Kahane details a moving episode in the Janowska camp in L’vov—one that pivots on the calendar. Returning to the camp with his work detail, he sees that two friends have not come back, and assumes that they have been murdered for failing to keep up their pace. He takes out of a bag a “fifty-year calendar” that he received from one of the men. Leafing through it, writes Kahane, “was like saying Kaddish” for the murdered friend who had first presented him with the gift. “Whom will I inform of the day of his passing?” wonders Kahane, clearly distraught. Replaying in his mind the anguished scene, he turns to the readers as those who will be thus informed. “The day, the fifth day of the week, 24 Kislev 5703, 2 December 1942, [Meir] and Shapiro were certainly shot.” By way of the calendar and calendar date, he fills a vacuum that would otherwise leave a death unknown and unmarked.

Meant initially to give a date and thus a meaning to a friend’s senseless death, the act of commemoration through the calendar initiates a sequence of commemoration. “Suddenly,” notes Kahane, “I remembered: Master of the Universe, is today not the first light of Chanukah, the evening of the sixth day of the week, 25 Kislev?” Even with the friend’s calendar in his bag, Kahane was so immersed in the camp’s brutal routine that he could not keep track of time. “The first light of Chanukah,” he records with chagrin, “and I forgot.” Checking the calendar has unearthed more than one meaning for this date, a discovery that then crescendos toward an attempt to rectify what was forgotten: Kahane shares his calendar revelation with his fellow prisoners, is able to organize material to light a makeshift menorah, rallies his blockmates, and intones the blessings.

(Dr Avraham Rosen)


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