Generations is an across-the-world e-mail conversation between 30-something writer Masada Siegel and 70-something author Stefanie Zweig.
From: Stefanie Zweig
Wed, Aug. 13, 2008, 11:46 p.m.
To: Masada Siegel
Why do I watch Olympia with a touch of sadness? Reason one: Because all the folks march into China and are most keen to forget what China does to those who are not on their line. The same thing happened in 1936. All nations flocked to Berlin — including the Americans and the Jews — and raised their arms and said “Heil Hitler” — and the concentration camps were already in use, and the benches with signs “not for Jews” had been cleaned — for the duration of the Olympics. Reason two: As I have no homeland to be proud of, I really don’t care who wins a gold medal. In times like this, I am more aware than ever what Hitler did to us. That, too, applies to my grandparents. My one grandfather was murdered by an SS man on a street in Russia; my one grandmother was murdered in Auschwitz. The other two had the luck of dying before 1933.
Yesterday was a grand day — the little boy, my grand-nephew, crawled faster than ever and, could he say a word, he would tell the world that birthdays are wonderful. This morning I am deserting my book and going to a street market in town.
I love buying fruit and vegetables and all things to eat — a leftover of hungry times when we came from Kenya and Frankfurt was all in ruins and the only hope to fill your stomach was an American boyfriend. I was only 14 then and very strictly guarded by a loving, loveable and jealous father.
From: Masada Siegel
Thurs., Aug. 14, 2008, 8:33 a.m.
To: Stefanie Zweig
Yikes, that makes the Olympics and human nature sound quite awful. I like focusing on the positive. China after all did allow a lot of Jews in during World War II, or so I understand. Plus, I also think the Olympics should be a time to concentrate on people who have dedicated their lives to their sport and being the best. I swam about 2,500 meters yesterday at practice, and as my leg was cramping up, I kept thinking, “What would Michael Phelps do?” so I kept on swimming! It’s silly — but it inspired me.
Also with modern technology today, I was looking on Facebook, and became fans of Michael Phelps and Dara Torres, I also asked them to be my friends…. Can you imagine? Today I got an e-mail from Dara Torres and she became my friend online. She won a silver medal at the Olympics the other day, and at 41 years old, she is competing with women half her age. Modern technology in some ways is making the world a place where we know what is happening right away, and in some cases can hopefully make a difference.
I think maybe if athletes can compete with one another and work out and go to practices together, maybe world leaders should see it’s about people, not politics!
I can’t dispute your point about what happened in Germany. You are right, but I guess I would prefer to see the Olympics as a place where positive changes can be made. We have talked in the past how you don’t feel you have a homeland, and it still bums me out that you feel that way. I am so proud to be an American… and what’s really funny is that if World War II never happened, I most likely would have been German!
From: Stefanie Zweig
Thurs, Aug. 14, 2008, 11:49 p.m.
To: Masada Siegel
Happy you with a homeland and Dara Torres for an online friend. I have, as you know, neither, and I must confess, I am not interested in sports. After eight years in a British boarding school and compulsory sports and hockey counting more than the ability to read or write, you get sick of the subject. And as for water: I nearly drowned in a well at the age of six. It happened on a farm where my father was applying for a job as a manager, and I was sent out to play with the kids of the boss, all mighty big boys with strong arms and no brains who thought it wonderful to tease a little girl — at least one of them pulled me out of the well and I ran bawling to my parents. Do you think that they comforted me? No, they were very anxious that I had spoiled my father’s chance of getting the job. I had not, but ever after that I hated water. Give my best regards to you parents and take a hug, water lady, from Stefanie.