BLOG 237 January 27, 2015
Across the world, Jews and Gentiles paused on Tuesday to observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 70th year date of the liberation of Auschwitz. I have been to both Dachau Concentration Camp and Auschwitz. I know well what these death camps were like.
My visit to Auschwitz came in January. When I stood out on the assembly ground in the freezing weather, I wondered how anyone could have survived these conditions. The Jews who stood there for hours and went to the gas chambers had committed no crime. They had done nothing wrong – they were just Jews.
My books The Pastors Barracks and the Bitter Road to Dachau chronicles the story of Christian Reiger, a Reformed Christian German Pastor, who was sentenced to Dachau for nothing more than speaking out against The Third Reich and the Nazis. From my time spent listening to Christian, I leaned a first hand story of his five year struggle to survive. More than one third of all Polish Roman Catholic priests died in Dachau. By the time he was released, Christian had lost 100 pounds.
Another story comes from Israel. Marta Wise was a 10-year-old Slovakian Jew in Auschwitz when she heard the sound of soldiers marching toward the death camp. Marta assumed they were Germans, but soon saw the red stars on their uniforms that said they were Russians. Only by their intervention was she saved. Marta has a black and white photo taken by the Russians showing her standing with a group of children in their rags behind a barbed wire fence. By the time the picture was taken Marta weighted only 37 pounds.
Marta and her sister Eva survived but they still cannot understand how they did so. Today at age 80, she lives in Jerusalem. The number A-2702 remains tattooed on her arm.
Survivors Max and Rose Schindler, 85-years-old, took an hour and a half bus trip from Krakow to Auschwitz. They said Kaddish and prayed for their murdered loved one who died in the camp. While praying, some survivor cried out, “I don’t want to come here anymore!”
Rose had come for one final visit to remember her parents and four siblings who died there. She remembered that among those who died were gypsies, homosexuals, and others who were caught under the heel of the Nazi boot. Rose reflected that the only ones who could tell the entire story of Auschwitz were silenced by the crematoria. So, she must do her best to relate the story that only a survivor can.
I will never forget walking through the grass in a field behind the crematorium. I looked down and thought the ground seemed strange. When I kicked the grass aside, I realized I was standing on white ash.
Let us remember so that the world will never forget that it may never happen again.