“Pouring into the alleys [of the Upper City], sword in hand, they massacred indiscriminately all whom they met, and burnt the houses with all who had taken refuge within. … running everyone through who fell in their way, they choked the alleys with corpses and deluged the whole city with blood, insomuch that many of the fires were extinguished by the gory stream.”a
Two thousand years later Theo Siebenberg stared in amazement at the perfectly formed skull that he knew must have belonged to a Jewish resident of the Upper City at the time of the bloodbath that climaxed the calamitous rebellion of the Jews against their Roman masters.
Siebenberg, who as a boy of 13 had fled Belgium with his family, one step ahead of the Nazi onslaught, suddenly found himself in tears.
“I had a feeling of looking at myself, as if his life and mine were one, directly and inevitably connected,” he remembers. At that moment, a worker reached to pick up the skull. “Don’t touch it!” Theo warned. But it was too late. The skull crumbled into ashes, fragments of history that had held together inexplicably for just such a moment.