Posts Tagged ‘Holocaust’

Last week I was able to talk to a sweet lady as she waited for surgery.  I noticed an accent and inquired about her home country.  It was a simple question really.  But her answer will long live in my heart.

She was a baby when WWII began.  One night when she was two years old her daddy left home to purchase some milk for her.  He never returned and they discovered that he had been arrested by the Nazis and taken to Auschwitz where he was executed.  As I held her hand I was riveted to her words as she unfolded events of her life.  The story of her childhood was filled with pain, abandonment, abuse, and terror.  It broke my heart.

Suddenly she said, “I’m sorry.  I am talking too much.”  I quickly assured her that she was not and thanked her for sharing her life story with me.  I told her how deeply it had touched me.  She leaned up on one arm and, dropping her voice, said in broken English, “Do you know some people don’t believe this really happened?  The Holocaust.”  I knelt down to where we were eye to eye and I called her by name and said, “Please hear me my friend.  I believe it happened.  And I am so sorry how it hurt you and your family.”  She began to weep.  After 70 years it still makes her cry.  I also said, “Please don’t stop telling your story because if people forget that the Holocaust happened we are at risk of letting it happen again.”

She squeezed my hand tightly and said, “We just can’t forget.”

It is beyond my ability to understand how a group of people can target another group of people and incite such unspeakable atrocities.  It is also beyond my ability to understand how people can actually say that the Holocaust didn’t happen.

Denial.  Forgetfulness.  They can be dangerous things.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was also executed by the Nazis when he was only thirty-nine years old, said “Satan does not fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God…”

How can we EVER forget God?  Talk about another atrocity!  How can I ever forget how good God is to me?  How much he blesses me – even in dark and difficult places of life.

It strikes me how important it is to also keep sharing the stories about God’s precious work in people’s lives – in days gone by (Hebrews 11) – in my life today.  We must keep sharing the stories of God.

Because we just can’t forget.


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The Holocaust

A few days ago I met a very interesting man named Bill.  He is a good man.  One of the really fascinating things that I learned from him was that his parents were both survivors of the Holocaust.  His father was sent to Auschwitz while his mother was exiled to a labor camp.  In the end, when Hitler saw that he was going to lose the war, he gave orders to kill everyone – even those in work camps.  Bill’s mom was shipped from the labor camp to a death camp, along with many others, and she narrowly escaped execution there.  The camp’s name was Bergen-Belsen and she told Bill how the corpses at the camp were piled high in a pyramid type fashion that seemed to reach “up to the sky” as she used to say.  After the war was over, his mom and dad met at a reunification camp in Europe that was set up by the United States and just a few months after Bill was born his family made their way to America.  Even though both of his parents are now deceased, based on his parents’ narratives, Bill can still describe, in precise detail, story after story of horrific events.  In fact, the stories were relayed in such detail to Bill that he can suffer similar feelings of trauma that his parents experienced when he finds himself in parallel circumstances that they described.  Not only are blue eyes or high cheek bones transmitted from parents to children but so are parental effects of trauma and fear.

I have reflected a lot on my conversation with Bill.  How can a person (or group of people) get to a place where not only is it preferable but it is essential to annihilate an entire race of people?  Really.  How does that happen?  When does a person become just a breath away from seeing another person as an “enemy” and as disposable?

The thought that has really haunted me is how much our words and behavior toward others matter.  Although certainly not on Hitler’s level, what I say or how I treat another person impacts their life. . .and often generationally.  I know that as well from my profession as a counselor.  Oftentimes an individual can suffer extreme emotional pain due to the effects of another person’s behavior toward them – or toward their parent(s).

My biggest question after talking with Bill, however, is how do people safeguard themselves from being a “breath away” from “Hitler-ish” behavior?  Where, with their words and behavior, they can annihilate a person’s self-esteem or dreams or relationships?

Thinking about these reflections has been a bit disturbing for me and I know that I need help from outside of myself for this safeguard.  For me the help is prayer.  A funny thing happens with prayer I think.  In prayer I often think I am helping God by asking Him to do things the way I think they should be done.  But in this process of prayer, I am observing, God uses it to change me. . .to soften me. . .to open my heart to see people the way He does.  God is good like that.  Thankfully.

Wouldn’t it be great if God would change us so that we could speak to and treat others with such love and care that the effects of those interactions could flow over into the lives of their children. . .and grandchildren?

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