary in the basement of their old apartment building. Written in Hebrew, the diary was first published under the title Hana'ar Moshe: Yoman shel Moshe Flinker in 1958; it was translated into English and published in 1971 as Young Moshe's Diary: The Spiritual Torment of a Jewish Boy in Nazi Europe. Passages in the diary reveal traces of greatness in a young soul engaged in a struggle between hope and despair. The depth of the teenager's ordeal lay not only in his insight into history but also in his compassion, to the point of feeling guilt over the suffering of his fellow Jews. "I see myself as if I were a traitor," he confessed, "who fled from his people at the time of their anguish." Very much aware of the ramifications of the historical events of his time, he was even more aware of what the events meant for the people of Israel and their relation to the God of Israel. As a devout Zionist, he was determined to be a part of his people's return to their homeland, but he could see that their return was becoming more and more impossible. While he said that he could see his homeland in his prayers, around him his eyes saw nothing but ruin.

Writing his diary from November 1942 to September 1943, Moshe Flinker struggled to understand the Holocaust not only in terms of human history but also in terms of sacred history. Indeed, as a religious Jew he believed that God was involved in the design of history, the aim of which is to bring humankind into the messianic age. "It seems to me," he wrote on 26 November 1942, "that the time has come for our redemption." He saw the war as the "birthpang of the Messiah," which meant that "not from the English nor the Americans nor the Russians but from the Lord Himself will our redemption come." Whereas some diary writers saw the absence of God in this event, Moshe Flinker tried to see the hand of God. He turned to the prayers and to the Scriptures and incorporated them into his own text, making his diary itself into a kind of prayer.

As the night of the Holocaust grew darker, however, Moshe Flinker felt himself slipping ever deeper into a spiritual void. On 2 February 1943, he wrote, "When I pray I feel as if I am praying to the wall and am not heard at all … I think that the holy spark which I always felt with me has been taken from me." Before long the Scriptures, too, were lost on him, as he indicated in an entry dated July 4, 1943: "Formerly, when I took up my Bible and read it, it was as if I had returned to life, as if the Lord had taken pity on me; even in my darkest moments I found consolation in Him. Now even this is denied me." In his movement from prayer to emptiness, from Holy Word to hollow void, one can see an important feature of his Holocaust diary. It begins as a vehicle for God's utterance reverberating in the voice of the diarist and ends as a lamentation over the cessation of that utterance.

Thus, Moshe Flinker saw the content of his diary as a "reflection of [his] spiritual life." If that spiritual life revolved around God's presence and absence, then perhaps his outcry over the silence of God might bear a trace of God's own outcry. Reading his diary, one wonders whether the absent God might be hiding in the question concerning his absence. In any case his diary, written under singular conditions, has universal implications for humanity's ongoing inquiry into the meaning of history.

—David Patterson

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Young Moshe's Diary: The Spiritual Torment of a Jewish Boy in Nazi Europe (Hana'ar Moshe: Yoman Shel Moshe Flinker)

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