How does a secular, non-practising Jew who has lived most of her life outside the Jewish community suddenly find herself in the front rows of a Nazi war crimes tribunal?
In 2015, the award-winning writer Judith Kalman was invited to Lüneburg to testify at the trial of Oskar Gröning, accused of facilitating 300,000 murders at Auschwitz. She appeared on behalf of a relative she had never met, a child of her father’s first marriage, who died in the camp.
Kalman not only found herself in the unaccustomed company of survivors who had built their identities and missions out of Holocaust remembrance, but grappling with profound questions of loss, guilt, and restitution. Revisiting her parents’ tragic past, she saw how it had confounded her own sense of who she wanted to be: “Broken friendships, missed expectations, difficult family relationships, and a problematic marriage were all forged in the heritage of loss.”
Called to Testify is a beautiful, thoughtful memoir about the meaning of life in the wake of traumatic events, coming to terms with your identity, and understanding the magnitude of what can never be restored.