Erika: A Profile In Forgiving
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Erika: A Profile In Forgiving
Stephen A. Peterson
Fourteen months after Germany surrendered to Allied Forces ending World War II in Europe, Erika Mandel, 17 years old, learned that all members of her immediate family had died in Nazi concentration camps. The intelligent and beautiful young Jewish girl was devastated. Without family or friends, she survived eating what she could find and living in conditions unfit for human habitation. At one point, Erika was so sick American Army doctors thought she would die. However, her will to live caused her to overcome her illness.
Within months of the conclusion of hostilities, Nazi members and their associates were being rounded up and tried throughout Germany and the occupied areas of Europe. Erika was identified as a concentration survivor and urged to testify against camp officials where she had been held captive for nearly three years. She agreed though frighten and apprehensive.
One day Erika was brought face-to-face with the prison guard who had beaten her nearly to death, raped and attempted to starve her. This man was also responsible for the deaths of Erika younger brother and sister, mother and father. When records from the camp were reviewed and eye witness testimony presented, it was determined this guard was responsible for the murder and brutal execution of more than three thousand persons. During the proceedings, the prosecuting attorney asked Erika what she wished would happen to such a cruel man. Erika stunned the judge and everyone present when she said, “Your Honor and the people of Germany I have no family any longer. I have no mother or father to comfort and love me when I need help or support. I have no brother to love and protect me and my honor. I have no sister to comfort when she is scared or lonely. This man beat me for sport and raped me out of spite because he felt superior to me. But I would wish that this man could live so that I may show him the love he could not show me or my loved ones. I forgive him of his sins. Although I have no family and most of my friends are gone, I still have a great deal of love to give.” Then she said, “I would like to hug and embrace this man so that he will know my forgiveness is genuine and true. And that the hatred he had and may still have for me does not abide in my person.”
As Erika made her way towards the witness stand, the prison guard broke down, fell to his knees and cried. He was so overcome with remorse and shame that he could not show his face to the young Erika.
Though many could not understand what they had witnessed that day, Erika’s gesture more than likely changed the hearts, forever, of many hate filled Germans and citizens of the world following the most vicious war humankind had ever witnessed. The pain that Erika inflicted was not sinful revenge but the purifying fire of the unconditional love of God. When God’s love is applied, it has shown time and time again, since the appearance of the Son of God on earth that forgiveness does generally lead to repentance, reconciliation and recovery of the human spirit whenever and wherever it is utilized—even in the most cruel situations or circumstances.
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Thank you so much for sharing this. Unforgiveness is one of the greatest obstacles to receiving answers to prayers. When we forgive, a great load is lifted off us in adddition to helping the one being forgiven. GOD BLESS YOU