Saturday, June 16, 2012

Session No. 68 -- The Oath

I was employed as a paralegal at the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld from 1988 to 1991.  I believed that I was a victim of job harassment during my employment.  The three years I spent at the firm was a difficult time.  My complaints to family members and mental health professionals that I was being harassed were met with the accusation that I was paranoid.  I was forced to struggle with my torment alone.

Twenty years after I left Akin Gump I am still preoccupied, obsessed even, with my experiences of so many years ago.  In the year 2010 my then treating psychiatrist Abas Jama, M.D. told me I needed to let go of my anger: that I needed to forgive and move on with my life.

I told Dr. Jama something that I had never told anyone else.  I said that when I worked at Akin Gump I felt totally powerless, the victim of psychological and emotional forces -- both external and internal -- that threatened to overwhelm me. I related to Dr. Jama how I developed a coping mechanism.  I said that I took an oath.  Yes, I swore to myself that someday I would avenge my suffering by exposing the circumstances of my employment and my victimization.  Someday, perhaps many years in the future -- no matter how long it might take, really -- I would prove that I was not delusional: that I had in fact been subjected to an overwhelming psychological assault.

I explained to Dr. Jama that this oath I swore to myself was a source of inner strength.  Whenever I felt overwhelmed at work I called to mind this oath, and I felt emboldened and empowered.

I was recently struck by the testimony of a witness at the war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel from 1961.  The witness told the court how he swore an oath to himself at Auschwitz.

My interest in psychoanalysis makes me wonder what is the meaning of that oath?  Who would conceive of such a defense mechanism?  Under what circumstances would an individual use such an oath as a defense?  What was the nature of the victimization that would prompt an individual to swear a secret oath?  I still wonder about that.

Session No. 68 

23 Sivan 5721 (7 June 1961) 

Presiding Judge: I declare the sixty-eighth Session of the trial open. 

Decision No. 72 

We confirm the request of the Attorney General and will permit the exhibition of films to illustrate the evidence of the Prosecution witnesses, on condition that the films will be sufficiently authenticated. 

For reasons of security, because of the blacking-out of the hall during the screening, the public, with the exception of journalists, will not be permitted to be in the Courtroom at the time of the screening. 

Attorney General: I would ask Mr. Dinur to mount the witness stand. 

Presiding Judge: Do you speak Hebrew? 

Witness Dinur: Yes. 

[The witness is sworn.] 

Presiding Judge: What is your full name? 

Witness: Yehiel Dinur. 

Attorney General: Mr. Dinur, you live in Tel Aviv, at 78 Rehov Meggido, and you are a writer? 

Witness Dinur: Yes.

Q. You were born in Poland? 

A. Yes

Q. And you were the author of the books Salamandra, The House of Dolls, The Clock Above the Head and They called Him Piepel

A. Yes. 

Q. What was the reason that you hid your identity behind the pseudonym "K. Zetnik," Mr. Dinur? 

A. It was not a pen name. I do not regard myself as a writer and a composer of literary material. This is a chronicle of the planet of Auschwitz. I was there for about two years. Time there was not like it is here on earth. Every fraction of a minute there passed on a different scale of time. And the inhabitants of this planet had no names, they had no parents nor did they have children. There they did not dress in the way we dress here; they were not born there and they did not give birth; they breathed according to different laws of nature; they did not live - nor did they die - according to the laws of this world. Their name was the number "Kazetnik".* 

{*23Kazett=Konzentrationslager - Katzetnik: inmate of a concentration camp} 

They were clad there, how would you call it... 

Q. Yes. Is this what you wore there? [Shows the witness the prison garb of Auschwitz.] 

A. This is the garb of the planet called Auschwitz. And I believe with perfect faith that I have to continue to bear this name so long as the world has not been aroused after this crucifixion of a nation, to wipe out this evil, in the same way as humanity was aroused after the crucifixion of one man. I believe with perfect faith that, just as in astrology the stars influence our destiny, so does this planet of the ashes, Auschwitz, stand in opposition to our planet earth, and influences it. 

If I am able to stand before you today and relate the events within that planet, if I, a fall-out of that planet, am able to be here at this time, then I believe with perfect faith that this is due to the oath I swore to them there. They gave me this strength. This oath was the armour with which I acquired the supernatural power, so that I should be able, after time -- the time of Auschwitz -- the two years when I was a Musselman, to overcome it. For they left me, they always left me, they were parted from me, and this oath always appeared in the look of their eyes. 

For close on two years they kept on taking leave of me and they always left me behind. I see them, they are staring at me, I see them, I saw them standing in the queue... 

Q. Perhaps you will allow me, Mr. Dinur, to put a number of questions to you, if you will agree? 

A. [Tries to continue] I remember... 

Presiding Judge: Mr. Dinur, kindly listen to what the Attorney General has to say. 

[Witness Dinur rises from his place, descends from the witness stand, and collapses on the platform. The witness fainted.] 

Presiding Judge: I think we shall have to adjourn the session. I do not think that we can continue. 

Attorney General: I did not anticipate this. 

Presiding Judge: [After some time] I do not think that it is possible to go on. We shall adjourn the Session now, and please, Mr. Hausner, inform us of the condition of the witness and whether he will at all be able to give his testimony today. And I would ask you to do so soon.


Gary Freedman said...

I do not regard myself as a writer and a composer of literary material.

In the career of the most unliterary of writers, in the sense that literary ambition had never entered the world of his imagination, the coming into existence of the first book is quite an inexplicable event. In my own case I cannot trace it back to any mental or psychological cause which one could point out and hold to. The greatest of my gifts being a consummate capacity for doing nothing, I cannot even point to boredom as a rational stimulus for taking up a pen.
Joseph Conrad, A Personal Record.

Gary Freedman said...

Time there was not like it is here on earth.

From Appellant's Brief on Appeal, Freedman v. D.C. Department of Human Rights, D.C.C.A. no. 96-CV-961 (Sept. 1, 1998).

1/ A concealed error in the employer's pleadings obscures the fact that the employer upgraded appellant's employment status in August 1989 from temporary to full-time legal assistant despite the fact that Eastern Airlines, the major client to which he had originally been assigned, had filed for bankruptcy protection. The employer states: "Later, [on August 1, 1989 [Rec. 144]] Claimant was employed as a full-time legal assistant ('paralegal') to manage massive amounts of documents for a major client. . . . Shortly thereafter [on March 9, 1989], the client filed for bankruptcy protection and eventually the legal work diminished" [Rec. 135]. See Salpukas, Eastern Requests Bankrupt Status to Cut Strike Loss, N.Y. Times, Mar. 10, 1989, at 1, col. 1 (reporting Eastern bankruptcy filing on Mar. 9, 1989).

Gary Freedman said...

And the inhabitants of this planet had no names.

Gary Freedman said...

This is a chronicle of the planet of Auschwitz.