I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust
I Truly Lament is a collection of twenty-seven stories – nine of which were previous published and “significantly revised for this book” – that are meditations on the Holocaust. Award winning author Mathias B. Freese covers a multitude of Holocaust themes taken from different perspectives in this poignant anthology.
Freese offers readers a window into a world that may resemble something like Twilight Zone episodes. And though the bulk of his collection are works of fiction, the type of experiences represented within these stories are real and reflect a horrific event in time – one that cannot and should not be forgotten. Using different points of view, Freese’s first person accounts often feature Jewish inmates fantasizing on themes about escaping, food, death, and even a phobia about snowstorms, to name a few. Others are conversational pieces between a Jewish inmate and another figment of his imagination, such as a golem, or a man from the future, and there are interviews with people such as Eva Braun, Hitler’s wife, and a Holocaust camp doctor.
Obviously, Freese does not zero in on just Jewish inmates since there are accounts also told through the eyes of German officers and youth. Even in his third person narratives, Freese deftly captures the heartbreaking perspective of a cantor whose romantic relationship with his beloved Rebecca is suddenly severed when the Nazis come for him. While there is no doubt that Holocaust prisoners have experienced the greatest amount of suffering, Freese masterfully balances how perpetrators also became victims because of their need for control. A good example of this is found in “Der Fuhrer Likes Plain” when the interviewer draws a conclusion about Hitler and Braun’s sex life: “So, if I were to generalize, both you and Der Fuhrer prefer to s**t on people and withhold true intimacy by being within people.” On the contrary, one inmate in “Of No Use,” understands that freedom comes when the need for control is released.
Freese’s contemplative stories are replete with scenes that are nothing less than gut wrenching. Yet amid horrors of human desecration, Freese interweaves biting sarcasm that at times is humorous, as in the banter between an inmate and a golem in Golem, I Need Your Help. Again, laced with sarcasm, two narratives that stand out the most are “Max Weber, Holocaust Revisionist” and “Sincerely, Max Weber.” Aside from the fact that they are nonfiction in context, these stories reflect Freese’s encounter with Max Weber’s YouTube revisionist video essays, and Weber’s sardonic letter to Freese.
Freese does not mince words in his latest anthology, including the thought-provoking statements at the beginning of his stories. I Truly Lament is a fascinating read. But readers, beware! It is visceral from beginning to end and indubitably not for the faint of heart.