Redressing Loss

Ever since I first read Simon Wiesenthal’s book Recht, nicht Rache (Justice, not Revenge), the legacy of this nobly tireless yet unbitter maintainer of remembrance has marked me deeply. In a documentary now a few years old, Sir Ben Kingsley, who played Wiesenthal in the feature Murderers Among Us, speaks about his first encounter with a man he had to get to know, so to speak, from within. What struck him above all — ‘it has never left me’ — was the way in which Wiesenthal would spontaneously draw his hand across his face in a gesture of contained despair: ‘I have never seen anyone else physically embody a whole generation of grief in one gesture. He manages to tap into the collective grief and the understanding of grief in all of us, whatever our history. This I think is tremendously healing. Because if you cannot grieve over loss, you cannot begin to redress that loss and repair the damage done.’ Kingsley stresses, though, that there was more to Wiesenthal than the incarnation of grief: ‘As well as weeping all of his tears, he was a man capable of laughing all of his laughter.’