The drab, thin, cotton dress – if it could be called that – did little to ward off the chill of the gray morning. Katrina stood in line with the others, the mist clinging to her hair, droplets forming on the ends. The women had been standing this way for three hours. The sun was just peeking above the crematorium in front of them.
The guards said it was where they cremated those who died in the barracks, but Katrina knew better. It was the place where they got rid of what they called the ‘unsavory’ of the earth; those who didn’t measure up to their Aryan status.
The cold numbness she felt in her flesh was little compared to the frost she felt around her heart. The ache she felt for her fellow compatriots was that of being frostbitten; a tingling numbness surrounding her soul, that never seemed to melt. When she thought of the Nazis’ claim to be doing ‘God’s work’ a shudder coursed through her, causing the chill in her heart to intensify.
Katrina was German through and through, and it shamed her that her countrymen could stoop to such atrocious behavior. She had been brought here to Dachau because she was part of the Jewish underground. Someone had infiltrated their part of the network.
Now she stood shivering in the bitter cold . . . one of the female guards relished making them stand for hours, her face holding a cruel grin. Then began the grueling task of gathering large rocks from the nearby quarries.
White-hot anger flashed through Katrina’s heart as she thought of the one man who was responsible for the demise of so many innocent people. Her hands balled into fists at her sides as the heat of her anger intensified. Yet the ice around her heart refused to unthaw.
Katrina jumped. The guard’s face was inches from her own and spittle hit her cheeks and eyes as she screamed at Katrina. She dare not make a move to wipe it away.
“Would you care to tell us what has you so intrigued this morning, Number 4234569? The rest of us would like to be enlightened!”
“Speak up. We can’t hear you!”
“I-I-I –wasn’t th-thinking of anything ma’am.”
“Do tell. I was watching you. I saw the changes of thought pass across your face and the way your hands suddenly balled into fists.”
Hot tears crawled down Katrina’s cold face. She tried to blink them back but it was no use.
All of a sudden the tip of the guard’s whip snaked across Katrina’s face.
“There” snap! “is no room” snap! “for such foolishness” snap! “on my watch!” snap! Each strike of the whip was a hot poker searing her flesh. Blow after blow came upon her body… she sank to the ground, blood pouring from the wounds and still the beating did not stop.
“Jesus.” The whispered word brought comfort.
I am here Child. Forgiveness is yours to offer this day, as I give you strength. You do not have to live with this cold chill around your heart any longer, nor do you have to carry the heat of anger. Give it to me. Let the warmth of my love surround you… when you put heat and cold together you only feel a calming warmth. Surrender, child.
Katrina knew the presence of her Savior, as she never had before. He was so close… so very close. Gathering strength from the grace that surrounded her, Katrina spoke loudly. One word, one precious word.
Silence filled the air as the crack of the whip ceased. The guard stood over her, stunned. As Katrina breathed her last, she said, “Jesus forgives you ma’am, and so do I.”
The hardness of the guard’s heart remained intact, but years later she would remember those words and the look of pure love in this prisoner’s eyes, realizing she was the one who had been in bondage as she surrendered her life to Christ.
The peace that rent the fury charged air when the name of Jesus was spoken was palpable. Courage welled up in each of the women standing in the freezing cold that day; hearts warmed and became hot with a fire of love many had never felt before.
The name of Jesus had been spoken and with it came the power and courage to move forward, come what may, because many, through this one, believed and gave their lives to Christ.
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