Hope Within Ashes

“Always question the human morality of a person who is preaching to you, and please know that if he doesn’t have that it is a very dangerous thing.”- Irving Roth- Jewish Holocaust survivor

We had walked into a hunk house and all I saw was triple bunked beds lining the walls, as well as a row in the middle… until a human was placed with it. The survivor with us headed toward the bed, placed his left hand on a post, with an ID number tattooed across his arm, and said, “this twin bed was like mine, it held three prisoners.”

I’ve learned about Middle Eastern polotics. I’ve learned Judeo- Christian relations. I’ve learned the history of the Holocaust. Today I put emotion to all of those things.

I’m not sure what emotion goes with it all. I’m so upset that people lost their lives, their families, their legacies, their homes. That they suffered the way that they did. That people survived from separation, to ghetto, to holding cell, to cattle cars, to concentration camps, to death camps, beatings, marching, no food, and after their liberation just couldn’t handle the pressure of having nothing ahead of them, their entire legacy gone before their eyes. I’m angry that there was an evil regime behind each person holding a gun. As they were standing there face to face, the victim and the persecutor, both men. Both Dads. Both have a soul and a heart, which turned my anger to sorrow. Because even many of the Nazi soldiers woke up to nightmares about what they we’re doing. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, God loves them just as he does the apple of his eye, all of those Jewish innocents.

When we got to the end, exited the back door of the cremetorium where the dead bodies were put into fire ovens, we sat around a memorial. Behind the ledge we sat on was a giant bowl of ashes, that of those who burned there, and in front of us, we faced a ripply field, created by the bodies of the 18,000 who we’re killed in that mass grave during the last weeks before the liberation.

A group of students sang a song, “we shall overcome someday” and after reliving hell that was call life for Irving Roth, he sat next to me, with silent streams down his face, looking at his young Christian friends, singing those same words. With all the mix of emotions and in this moment all of my anger and sorrow turned into hope. Because in all the pain, Mr. Roth made a choice. He chose life. He chose happiness. He chose a better start, in spite of all that was lost. Just as in his testimony, he chose “to have a wonderful life”.

My prayers tonight are for those who perished in the extermination camp of Mjadanek, I can’t think of anything else right now but the image of what I saw today. And those bright blue stains on the walls of the gas chamber from the gas that was dropped from the shower heads.

Blessings and Goodnight from Kracow, Poland. Which BTW- completely sketchy!


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