A gentle knock on my hospital room door startled me out of my prayers. The nurse entered, smiling softly and stated that the student who wanted to interview me had come. I nodded once and the student sat down in front of me with her pen and pad ready to jolt down notes on what I said.
She asked, “Now that sixty years have passed since the liberation of Auschwitz, how do you feel?”
With righteous fervor, I began to spout off my story.
“Angry. And why shouldn’t I be so angry? I have every right to be. My home, my job, my family all taken from me just because... I was... no, we were different. Maybe they were upset that my people have the promise of the Meschiach (Messiah). We are the seed if Abraham and the Meschiach is coming and will one day restore Israel to her former glory.”
I paused, and noted the young student’s face and took a deep breath. “Forgive me; I often revert to what my Rabbi preached even as we were being put into the cattle cars. He was so full of fervor—and life. Now... he’s gone, just like the others.
“Frau and I, we were expecting our second child when the laws started to change in 1935. My father's and mine once prosperous watch making shop was destroyed during the night Krystalnacht. That same night the babe, a boy child was born within our home. My only son didn’t survive the night. The SS came and found a quick way to silent the babe. I can still hear the Nazi’s laughing as we prayed E-l Malei Rachamim for him.
“My daughters, Abigail and Leba, ... are all gone with a flick of the wrist. Left... right... left... right... They were all sent to the ‘showers’ as was their Mutter. I carried their bodies to the oven and wept bitterly over them.
“That was over sixty years ago. Sixty years ago, my family was destroyed. I’ve come to America the ‘Land of Opportunities'. Where are they? I have not seen such opportunities; I still struggle to make ends meet, even as an elter within my synagogue here. And now, I am nothing but a broken old man.”
The young woman swallowed faintly as she finished writing out her notes. “Sir, if you don’t mind, I have one more question.”
I nodded again, as she pressed on. “What type of memorial would be appropriate for what happened in those camps?”
I struggled to breath for a moment, despite the oxygen that was blowing through the tubes into my nose.
“There is no memorial that will ever be appropriate for the loss of life in those camps. Entire families wiped out. Names gone for all of eternity that only G-t remembers. There will never be enough people to pray E-l Malei Rachamim over every victim. Those that say there can be a memorial that is fitting for my family-let alone other families-are fools.”
I paused for another moment and watched her jolt down some more notes before continuing.
“The only possible memorial that would even be fit for my people is to watch every Nazi endure what we did-and then some. Let them have everything they knew and loved be stripped away. Let them stand naked in the cold German winters. Let them be escorted to their deaths with false promises of showers or the hope that ‘work will make you free’. I would gladly shoot one myself if they presented themselves to me.”
The young woman nodded and looked down at her pad of paper sadly. Then she spoke in German. “Verzeihen Sie mir Sir für das Lügen zu Ihnen. Sie sehen, war mein Großvater ein Nazi und ich arbeite auf einem Überlebendbuch als penitence für ihn und sein gesamtes Erzeugung.” (Forgive me sir for lying to you. You see, my grandfather was a Nazi and I am working on survivors book as a penitence for him and his entire generation.)
With that, the young woman stood and muttered a “Danke” and left, the room leaving me to pray for my own righteous anger before I was to die.
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