Fans of EDGE CITY may have noticed that the usually-lighthearted comic strip has taken a turn for the more serious this week, with a storyline featuring young Colin Ardin as he talks with his father, Len, about the Holocaust, and what he learned in his religion class.
Next Thursday, April 19, is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, and Terry and Patty LaBan chose to commemorate this day in the pages of EDGE CITY this year. The storyline is going to continue through April 28. Mr. Levinsky, Colin’s barber and a Holocaust survivor, will share his story with Colin.
Terry and Patty talked about creating this story, and how it fits into EDGE CITY as a whole.
Terry: EDGE CITY is essentially about modern family life, as seen through the eyes of our particular characters who happen to be Jewish. We don’t deal with Jewish stuff all the time, or even most of the time, but it does come up. And one of the things Jews talk about a lot is the Holocaust. And not just Jews, of course, many—if not most schools— spend some time studying the Holocaust as well. So, a story about a kid studying the issue is pretty universal.
The Holocaust is an overwhelmingly horrible event, and to even try to treat it humorously would be offensive and wrong. But it’s also an event that has had tremendous impact on contemporary life, especially contemporary Jewish life. Comics, specifically newspaper comics, are our medium, and I like to believe we can tell any kind of story in that context. I like making funny stories about getting braces or having car trouble, but sometimes it’s good to stretch a bit and challenge ourselves to deal with things it’d be easier to just avoid.
Patty: I spent four years listening to the stories of my survivor clients in my role as a social worker, and I was deeply affected not only by the trauma and loss, but by the cleverness and resilience and courage that they mustered in order to survive. Iwould like to give a shout-out to the many survivors, who are still alive and who showed me that there isn’t just one kind of survival story. Hiding was a different experience than the camps, being a kid was different than being a parent. We hope this story conveys one person’s experience, which can be easier to relate to, as Colin learns, than grasping the magnitude of the entire Holocaust.
Terry: Colin isn’t expecting a lesson on the Holocaust, so he’s open to Mr. Levinsky’s story, which is exciting and in many ways admirable. Colin can identify with Mr. Levinsky. He can imagine what it would be like to see his parents taken away, and he can admire what Mr. Levinsky did and hope he’d have the wherewithal to do the same.
I don’t think anyone understands the Holocaust, which is one of the reasons it’s so difficult to talk about it. I think the challenge is just to believe it happened. Not in the sense of Holocaust denial, but on a basic emotional level.
When the Holocaust passes from living memory, we will only know about it third hand, through a haze of mythology. But I think there’ll always be survivors of one kind or another. It does not, unfortunately, look like we’ll ever run out of people who have experienced the horrible things humans can do to each other.
Patty: We do have the recorded first-person accounts of thousands of survivors which have been meticulously collected and archived, and are really the most powerful way that the experience can be conveyed, short of personal encounters. What I have learned is that when you try to boil the Holocaust down to a simple lesson or summary, it becomes oversimplified, too easy. Starting to “get it” requires history and geography lessons, first-person accounts, disturbing footage, and opportunities to discuss. But short of that, maybe a comic strip story, as odd as it may sound, can make it real.
We hope you’ll take the time to check out this important story over the next two weeks. Here are this week’s strips so you can catch up if you’re not a regular EDGE CITY reader (why aren’t you?!):