N.W.BOYER…Christian Author

Holocaust

SAVING THE CHILDREN

In the midst of evil, one man would not give up on saving the lives of hundreds of children in Czechoslovakia. His name is Nicolas Winton.

What this man did was remarkable and courageous. The parents of Prague were crying for help from any country before the invasion they knew was coming. Only England responded and said to send the children to them.

The heart wrenching decisions that the Jewish parents had to make in order to save their children is told in a film about Winton’s life.  It is definitely worth watching…as we learn of not only the parent’s courage, but that of a man who could have walked away from the situation. He left his job with the London Stock Exchange to do what he believed to be most important…save young lives.  Many of those parent would die in the concentration camps.

woman in film about Winton's life

In the film, Nicky’s Family, a mother puts her two daughters on the train for England.

It is 1939 and Europe is on the brink of war. Hitler has invaded Czechoslovakia, threatening the lives of the Jewish population. Nicholas Winton, a young British stockbroker, decides he will do everything possible to save the lives of as many Jewish children as he can. This film, transmitting on Holocaust Memorial Day, tells the extraordinary story of how Nicholas Winton rescued 669 children from the clutches of the Nazis, bringing them by train to Britain. (Berta film)

Nicholas-Wintonin-Prague-012-300x180

Young Nicholas Winton with a rescued child.

children in Winton's scrapbook

A few of the hundreds of children he saved in Prague.

Shortly before Christmas 1938, Winton was planning to travel to Switzerland for a skiing holiday. He decided instead to visit Prague and help Martin Blake, who was in Prague as an associate of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia then in the process of being occupied by Germany, and had called Winton to ask him to assist in Jewish welfare work. Winton established an organization to aid children from Jewish families at risk from the Nazis. He set up his office at a dining room table in his hotel in Wenceslas Square. In November 1938, following Kristallnact in Nazi-ruled Germany, the House of Commons approved a measure to allow the entry into Britain of refugees younger than 17, provided they had a place to stay and a warranty of £50 was deposited for their eventual return to their own country.  (Wikipedia)

An interesting fact of Winton’s early life is as follows: Winton was born on 19 May 1909 in Hampstead, London. His parents were German Jews who moved to London.  The family name was Wertheim, but they changed it to Winton in an effort at integration. They also converted to Christianity and Winton was baptized as a Christian. (History)

After World War II was over, Nicolas took up his own life and it wasn’t until his wife found an old scrapbook in the attic that she knew of the hundreds of children that he had helped save. This is probably the greatest example of his humility.

The life of this man, who with determination, skill and fortitude, proves how one decision can change a world. Generations have learned that they are alive because their grandparents were saved as children.

Sir Nicolas Winton lived to be 106 years old and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.

The trailer below will make you want to see the entire film. It is available on Amazon Prime…Nicky’s Family.  May the world learn from his great example of giving of self and determination. We certainly need it today.

 


Americans Liberate Flossenburg Concentration Camp…the site of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Execution

If you missed the last blog about the 75th Liberation of Auschwitz, I would highly recommend that you go back and view it.    Link: https://boyerwrites.com/2020/01/28/75-years-since-liberation-are-we-turning-our-backs/

 

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In this blog, I am writing about the non-Jews that knew the risks they were taking when defying the Nazi Regime. We honor them and the”righteous gentiles” who risked everything to hide the Jewish families during World War II.  One of the men who stood up again Hitler was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a  German Christian pastor.

 

 Few twentieth century theologians have had a bigger impact on theology than Bonhoeffer, a man who lived his faith and died at the hands of the Nazis. For Bonhoeffer, the theological was the personal, life and faith deeply intertwined—and to this day the world is inspired by that witness.  (Google Books by Diane Reynolds)

…Apart from his theological writings, Bonhoeffer was known for his staunch resistance to Nazi dictatorship,, including vocal opposition to Hitler’s euthanasia  program and genocidal persecution of the Jews….Bonhoeffer’s efforts for the underground seminaries included securing necessary funds… By August 1937, Himmler decreed the education and examination of Confessing Church ministry candidates illegal. In September 1937, the Gestapo closed the seminary at Finkenwalde, and by November arrested 27 pastors and former students.

It was around this time that Bonhoeffer published his best-known book, The Cost of Discipleship, a study on the Sermon on the Mount, in which he not only attacked “cheap grace” as a cover for ethical laxity, but also preached “costly grace.” He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned at Tegel prison for one and a half years. Later, he was transferred to Flossenburg Concentration Camp.  (Flossenburg concentration camp, located outside Weiden, Germany, close to the Czech border, was established in 1938, mainly for political prisoners. Once the war began, however, other prisoners and Jews were housed there as well.Apr 11, 2008)

After being accused of being associated with the July 20 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler,he was quickly tried, along with other accused plotters, including former members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office), and then hanged on 9 April 1945 as the Nazi regime was collapsing.   21 days later Adolf Hitler committed suicide.  (Wikipedia)

Quotes by Bonhoeffer:

 

Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him.

On the cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers.

For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God.

So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes.

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We must finally stop appealing to theology to justify our reserved silence about what the state is doing

for that is nothing but fear. ‘Open your mouth for the one who is voiceless

for who in the church today still remembers that that is the least of the Bible’s demands in times such as these.

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The U.S. LIBERATION OF FLOSSENBURG:

At approximately 10:30 hours on April 23, 1945, the first U.S. troops of the 90th Infantry Division arrived at Flossenburg KZ,. They were horrified at the sight of some 2,000 weak and extremely ill prisoners remaining in the camp and of the SS still forcibly evacuating those fit to endure the trek south. Elements of the 90th Division spotted those ragged columns of prisoners and their SS guards. The guards panicked and opened fire on many of the prisoners, killing about 200, in a desperate attempt to effect a road block of human bodies. American tanks opened fire on the Germans as they fled into the woods, reportedly killing over 100 SS troops.

Additionally, elements of the 97th Infantry Division participated in the liberation. As the 97th prepared to enter Czechoslovakia, Flossenburg concentration camp was discovered in the division’s sector of the Bavarian Forest. Brigadier General Milton B. Halsey, the commanding general of the 97th Division, inspected the camp on April 30, as did his divisional artillery commander, Brigadier General Sherman V. Hasbrouck. Hasbrouck, who spoke fluent German, directed a local German official to have all able-bodied German men and boys from that area help bury the dead. The 97th Division performed many duties at the camp upon its liberation. They assisted the sick and dying, buried the dead, interviewed former prisoners and helped gather evidence against former camp officers and guards for the upcoming war crimes trials.

One eyewitness U.S. Soldier, Sgt. Harold C. Brandt, a veteran of the 11th Armored Division, who was on hand for the liberation of not just one but three of the camps, Flossenburg, Mauthausen, and Gusen, when queried many years after the war on his part in liberating them, stated that “it was just as bad or worse than depicted in the movies and stories about the Holocaust. . . . I can not describe it adequately. It was sickening. How can other men treat other men like this’”   (portion of an article By Colonel John R. Dabrowski, US Army Heritage and Education Center)

Piles of Shoes: As US forces approached the camp, in mid-April 1945, the SS began the forced evacuation of prisoners, except those unable to walk, from the Flossenbürg camp. Between April 15 and April 20, the SS moved most of the remaining 9,300 prisoners in the main camp (among them approximately 1,700 Jews), reinforced by about 7,000 prisoners who had arrived in Flossenbürg from Buchenwald, in the direction of Dachau both on foot and by train. Perhaps 7,000 of these prisoners died en route, either from exhaustion or starvation, or because SS guards shot them when they could no longer keep up the pace. Thousands of others escaped, were liberated by advancing US troops, or found themselves free when their SS guards deserted during the night. Fewer than 3,000 of those who left Flossenbürg main camp arrived in Dachau, where they joined some 3,800 prisoners from the Flossenbürg sub-camps. When members of the 358th and 359th US Infantry Regiments (90th US Infantry Division) liberated Flossenbürg on April 23, 1945, just over 1,500 prisoners remained in the camp. As many as 200 of them died after liberation. ( U.S Holocaust Memorial)

 

 

REMEMBER THE LIBERATION AND DIETRICH BONHOEFFER 

Ambassador Grenell lays a wreath at the Dietrich Bonhoeffer memorial in Flossenbürg Concentration Camp

 

Video of the Remembrance of the U.S. Army Liberation of Flossenburg concentration camp where Bonhoeffer was executed. (filmed in 2019)

Turn up sound:

 

 


75 Years Since Liberation…Are we turning our backs?

The survivors of the concentration camp, Auschwitz, were liberated by the Soviet Army on January 27, 1945. What they found shocked the world and yet, even today, the Jews of the world are still being persecuted. Why?  The horror of these and many other photographs only tell part of the story.  Does the world want to endure such atrocities again?

It is difficult to look at this picture, but it is included in this particular blog because we must NEVER FORGET the tragedy forced upon the millions of Jews and non-Jews during this period.

A Liberator Remembers:

MOSCOW (AFP) — It was the silence, the smell of ashes and the boundless surrounding expanse that struck Soviet soldier Ivan Martynushkin when his unit arrived in January 1945 to liberate the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

As they entered the camp for the first time, the full horror of the Nazis’ crimes there were yet to emerge.

“Only the highest-ranking officers of the General Staff had perhaps heard of the camp,” recalled Martynushkin of his arrival to the site where at least 1.1 million people were killed between 1940 and 1945 — nearly 90 percent of them Jews. “We knew nothing.” But Martynushkin and his comrades soon learned.

After scouring the camp in search of a potential Nazi ambush, Martynushkin and his fellow soldiers “noticed people behind barbed wire. ‘It was hard to watch them. I remember their faces, especially their eyes which betrayed their ordeal,’ he said. The unit found roughly 7,000 prisoners left behind in Auschwitz by fleeing Nazis — those too weak or sick to walk. They also discovered about 600 corpses. Ten days earlier, the Nazis had evacuated 58,000 Auschwitz inmates in sub-zero conditions over hundreds of kilometers towards Loslau (now Wodzislaw Slaski in Poland). Survivors later remembered the “death march” as even worse than what they had endured in the camp. 

Prior to that retreat, Nazi units had blown up parts of the camp, but failed to destroy evidence of their genocidal work. Among items discovered by Martynushkin and other Soviet troops were 370,000 men’s suits, 837,000 women’s garments, and 7.7 tons of human hair, according to Sybille Steinbacher, a history professor at the University of Vienna.

January 27, 1945 — now commemorated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day — had begun as a normal day for the 21-year-old Martynushkin and his company, until the order was given to move towards the Polish town of Oswiecim, where Nazis had set up a network of concentration camps.

That led to the machine gun commander and his peers taking Auschwitz, liberating its survivors and discovering the nightmarish crimes that had been committed in the camp.  (Moscow AFP)

OSWIECIM, Poland (AP) — On Jan. 27, 1945, the Soviet Red Army liberated the Auschwitz death camp in German-occupied Poland. The Germans had already fled westward, leaving behind the bodies of prisoners who had been shot and thousands of sick and starving survivors. The Soviet troops also found gas chambers and crematoria that the Germans had blown up before fleeing in an attempt to hide evidence of their mass killings. But the genocide was too massive to hide. Today, the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau endures as the leading symbol of the terror of the Holocaust. Its iconic status is such that every year it registers a record number of visitors — 2.3 million last year alone.

Auschwitz today is many things at once: an emblem of evil, a site of historical remembrance and a vast cemetery. It is a place where Jews make pilgrimages to pay tribute to ancestors whose ashes and bones remain part of the earth.

AP Pictures of Auschwitz 75 years later: 

Pictures show places where prisoners were crowded into tight spaces, wired prison and crematorium where they were gassed and burned.

Has the world not learned the lessons of history? Is it repeating history by “turning it’s back” on the Jews or any other group of people enduring hate and torment?” If so, this is a warning that should not be ignored. Charges have been made that modern-day Iran is the “most anti-Semitic regime on the planet.”

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Holocaust survivors and world leaders that the world turned its back on Jews during the Holocaust, teaching the Jewish people that under threat they can only rely on themselves.

Speaking at the World Holocaust Forum’s memorial to commemorate the 75th liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp at Yad Vashem, Netanyahu said the world was similarly failing to unify against Iran, which he charged was the most anti-Semitic regime on the planet.

‘Israel is eternally grateful for the sacrifice made by the Allies. Without that sacrifice, there would be no survivors today. But we also remember that some 80 years ago, when the Jewish people faced annihilation, the world turned its back on us,’ Netanyahu said.”   (article by Raoul Wootliff and Toi Staff Jan.2020)

Over and over, we hear “NEVER AGAIN”…Yet in one form or another, genocide is part of many cultures and places around the world. We must not forget…and we must not turn our backs on any place where the people are helpless victims to the evils of their leaders.

“It was my privilege to take American high school students to Auschwitz and because we went to see this place of evil, their lives will never be the same…and neither is mine.”  N. Boyer of Boyer Writes

VIDEO OF THE 75th YEAR SINCE LIBERATION OF AUSCHWITZ from the location at AUSCHWITZ in Poland

(This video is full length. It is worth watching even if it can only be watched in short intervals.)  Turn up sound:


WW II Musicians…and the Holocaust…”Just Live!”

We have just remembered the brave men and women of WWII and witnessed the great flyover in Normandy. It seems only fitting that we should also remember those who spent much of the war in concentration camps as well as the brave people who tried to save the Jews and the Jewish children.

We will start with the fact that some of the Jews survived because they were accomplished musicians…and the Nazis liked music. They liked being entertained.  Perhaps for some of the German soldiers, who were caught up in this terrible time of German history, it was the only thing that helped them keep their sanity…especially when they knew what was going on in the death camps.

Music and musicians had a distinct place in the death camp of Auschwitz and other concentration camps.   Not as much is written about the musicians who often had to play as people were executed.

inmate orchestra Mauthausen concen camp Austria Hansbonarewitz to execution photo from Mauthausen Memorial Archive

An inmate orchestra at Mauthausen concentration camp, in Austria, “accompanied” the recaptured inmate Hans Bonarewitz on his way to execution. (SS photo from the Mauthausen Memorial Photo Archive)

The following is an account of some of the musicians in the concentration camps where millions of people were killed and more than ninety percent of whom were Jewish.  When I took students through Auschwitz, we saw crosses scratched into the walls of the torture areas.  Christians and those who opposed politically were also part of the camps. Catholic nuns and other non-Jewish families hid the Jewish children as long as they could, giving them different identities and birthdates.

nazi-concentration-camp-music-orchestra-high

“In addition to the orchestra, there was a variety of other SS-sponsored music at Auschwitz.  Some SS officers employed individual ‘musical slaves’, who were required to play or sing whenever commanded to.  One such prisoner was the Italian tenor Emilio Jani, whose memoirs are titled ‘My Voice Saved Me’.  Another was Coco Schumann, who recalled years later that

“the music could save you: if not your life, then at least the day.  The images that I saw every day were impossible to live with, and yet we held on.  We played music to them, for our basic survival.  We made music in hell.”

(Taken from Music and the Holocaust)

david-russell UNC plays violin belonged to Auschwitz Men's Corchestra Rose of WFAE

UNC Charlotte music professor David Russell plays the violin that belonged to a member of the Auschwitz Men’s Orchestra. Julie Rose/WFAE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Zhanna Dawson pianist Holocaust survivor

 

 

 

Let me introduce you to a woman named Zhanna Arshanskaya Dawson, who played the piano to survive.

Anna’s story:    “The day after Christmas, the Jews were ordered to prepare for transportation.”

Dawson says her father knew they were all going to die when he saw the trucks go north. There was nothing to the north. It was a road to Dobritsky Yar, a road to the unthinkable.  Dobritsky Yar had two giant pits like the ones at Babi Yar near the city of Kiev, where the Nazis killed 34,000 Jews in two days, most machine-gunned in the back.

Dimitri Arshansky, Anna’s father, pulled out his gold pocket watch and flashed it in front of a young Ukrainian guard. He told the guard his family wasn’t Jewish; to please let his little girl go.  Dawson says her father realized that he could not save both his girls — two of them running would be too much commotion. He knew Zhanna, or Anna, the adventurous, free-spirited one named after Joan of Arc, had a chance to survive. As the guard took the bribe and looked away, she fell out of line and ran like the wind.

“I don’t care what you do,” her father told her. “Just live.”

A few days later Dawson found her sister. With the help of friends, the two girls made it to an orphanage and were able to obtain fake, non-Jewish identities. For the rest of the war, they were no longer their father’s daughters. She had to repeat the following as her new identity:  “My name is Anna Morozova. I am from Kharkov. My sister Marina and I are orphans. Our father was an officer on the Red Army and was killed in action. Our mother died in the bombing of Kharkov.”  Dawson said it so many times during the rest of the war that it echoed endlessly in her head.”

Holocaust survivor Zhana and Frina sisters

Zhana (Anna) and her sister Frina

A piano tuner at the orphanage heard her play one day and offered her and Frina jobs with a musical troupe that entertained the Germans. It was a frightening prospect, but Anna kept thinking of her father’s last words — just live…JUST LIVE!

They played for Nazi generals and in front of German audiences in the city of Kremenchug: Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Liszt, Brahms, Chopin.

Years later people asked her how she could have done what she did. Was it not like the musicians who played as Jews walked into gas chambers in the concentration camps?

“I was playing for the memory of my parents,” she says. “I was playing to survive.”

And her music, she says, was the only spot of beauty in that bleak atmosphere. Music provided a psychological cocoon. Without it, her spirits might have broken…  “We were a precious commodity for the Germans,” she said. “We were more valuable alive than dead.” Anna Dawson pianist2

When the Germans began retreating, they took the musical troupe with them, back to Berlin. There, the Jewish Arshanskaya girls walked past Gestapo headquarters and even Adolf Hitler’s bunker after the Allied bombing began…When the war finally ended in 1945, they were taken to a displaced persons camp…” ( Mona Basu CNN )

Turn up the sound.  Video made by her son after Zhanna made it to America. You will hear her playing the piano in the background.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Orchestrated Nightmare

One of my readers sent me an email explaining how he had made a trip to Auschwitz in Poland to find the memory of a particular child who perished there.  Having traveled as a teacher with American students to Auschwitz, I understood and remembered the locations where I also walked and saw the horrors of an “orchestrated nightmare” that took place in World War II.

w-buchenwald concentration camp

The email that I received from Ralph Davis is in part the following:

“Ms. Boyer,
My name is Ralph Davis (Dave) and I was good friends with Lili Jacob Meier who found the AUSCHWITZ ALBUM.
The short version is I am Catholic but Lili and I became close friends and she was like a second Mother to me.
 
Below is a way for you to watch an incredible video of Lili donating the Auschwitz Album to the Yad Vashem and then returning to Auschwitz for the first time since she was a victim there.  It is quite a moving video that I thought you would like to have.   This video Lili gave me is a great educational tool to help people understand the Holocaust and you are welcome to use it on your web site…” 
Who was Lili Jacob Meier?

Many scholars of the Holocaust have come to believe that when a Holocaust survivor tells a story that sounds too incredible to be true, it may be just that: the truth. Such is the story of Lili Zelmanovic (Lili Jacob Meier) and her photo album.

18-year-old Lili Jacob was deported with her family, and most of the Jews of Hungary, in the spring of 1944. On the ramp at Auschwitz, she was brutally separated from her parents and younger brothers.  She never saw any of them again. She was lucky and survived; yet, she was not always convinced of the blessing of having survived totally alone, bereft of family, friends and her world.

Unlike all of the other survivors, she was granted a small miracle. On the day of her liberation, in the Dora concentration camp hundreds of miles from Auschwitz, she found in the deserted SS barracks a photo album. It contained, among others, pictures of her family and friends as they arrived on the ramp and unknowingly awaited their death. It was a unique tie to what once had been, could never return, and could never be rebuilt.

It was also, as we now know, the only photographic evidence of Jews arriving in Auschwitz or any other death camp. After the war, Lili found and married Max Zelmanovic, a prewar acquaintance. Selling glass-plate prints of the album to the Jewish Museum in Prague enabled the couple and their first-born daughter, Esther, to immigrate to the United States. They settled in Miami and raised a family, yet the album continued to be central to their lives.

Survivors spread the word of a unique album in the possession of a waitress in Miami, and they made their way across the country to seek her out, and to hope against hope that their lost family, like hers, might be engraved on its prints. Not a week would go by but Lili would bring home strangers who were not strangers, and they would pour over the pictures and weep. Rarely, someone would identify a family member, and Lili would give them the snapshot. Since most of the Jews had been murdered, leaving no living trace, most of the photos remained unclaimed.

In 1980 Serge Klarsfeld convinced Lilly (pictured below) that the album should be safeguarded at Yad Vashem. She came to Jerusalem, showed it to Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and donated it to Yad Vashem, where it resides to this day and is treasured for the future.

On December 17, 1999, Lilly Zelmanovic passed away. (from Yad Vashem)

lilly jacob presents photo album

Dave goes on to tell me about his running a marathon for Pro-Life in Europe and then going to visit Auschwitz where he found the picture of the little child named “Judith” he had gone to pray for at that death camp.   The picture below shows Judith and her family, along with a Catholic nun shown holding the baby. All perished.
auschwitz judith and family
Dave also has Lily’s number on his own arm to remember her and the sufferings of those in the camps.
lili meir auschwitz numberon the arm of mr. davis

 

I too, like Dave, believe that it is imperative that we continue to share the story of those who died in the concentration camps because at some point there will not be any living survivors to tell their stories. If we do not teach our future generations the truth, it could easily happen again.  Thank you, Dave.

The video shared below is long, but worth the watch. Take your time and listen and view parts at a time if it is more convenient.  It speaks for itself and it is my prayer that many around the world will make the effort to listen to it….and never forget!  

liberation of death camps

Liberation of a death camp by the allies

 

If the video should ask for a password, type  DaveDavis

 click this link for video


Never Forget…Suffering

Not too many years ago, I was privileged to take a group of senior high students to Eastern Europe.  While in Poland, we went to Auschwitz Concentration camp. It was an experience never to be forgotten.  I had one Jewish student with our group.  He found a flower vendor and I watched as he gently laid the flowers before the wall within the camp where so many were executed.  He wore his Bermuda shorts, but carefully dressed in a sports jacket and tie.  I could see that his effort was to show honor and respect for those who lost their lives there.  I also took him to the spot where the Munich massacre took place at the 1972 Summer Olympics. This was when a Palestinian terrorist group took eleven Israeli Olympic team members hostage and killed them along with a West German police officer.  Most people want to forget such atrocities. Yet history replays itself over and over again as we lose our compassion for one another.

 

1972 Munich Israel Team murdered at Olympics

Terrorist and Israeli Team at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics

The Israeli Olympic team members’ families tried unsuccessfully to convince the International Olympic Committee to mark the 40th anniversary of the killings by holding a moment of silence during the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.  The Committee refused.  Often people are reluctant to lay the blame where it belongs. Each isolated case of human suffering has its opposing views, but the insanity of it is that the world never seems to learn.

suffering person

Human suffering comes in many forms. In our present day, we see it all over the world.  It is often brought upon people by the corruption of governments and political struggles.  More recently, as we watch the long lines of people who are walking hundreds of miles toward the USA border, we know that each has their own story. Some for the search for a better life and some for evil and disruption. A mob gives no indication of what the intentions may be.  Many are walking in flip-flops or carrying children.  There are motives that most of us here will never know.   Regardless of what the reasons may be, our borders must be secured and laws must be reformed to encourage a proper way to emigrate to a better life. The road to legal emigration is often a long one and those taking the proper path should be recognized.    Desperation colliding with law and order is, unfortunately, a reality of our times.Caravans of people coming into Mexico for USAjpg

If the situation in their countries is so terrifying that they are trying to find a safer place, it is understandable.  However, they probably do not want to go to Chicago or to some other parts of our country for we have problems of our own.

If it is work that the people seek, there are ways to find this particular path.  During our time in Virginia, we got to know some of the farmers and growers.  Each year large groups of workers are brought to our country legally.  It was explained to us that the Virginia growers take care of all the legal paperwork, provide transportation to the farm from whatever country they come from, provide a place to live (usually a small trailer), a truck or car to use with a temporary license on the weekends and much more. Multiply this by all the growers in California and Florida.  We, in the US, employ large numbers of people…all legally.  Are there undocumented workers here?  Of course, but their employers should be held accountable to the laws of the land.

When the harvest season is over, the workers return to their country with pay for the family left behind.   It is a proper and legal way of doing things.   It was our observation that these workers are excellent at their jobs and work long hours.  We watched the trucks they loaded with pumpkins, apples, broccoli, cabbages and other products. In fact, I took the picture of the men shown below. Even though we did not speak their language, they often smiled as we came by.   After dark, the trucks rolled to the processing plants. It is not an easy life by any stretch of the imagination.  The farm and orchard owners told us that without the migrant help their farming business would fold.   Yes, we need the emigrants and the temporary, migrant workers…but we need all involved to follow the laws…including the farm and business owners.

Picking Cabbage

Virginia migrant workers load cabbage

Countries of Europe have opened their borders to the suffering around the world.  In the beginning, it was a noble thing to do, but the problems have been severe as many refused to assimilate into the culture of the country they had chosen. Often the local police would not go into the areas because they had their own laws of living.  On a vacation to England, we were told that people who had lived in an area all their lives were basically forced out by the influx. No one wanted to buy their homes, so the emigrants moved in.  The worry in the USA is that mass influx will bring on similar situations.

There are many legitimate questions: Where will they live?  Who will feed them?  What will the drain on our overall economy be with welfare and medical issues?  If the border is not secured, when will the next wave come….and the next and the next?   There is no easy answer.

Does securing our borders mean that Americans do not have compassion?  Of course not.  We are probably the most generous people in the world to help out…and to give out needed supplies and support when emergencies arise. We give millions, if not billions, of foreign aid.   Just as it is not up to one family to support all families, this country can not support all countries.  Neither can our military fight all battles even as they try hard to fight terrorism and the forces of evil in far away places.  Now, we are thinking that it may be necessary to use military strength at our own borders?!  How bizarre can things get?   Probably more than we know.

The emigrants of the past, particularly from all parts of Europe, helped build this country.   We have not forgotten our history.  Neither should we forget the sins of the past when people were brought here as slaves to work the soil.  It is likely that the “sins of the fathers” will always stay with the sons…as the racial unrest continues to this day.  Generations to come will feel what we did then and what we do now.  Yes, suffering is a very sad thing no matter when it has occurred and to whom.

Our parents who lived through World War II finally saw the sufferings that human beings went through when death camps were opened and surviving prisoners were set free.  The millions who did not make it died there and as we think of the problems of today and in the future, we must never forget the history that led up to these terrible atrocities.  Suffering has no boundaries.

God must weep in heaven when men harden their hearts to the suffering of others.  Yet, He does not treat us like robots.  He gives us free will to decide right and wrong.  In making tough decisions, our leaders and citizens must never forget what history has taught us about suffering…or we shall live it again.  That is an international promise.

Shindler’s List is probably one of the most moving films ever made.  The video that you will see took place in 2017 in Budapest at one of the largest synagogues in Europe.  It is a concert where Csongor Korossy plays the violin of the music from that film. I believe that John Williams, who composed this piece of music was truly inspired.   Notice the faces of the people in the audience… especially the elderly who are most likely remembering someone that they lost.  The youth have heard the stories from their families.  Those tragic histories must not be lost in our memories.  Neither can the fact of how quickly people, of all faiths and heritages, can be tortured or abused for who they are, where they come from or what they believe.  Even in our news this week is the tragedy of those killed in their own synagogue of worship while dedicating the names of their little children.

Until God comes with the angels in heaven and with His Son to rid the world of evil and wipe away all tears, there will be suffering. However, we are not left without hope.  We have a promise of good things to come.

______________________

…And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away. And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are faithful and true.”…   (Berea Study Bible…Revelation 21:4)

__________________________

 

Video  A Concert…not the movie  (Turn up your sound)

Dedicated to the victims at  Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA.


Doing the Right Thing…Regardless of Cost

Hiram Bingham IV rescuer of Jews

Hiram Bingham IV at Marseilles harbor, circa 1940

 

There is one person in our American history whom you probably do not know. His name is Hiram Bingham IV.  Some may recognize the name of his relatives, however.

 

Hiram Bingham IV’s descendants found documentation about his bravery and decided to let the world know what he would not.   A Distinguished diplomat, Hiram lost his job as a diplomat from the State Department for daring to go against regulations.  Yet, years later he was honored by the same U.S. State Department.   Colin Powell presented the family with the honor entitled Constructive Dissent in 2002.  A U.S. stamp was made in his honor and his son, Robert Bingham Sr, has written a book called Courageous Dissent.

Hiram Bingham IV Stamp 2006

 

Hiram Bingham story by Robert Bingham

These are some words of Hiram’s son, Robert, taken from an interview and from the Hiram Bingham website concerning him:  1)Harry’s personal motto, taught to his children, was relevant: “Give the Best that You Have to the Best that You know.” During the Holocaust, saving lives was “the best that he knew.”
2) He believed there is a “spark of divinity” in each human being. He saved not only luminaries but also many ordinary refugees. It was painful for him to remember the long lines of individuals outside the consulate desperately seeking exit visas. He once told me he thought they were “treated like cattle.” He could not talk about his experience without displaying agony and a deep frown on his face.
3) His family’s missionary “zeal” may have augmented his motivation: Hiram the 1st led the first missionaries to Hawaii in 1918 (he was depicted as Abner Hale in Mitchener’s “Hawaii”); Hiram II was also a missionary in the Sandwich Islands who single-handedly translated the entire Bible into written Gilbertese; Hiram III was a public servant who also became an explorer (who discovered Machu Picchu in Peru) and later became a US senator of Connecticut. Hiram IV neither converted souls nor entered politics, but, with equal zeal of his forbears, he “quietly battled to save lives” from the Holocaust…”

 

This story of a man who stood for those who could not stand for themselves.  It says much to all of us today.   There are times when we have to do the right thing regardless of the cost.  Coming from a Christian background, Hiram Bingham believed that every human has worth. He knew what he had to do…and did it.

After his death, Hiram Bingham IV was also awarded posthumously the Medal of Valor along with Sir Winston Churchill and Pope John Paul II. More than 450 supporters of the Simon Wiesenthal Center gathered for the 2011 Humanitarian Award Dinner.

 

 

 

Now that you have read about the awards and honors, you may be asking, “How exactly did he save the lives of so many people?    The video below will give you the full details.

As we have just had the Holocaust Remembrance Day,  this would be a worthwhile story to share with your family to remember history and one who bravely did what was right.


Holocaust Remembrance Day….”NEVER AGAIN”

Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial Hall of Names in Israel

Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Hall in Israel

Holocaust Remembrance Day is a time to remember and proclaim “NEVER AGAIN.” 

Having just posted about the horrors of Syria, which may be another Holocaust if a solution is not found to bring peace to the area, it is fitting to think about World War II and all those who perished under the Nazi dictator, Hitler.  It is estimated that over six million men, women and children died in the death camps.   Memorials can be found around the world.  One special one is the children’s memorial, Yad Vashem, in Jerusalem.  The day my husband and I visited this memorial, there were little lights on the ceiling and the name of each child was read aloud continuously.

Yad Vashim Children's Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem

Yad Vashem Children’s Memorial

 

It doesn’t seem like any time since I took Student Ambassadors to Poland and we visited Auschwitz, one of the death camps.  None of us will ever be the same.  I, as a Christian, walked beside a young Jewish student who laid flowers at the very wall where so many were executed.  I noticed that he wore his shorts but respectfully put on a tie and sports jacket as he approached the wall.

Auschwitz memorial at Yad Vashem

Auschwitz pictures at Yad Vashem (Photo credit Getty Images)

 

As we traveled, this same young man also wanted to find the apartment building where the Israeli Olympic team had been murdered by terrorists.  We looked and looked; finally finding a small plaque outside an apartment building to remember the event.  Given the gravity of this terrible tragedy, it seemed far too small.

Our student group spent time looking at the ovens where the bodies were burned.  One amazing fact was that the home of the military commander and his family was right next to the grounds of Auschwitz.  We saw the place where he was executed after the war by hanging.  Eye glasses, shoes and suitcases were piled high in glass cases.  One could see the torture chambers where a cross was scratched into the wall…indicating that not only Jews were interned there, but political prisoners and Christians.

shoes-yad-vashem

 

Steven Spielberg has made it his mission to record the lives of survivors so that future generations will understand what hatred, prejudice and war can do to people. Once the people who fought WWII and the Holocaust survivors have died, their voices will be silenced forever….except for these recordings.  Just as our World War II veterans are passing away by the hundreds each day, so are the survivors of the Holocaust.

It was my privilege to have the veterans and survivors come to my classroom of 5th graders and talk to each one of the students about their experiences.  Because each person’s story was different, the students took notes that they wrote us and presented orally to the class the following day.  Those students are adults now.  Many have finished college and have families of their own.  I pray that they have not forgotten that experience and are passing along what the Holocaust was and why we can never let this happen again.

After returning from that trip, I felt that the students in our Florida county needed to know as much about the Holocaust as possible.  With financial help from the community and parents of students, we raised enough funds to place in every school library tapes, books and age-appropriate material about the Holocaust.

Holocaust plaque St Annes Church Poland

I read about a grave-digger who was told to bury all the Jews in the woods. These were those shot on a death march.  Instead, he buried them in  St. Anna’s Roman Catholic Church in Swierklany, Poland.    This is only after he had carefully copied all the numbers from each victim’s arm.  Some seventy years later and with research from Yad Vashem in Israel, some relatives now know that Christians carefully buried the bodies of their loved ones.  A new memorial has been erected with a cross.   The new plaque at the previously unmarked grave in Swierlany, Poland now reads:

“In memory of the death march victims from Auschwitz-Birkenau”

and lists the victims’ concentration camp numbers or names.  The caring of one grave digging man, who believed differently from those he buried, made all the difference over 70 years later to a family who simply wanted to know what had happened to their loved one.

Today on Holocaust Remembrance Day, as the sirens wail,  in some places people will stop in the streets and cars will stop on the highways …wherever they are…to remember again. We too must never forget!

It is not our purpose here to try to re-create the horrors that went on here.  Probably the closest to that would be to watch Schindler’s List, produced by Spielberg, about a Christian businessman, Oskar Schindler,  who saved many Jews by taking them to work in his factory.

Oskar Schindler (28 April 1908 – 9 October 1974) was a German industrialist and a member of the Nazi Party who is credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories in occupied Poland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.   (Wikipedia)

VIDEO:     This music is played in honor of John Williams and his contribution to the telling of this story of the Holocaust and the saving of many lives.    (Turn up sound)

The Music from Schindler’s List, written by John Williams.


Is American history being destroyed?

Recently, I have been interviewing the “old timers” of the Virginia mountains about their backgrounds and family history. Each person believes that his family history and heritage is important.  I have also been compelled to photograph the old barns in the mountains because once these beautiful structures have rotted and fallen to the ground, they will be no more.

Could this be what is happening to the overall history of America because one would not like to deal with the difficulties and sometimes ugly truth?

Let me explain why I am asking if American history is being destroyed:

  • After the terrible tragedy of murders of African Americans in their South Carolina church by a young white man draped in a flag of the Civil War, there has been a serious backlash of all things related to that period of history. The Old Timers say that the flag represents their southern roots. Others say it is “racist”.

Southern states, such as Texas,  have  gone so far as to remove elegant statues of the  leaders of our country  that have stood for years on places like college campuses. It appears that political correctness is blinding the eyes of our young and those teaching our young about history.  Schools in Texas have been renamed because they have previously had the school named after Civil War generals such as Stonewall Jackson and others.    To read the full account of this dismantling of American historical figures, including a President, I give you this link.   Removing History in Texas

After reading this, I still have some questions on whether we are doing ourselves or our future generations any favors by trying to rewrite or remove history. One may even call it “sanitizing” history, which may be totally impossible to do.

  • Let’s take a look at getting rid of things that are displeasing.  Should we rename the capital of the United States from Washington to something else?  

  •  After all, George Washington, our first President, was a slave holder all his life…in fact, over 300 slaves. He wrote in his 1799 will that they would be freed or returned to other slave holders after Martha Washington’s death.    Read more about Washington’s Mt. Vernon.

 

  • The state of Virginia, I have learned, had laws that we would think by today’s standards totally unjust to people’s freedom of choice.  Such a law was that a white person could not marry an African American. Other states also had this law.   See for yourself the legal battle of Mildred Jester and Richard Loving vs the State of VA 

 

  • History is sometimes hard to swallow, especially when it comes to those we hold in high esteem.  One of these people is Thomas Jefferson, a writer of the Declaration of Independence and owner of hundreds of slaves.  How many people would know about the fact that whole generations are now part of the United States population because Jefferson, a Virginian, fathered a number of children by a favored slave named Sally Hemings, who he also took with his family to London and Paris.

    Sally Hemings  and Thomas Jefferson

    Painting of Sally Hemings

Elizabeth Hemings was her mother, whose parents were an English Sea Captain and an enslaved African woman.   My, these men certainly did get around regardless of any laws…especially if slaves were considered property.

Now, the question….if we are dismantling history, should we tear down beautiful Monticello as we are doing with statues?   (See video at end of the descendants of Thomas Jefferson)

I think any reasonable person can see that history cannot be destroyed or removed just because it  sometimes goes against everything we believe to be right.  Let’s leave something for our children to understand how we rose above the problems regardless of their beginning.

Should we destroy  Mt. Rushmore because two of the men there were slave owners?  

Mountrushmore faces

On left, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson

 I read recently that ISIL (ISIS) has destroyed by 2015 over 24  monuments that were thousands of years old because they did not agree with them.  Places You’ll Never See because they are no more.

Even world history is important.   The Germans probably will never remove Auschwitz as sickening as it is to remember. It must not be forgotten.

Surely freedom loving Americans do not want to destroy their heritage..for good or for bad. The people of American saw the wrongs in their history…and abolished slavery by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.  Many of our laws have preserved the rights of individuals. More will most likely continue to be passed.

 Leave history  alone. It should not be replaced or removed.  Make it better, but leave it as a testament for what needs to be improved and what people fought for or against.   History is history.  People have  good and bad qualities. Many leaders are also gifted and talented. Pulling down their statues or calling names of those who want to preserve them in history will not change that reality.

Watch the following video that is most informative:

CBS Video of the Descendants of Thomas Jefferson 

After posting this blog, I had my reader, Stephen from England, send me a comment, which I would like share:

“We have the same issues here. Personally though we should move with the times, I don’t think we should re-write or erase history. Perhaps none have influenced the world as us British and no doubt in that there was lots of good and bad.

It’s hard to take the blame for the sins of the father. Such is human nature, there is little in the way of thanks for science, law, discovery, what might be labelled generically as Western Civisikstion. Though lots of blame for things such as conquest, war and the like.

Can anyone really judge either way for events before their own lifetime. Should I be grateful for the Romans for laws and demanding reparation for bring enslaved by them? Should I add the Danes, Vikings, French and even Irish to the list. It goes without saying that I have totally forgiven Germany for the events of the world wars. And those wars were far more bloody, more selfish and in no way as defensible as wrongs both our nations have committed much further back.  Whilst not reveling and glorying in the worse aspects of our past, we shouldn’t hide from them. They are part of our story just as they are parts of the story of those who suffered in those situations.

Recently over here an African student studying at Oxford has led a high profile campaign to have the statue of Sir Cecil Rhodes removed from a college in Oxford. This is on account of him colonizing much if Southern Africa. Of course today few would ever think of such a thing but I dint think we can judge him by modern standards. Interestingly this African student is said to be studying thanks to a bursary set up long ago by this same Cecil Rhodes.

Perhaps a good example of how no one being all bad and also someone being hypocritical in hating someone and yet being happy to profit from the more positive aspects of this man…. Almost like others might have done 100 years ago!”


Last of freedoms…Your Attitude and the Human Spirit

sadWhen someone has damaged your very soul and your meaning of life, it is easy to replay that situation mentally… in that it takes over much of one’s thinking.  The result:  that person or persons who did this thing has intruded into your life and taken over one of your most precious freedoms…your attitude, mind and your human spirit.  The privilege was not theirs. They have stolen it. Only you can take it back.

This was brought to me clearly when listening to a recent CBS news cast on the effect of terrorism and brutality on us psychologically, especially children.   In fact, it was an “Epiphany”(realization) of sorts to me personally in that I had experienced some deep sadness over the past year.  I found it a struggle not to think of this situation throughout the day….over and over again.

When I heard the words written by  Antoine Leiris to the terrorists who had killed his wife and the mother of his child, I knew this was a profound truth.

“You WILL NOT have my hatred.”

The report continues to tell of Viktor Frankl who had lost his wife in the Holocaust.

“Everything can be taken from a man (or woman) but one thing: the last of the human freedoms to choose one’s attitude.”   

It was these words that made me take hold of my sadness…my attitude…and confront within my own life,  that my JOY will not be destroyed.  Neither will my ability to LAUGH…and appreciate the good things of life. It made me look around me at the ones who show me love and the simple pleasures of sharing a meal and giving love back.

To those who read my blog, I ask that you will seriously consider your own hurts, disappointments, tragedies and sadness of life.  Speak out in your prayers and even your voice,  “YOU WILL NOT HAVE MY MIND, THOUGHTS or ATTITUDE.   Your action WILL NOT ruin my life.”

The joy of living!

The joy of living!

 

The impact of terrorism on the human spirit
A special video on one of our last FREEDOMS.  (enlarge screen for best viewing)


Remember History or RELIVE it!

As I walked through the gates of Auschwitz  with my students a few years ago, I was reminded of the famous saying that one must remember history or relive it.   This is particularly true today with the evil plots to destroy one’s neighbor from within or without.   My fellow blogger, Stephen Liddell in England, reminded his countrymen that there is  at least one great reason to get out and vote in their General Election.   This picture tells that reason.  We here in America should be taking as seriously our own future elections.

In England,  888,246 poppies were laid  to remember each of the WW1 dead.  (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Defence.)

In England, 888,246 poppies were laid to remember each of the WW1 dead.
(Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Defense.)

 

Voters, here in America and those abroad, were not living during WWI and many were not living during WWII, but that does not mean we can not take our lessons from history.   The battles may be different, but they are battles just the same.   Complacency may be the road to slavery or death.  No one likes to think of it, but it is the truth just the same.  A strong nation will defend itself.  A strong people will not  turn a blind eye to the past…especially when one is threatened with evil and destruction.

I would say to our friends in America and worldwide, teach history to your young people.  When surveyed, they seem to not know even basic facts of the sacrifices of their grandparents during times of crisis.    They are the future voters and the inheritance of whom we choose now as leaders in the world.

I am writing this on May 7.  How many people would know some of the events of history that happened on this one day alone…May 7th?    These events changed history and the lives of people, but are they remembered?  Multiply this one day by all the days of the calendar year.

  • 1727 – Jews are expelled from Ukraine by Empress Catherine I of Russia
  • 1862 – Battle of West Point, VA (Eltham’s Landing, Barnhamsville)
  • 1913 – British House of Commons rejects women’s right to vote
  • 1915 – SS Lusitania sunk by German submarine; 1198 lives lost
  • 1939 – Germany & Italy announced an alliance known as the Rome-Berlin Axis
  • 1942 – Nazi decree orders all Jewish pregnant women of Kovno Ghetto executed
  • 1943 – Dutch men 18-35 obliged to report to labor camps
  • 1945 – WWII: unconditional German surrender to the Allies signed by General Alfred Jodl at Rheims
  • 1947 – General MacArthur approves Japanese constitution
  • 1954 – French surrender to Vietminh after 55-day siege at Dien Bien Phu
  • 1960 – USSR announces Francis Gary Powers confessed to being a CIA spy
  • 1975 – Pres Ford declares an end to “Vietnam Era”
  • 1980 –  Iraq bombs a Tehran oil refiner
  • 1982 – US performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site
  • 1999 – Kosovo War: In Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, three Chinese citizens are killed and 20 wounded when a NATO aircraft bombs the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.
  • 2013 – 55 people are killed by a Boko Haram attack in Nigeria

Then there was September 11, 2001.    President Bush and the brave first responders… men and women of N.Y. City step forward as in Washington and Pennsylvania.  Leadership was everything!

The importance of leadership cannot be over-estimated.    What would England have done without Sir Winston Churchill during the crisis of WWII?    Leaders have to have vision larger than themselves and their political careers.  They must have a vision for what is right and what cannot be tolerated. Thank you, Stephen, for reminding us of the importance of never forgetting when making choices.

Not on May 7th, but in 1962 was the Cuban Missile Crisis. Leaders could not stand by for they had been elected to protect us …and they acted.  Regardless of what party Americans belong, Democrat or Republican, the leadership of a President and the elected leaders makes a difference. Perhaps these thoughts are best said by one of our former Presidents who met his last days by an evil act. History is a warning.as well as a time of encouragement …heed it!

SEE VIDEO


70 YEARS….Lilly Jacob Zemanovic and the Auschwitz Album….Schindler’s List

This week the world has been remembering 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.  It is hard to believe even this many years later the atrocities done there to so many people. Yet, it was a reality that must never be forgotten.

A few years ago, I took  Student Ambassadors  to Eastern Europe. We saw first hand the museum of Auschwitz with the thousands of eyeglasses, shoes, luggage, and the gas chambers.  I saw the tiny areas where prisoners had to stand for hours as punishment, with no way to sit or lay down.    Near these spots were messages scratched on the walls.   I saw a cross that is now covered with plastic to protect it.    One of my students  brought an arm-full of flowers to lay at the wall where so many had been executed.

 Even as late as 2011, the news reported that the President of  Iran  still  refuses to believe that the millions of  Jews, Christians, homosexuals,  political enemies of the Nazi regime, and others  went to their death in the consecration camps of Europe.

   The Prime Minister of Israel had to  stand once again to  tell the United Nations and the world that “Yes, Israel is a Jewish state”  and has the right to exist.  Even this week, our own President is refusing to see Israel’s Prime Minister when he comes to address our Congress and the peoples of the world. He will most likely emphasize what could lay in store once again unless we bind together to not allow these horrors… whether through nuclear annihilation or through the old method of  gas chambers.

  Question:  When will this persecution end…or will it?

Now, in 2015, my husband is taking a group of people to a Holy Land pilgrimage of Jerusalem.  Some ask, “Why would you go there when there is so much unrest in the Middle East?”   It’s simple….to walk the footsteps of our Savior, Jesus Christ…the Jew who gave himself for our salvation and to be the Messiah of all people including the Jews.

While in Jerusalem, the group will go to the memorial garden at Yad Vashem,  This is the remembrance of all  non-Jews  (Righteous Gentiles) who risked everything to hide Jewish neighbors and friends from deportation.   Oskar Schindler (see movie trailer below on Schindler’s List) and others  are named there.   These non-Jews are among the more than 21,000 who by 2006 have been recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.   One of these was Father Pierre-Marie Benoit of France.   His monastary was busy all the time with people trying to flee certain death.  His printing presses ran full steam putting out new Baptism Certificates and false Christian names for Jews to be able to survive.   In 1966, he was honored on the Walk of the Righteous.      (To read more….Tribute to Father Benoit)     Christians and some Muslim people helped  hide the Jews.  This is not widely known.   The Christian group going on this pilgrimage will see the memorial stone for Oscar Schindler, a German businessman, who saved so many.  Today there are more than 7,000 descendants of the Schindler-Jews living in US and Europe, many in Israel. Before the Second World War, the Jewish population of Poland was 3.5 million. Today there are fewer than  3,000 and 4,000 left.

Holocaust Survivor Lilly Jacob

This is the picture of  Lilly Jacob Zelmanovic Meier, who died in 1999 in Miami, Florida.     When the troops arrived to rescue the survivors,  she found  pictures that are now known as the Auschwitz Album.   It is now in Yad Vashem in Israel.

This is Lilly’s story.  (Taken from the introduction of the “Auschwitz Album” shown below.

“18-year-old Lilly Jacob was deported with her family, and most of the Jews of Hungary, in the spring of 1944. On the ramp at Auschwitz she was brutally separated from her parents and younger brothers; she never saw any of them again. She was lucky and survived; yet, she was not always convinced of the blessing of having survived totally alone, bereft of family, friends and her world.

Unlike all the other survivors, she was granted a small miracle. On the day of her liberation, in the Dora concentration camp hundreds of miles from Auschwitz, she found in the deserted SS barracks a photo album. It contained, among others, pictures of her family and friends as they arrived on the ramp and unknowingly awaited their death. It was a unique tie to what once had been, could never return, and could never be rebuilt.    

It was also, as we now know, the only photographic evidence of Jews arriving in Auschwitz or any other death camp.  

After the war Lilly found and married Max Zelmanovic, a prewar acquaintance. Selling glass-plate prints of the album to the Jewish Museum in Prague enabled the couple and their first-born daughter, Esther, to immigrate to the United States. They settled in Miami and raised a family, yet the album continued to be central to their lives. Survivors spread the word of a unique album in the possession of a waitress in Miami, and they made their way across the country to seek her out, and to hope against hope that their lost family, like hers, might be engraved on its prints. Not a week would go by but Lilly would bring home strangers who were not strangers, and they would pour over the pictures and weep.

Rarely, someone would identify a family member, and Lilly would give them the snapshot. Since most of the Jews had been murdered, leaving no living trace, most of the photos remained unclaimed.  

In 1980 Serge Klarsfeld convinced Lilly  that the album should be safeguarded at Yad Vashem. She came to Jerusalem, showed it to Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and donated it to Yad Vashem, where it resides to this day and is treasured for the future.” 

If we turn our eyes away to things that are unjust, we definitely will repeat history. 

———————-

The music written for Schindler’s List  always brings tears to my eyes as I sit down to play it on the piano.  It certainly must have been inspired through the talents of John Williams.  Please listen for this music as you view the trailer on the movie, Schindler’s List below.  Turn up sound.

 


IRENA SENDLER…a Christian woman…saved thousands of Jewish Children

My friend, Ginnie, sent me an email telling me about a remarkable woman.  She is known in Poland and is one of the Righteous Gentiles honored in Israel, but for many she is an unknown.  Sentenced to death for saving lives is hard to believe, but miraculously she was rescued from prison.

PBS has done a full documentary on the life of Irena Sendler is what they had to say about the film.

“Irena Sendler: In the Name of Their Mothers is the story of a group of young Polish women, who outfoxed the Nazis during World War II and saved the lives of thousands of Jewish children.

Irena Sendler, a petite social worker, was not yet thirty years old when Nazi tanks rolled into Warsaw in September of 1939. When the city’s Jews were imprisoned behind a ghetto wall without food or medicine, she appealed to her closest friends and colleagues, mostly young women, some barely out of their teens. Together, they smuggled aid in and smuggled Jewish orphans out of the ghetto by hiding infants on trams and garbage wagons and leading older children out through secret passageways and the city’s sewers. Catholic birth certificates and identity papers were forged and signed by priests and high ranking officials in the Social Services Department so that the children could be taken from safe houses in Warsaw to orphanages and convents in the surrounding countryside.

The scheme was fraught with danger. The city was crawling with ruthless blackmailers, and the Gestapo were constantly on the look out for Jews who had escaped from the ghetto. “You are not Rachel but Roma. You are not Isaac but Jacek. Repeat it ten times, a hundred, even a thousand times,” says Irena, who knew that any child on the street could be stopped and interrogated. If he was unable to recite a Catholic prayer he could be killed.

Magda Rusinek tells us how she taught the children “little prayers that every child knows in Polish. I would wake them up during the night to say the prayer,” says the Sendler collaborator who had joined the Polish Resistance as a teenager. “And then I had to teach them how to behave in a church, a Christian Church.”

“They treated me like their own child,” says Poitr Zettinger, recalling how the sisters would warn him when the Gestapo came to the convent. “They would tell me when I should hide so I’d run up to the attic. I’d hide in a cupboard there.” William Donat, a New York businessman, describes the conflicts inherent in the extraordinary situation. “I was baptized and I was converted and, became a very, very strong Catholic. I was praying every day for perhaps a little more food and for Jesus to forgive me for the terrible sin that I had been born a Jew.”

Sendler and her cohorts kept meticulous records of the children’s Jewish names so that they could be reunited with their parents after the war. Donat was one of the few whose parents survived.

In 1942, as conditions worsened and thousands of Jews were rounded up daily and sent to die at the Treblinka death camp, less than hour outside Warsaw, Sendler and her cohorts began to appeal to Jewish parents to let their children go. Sixty years later, Irena still has nightmares about the encounters. “Those scenes over whether to give a child away were heart-rending. Sometimes, they wouldn’t give me the child. Their first question was, ‘What guarantee is there that the child will live?’ I said, ‘None. I don’t even know if I will get out of the ghetto alive today.”

Indeed, Sendler and her colleagues were taking an enormous risk says Wladyslaw Bartoszewski of the Polish Resistance. “No work, not printing underground papers, transporting weapons, planning sabotage against the Germans, none of it was as dangerous as hiding a Jew. You have a ticking time bomb in your home. If they find out, they will kill you, your family and the person you are hiding.” Magda Rusinek describes one harrowing escape with a small child. “The street was blocked so I ran through gates I knew were still open with him under my arm. And we just managed to get to the apartment when they blocked it. So it was seconds. Absolute seconds.”

Sendler describes, as though it were yesterday, how the Gestapo came to her apartment on her Saint’s Day, October 20th, 1943. Desperate to hide the list of hidden children and their Jewish names, she looked out her window. “There were two Germans walking around. Nine were coming up the stairs.” At the last moment, she tossed the list to a friend who hid it under her arm. Irena was taken to the notorious Pawiak prison where she was tortured for refusing to give up information about her co-conspirators and their work. She escaped as she was being led to her execution, thanks to friends who had managed to bribe a guard at the last moment.

Irena and her colleagues continued their work. With the help of the Polish Resistance and some 200 convents and orphanages in the city of Warsaw and throughout the countryside, they managed to save the lives of at least 2,500 Jewish children.
Suppressed during the Communist regime in post-war Poland, and for decades afterwards, Sendler’s story finally comes to American audiences through interviews, rare stock footage and evocative re-creations shot on location in Warsaw. A few years shy of her hundredth birthday when interviewed by director Mary Skinner, Sendler’s lucid account of her life and work is a testament to the human capacity for moral courage in the face of depravity and evil during history’s darkest times.”

Below is a preview of the documentary.  To order the full documentary, see this link: COMPLETE DOCUMENTARY FILM of IRENA SENDLER


JUSTICE…May NOT be this side of the grave!

László Csizsik-Csatáry

László Csizsik-Csatá

Someone died this week, August 10, 2013, who should have died much sooner.  Laszlo Csatary  was 98 when he passed away in Poland, waiting for a trial that never came.

Csatary had lived in the West  since WWII…even ran an art gallery in Canada, where he had become a citizen until Canada got wind of his connections to the Holocaust.  Interesting that he fled back to Poland where his war crimes had been committed. Later he was arrested in Hungary.  There were many ghosts to meet him there…some still living after torturous conditions in the camps.

According to an AP writing,Holocaust survivor Edita Salamonova, whose family was killed in the Auschwitz death camp after their deportation from Kosice, said she remembered Csatary well.  “I can see him in front of me,” Salamonova said. “A tall, handsome man but with a heart of stone.”Salamonova remembered Csatary’s presence at the brick factory… and would make sure to keep out of his sight when he was around.”

nazi death camps women

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“Hungarian authorities said Csatary was the chief of an internment camp set up in a brick factory for around 12,000 Jews in Kosice — a Slovak city then part of Hungary — in 1944, beating them with his bare hands and a dog whip regularly and without reason. He had also been charged with “actively participating” in the deportation of thousands of Jews to Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps….On  June 2, 1944, Csatary rejected a request by one of the deportees to allow a ventilation hole to be cut into the wall of a railroad car on its way to a death camp and crammed with around 80 people.”Nazi War Criminal  Laszlo Csatary3

We would like to know that all war criminals had  their lives cut short by a swift justice that was handed down to them by high courts.  That is, unfortunately, not the case.  We are told by Efraim Zuroff, one of the last Nazi hunters and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem Office, that they were  “deeply disappointed” in Csatary’s death ahead of his possible trial in Hungary…“It is a shame that Csatary, a convicted … and totally unrepentant Holocaust perpetrator who was finally indicted in his homeland for his crimes, ultimately eluded justice and punishment at the very last-minute,” Zuroff said in a statement.

Csatáry tries to hide his face.

Csatáry tries to hide his face.

We would question whether Csatary truly eluded justice and punishment …..for his day is coming.   No earthly court sentenced him to a  shorter life when it should have, but his secret hours and sleep may have been one of nightmares and torment…for the “wicked have no rest”.   The Great Court and Judgment Day is Coming from which he and no other person will escape.  Many people do not want to consider this part of the Word of God because it is not comfortable to consider.  Nevertheless, if we are to believe even one word of the the Scriptures as truth, we cannot dismiss this part.  The other side of the grave will have much more than we can imagine.

The New and Old Testament Holy Scriptures tell us the following…let those who have ears to hear…hear….

Revelation 20:11-15 “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

Ezekiel38:17-23   “Thus says the Lord God: Are you he of whom I spoke in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel, who in those days prophesied for years that I would bring you against them?  But on that day, the day that Gog (may refer to most of the middle eastern countries surrounding Israel) shall come against the land of Israel, declares the Lord God, my wrath will be roused in my anger.  For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, On that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel.  The fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the people who are on the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence. And the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground.  I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Lord God. Every man’s sword will be against his brother.  With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him, and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many people who are with him torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur.  So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”

We serve a just God…a merciful God to those who repent….a kind and generous God…whose patience will not endure forever.


A Short Film Winner- The Porcelain Unicorn

A friend, John O’Neil, whom my husband and I  met recently shared with me a most moving video clip that had won First Place in the “Tell it Your Way” contest out of many entries.   Having written a number of  stories in this Boyer Writes on the lives of those who lived through World War II and the Holocaust,  I felt it would be appropriate to present this story of two people and how their meeting changed their lives.

This article written in the New York Times by Stuart Elliot gives the details:

September 24, 2010, 2:30 pm
Director Selects Winner of Philips Consumer Contest
By STUART ELLIOTT

“Ridley Scott, known for directing movies like “Blade Runner” and “Gladiator,” has chosen the winner of a contest to create short films that was sponsored by Philips.

Mr. Scott picked a film called “Porcelain Unicorn” as the winner of the Tell It Your Way contest. The name, echoing the long-time Burger King slogan, “Have it your way,” underlines the nature of the contest, which is in the genre known as consumer-generated or user-generated content.

“Porcelain Unicorn,” which can be watched on YouTube, was the brainchild of an American director, Keegan Wilcox. Mr. Wilcox, a producer and director at ELA Advertising in California, wins prizes that include a week working at Ridley Scott Associates and the promotion of his short by Philips in venues that include a section of the Philips Web site.

Mr. Scott selected the short from among more than 600 entries in the contest, which was inspired by online commercials for Philips, under the title “Parallel Lines,” created by the London office of DDB Worldwide, part of the Omnicom Group.

A People’s Choice Award was also presented in the contest, to a short called “Baby Time,” by a French director, Cedric Petitcollin. “Baby Time” can also be watched on YouTube.

There is also a YouTube channel devoted to the contest. The entries were winnowed to 306 semifinalists, which a panel of judges narrowed to 10 finalists. The public then voted on YouTube to select five of those 10 shorts for the final round of judging, during which Mr. Scott chose “Porcelain Unicorn” as the winner.”

VIDEO


Life’s Attitudes and Thankfulness: Alice Herz Sommer

Alice Herz Sommer

Why would someone who has lost family and spent years in a concentration camp have anything to be happy about?   How can she say that life is beautiful and music was the instrument God used to bring  Himself  into the presence of those who were suffering the most?  The beautiful smile on the cover of her book shown here would hardly tell the story nor the video at the end of this writing.
In 2010, Alice Herz-Sommer was the oldest living survivor of the Holocaust at age 107.     She came from a  German-speaking Jewish family and at age five,  Alice was a music pupil of the famous composer, Franz Zeist in Prague.  Her father  made machine parts and her mother was a concert pianist.  All perished in the death camps.  She married Leopold Sommer, the famous concert cellist who also died at Auschwitz.
When asked by many interviewers, ” What do you believe about life and what have you learned?” These are some of the things that she says about different topics:
  • Banned musicians who played concert style in her prison camp
“Whenever I knew that I had a concert, I was happy. We performed in the council hall before an audience of 150 old, hopeless, sick and hungry people. They lived for the music. It was like food to them. If they hadn’t come to hear us, they would have died long before…as we would have.”
  • Her dedication to her music and helping herself  at the “show camp…Terezin-Theresienstadt concentration camp..” set up to impress the Red Cross that all was going well in the camps and a staging post for those who would die.
“From my inner spirit came…now, you alone can help yourself…not your husband, not the doctor, not the child…at that moment I knew I had to play Frederic Chopin’s 24 etudes, which are the greatest challenge for any pianist. Like Goethe’s ‘Faust’ or Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet.’ … I practiced for hours and hours until they forced us out.”
  • Her young son, who was in the camp with her
“He took part in a performance of the children’s opers Brundibar,  staged for Red Cross officials in 1944. Soon after the show, all the children — except Raphael and one girl — were sent to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. Of the 15,000 children in our camp,   Raphael was one of only 130 to survive.”
  • About her family
“The whole family of my husband, several members of my family, all my friends, all the friends of my family, nobody came back.”
  • On the trial of Adolf Eichmann that she attended in 1962
“I have to say that I had pity for him. I have pity for the entire German people. They are wonderful people, no worse than others. … [What they did] was a terrible thing, but was Alexander the Great any better? Evil has always existed and always will. It is part of our life.”
Liberated in 1945 by allied forces,  Alice immigrated to Israel as a music teacher; living there forty years.  She went to England to join her son, Raphael, who died of a heart attack.
  • On thankfulness and end of life
“Raphael died without pain. It is the greatest miracle and the greatest privilege in our life, to die without pain, so I am full of thankfulness.”
  • On life
“When you are pessimistic, your body behaves in an unnatural way. It is up to us whether we look at the good or the bad. When you are nice to others, they are nice to you. When you give, you receive.”
Words of wisdom from a woman who has lived more than most ever will.   Listen to her words in the video below and give thanks.
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Through a Child’s Eyes

The saying that the “soul is in the eyes” is a truth. Eyes may look tired, but if there is no light…the soul or innocence… may be dead.

I was struck recently by the eyes of a young actor in the movie, ” The Boy in the Striped Pajamas“, directed by Mark Herman and based on the novel by John Boyne.

Filmed in Budapest, Hungary by BBC films,  this movie  studies the character and innocence of two boys and the disintegration of a family torn by circumstances. One boy, played by Asa Butterfield, is the  son of a powerful German officer, who is commander  of a concentration camp. The other boy,  behind the barbed wire, is victim of the Holocaust.   It is the story of prejudice, lies and propaganda  during a terrible time in history with  unexpected results.    If you have not seen it, I would highly recommend it. The eyes tell it all.

[Click to see movie trailer]


ISRAEL CELEBRATES 62 YEARS AS A NATION

Flag of Israel

Israel became the only Jewish nation in the world in 1948.  During this time, the desert has truly “bloomed as a rose” and displaced people from around the world have come to build a new life

Israel is the home to three major religions….  but, sadly, neighbors to this tiny country have said that  Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth.   It is a threat that no peace-loving person would want to live under.  Yet, they have come….Jews from all over the world.

Throughout the centuries, the Jews have battled for their existence. During  World War II, millions who perished in the ovens and gas chambers would have only dreamed of a place to call home as the Israel we know today.  It is the land of the prophets; the land of the Holy Scriptures; the land that armies have tried to conquer throughout history.

When I took high school student ambassadors to Poland, I spent time with a young Jewish guide who wanted two things only: to learn to speak English better and to emigrate to Israel.   He took my Bible and eagerly read the English to improve what he already knew.

Even during the 90’s, people in his small town were persecuting the Jewish shop owners, which made the news here in the U.S.   Hearing this, I called the number he had given me.  His mother, who was the reason he had not left with his friends, answered the phone.  I knew no Polish; she knew no English.   However, we somehow managed to communicate. I was the “Americana” and he was in “Israel”.   So he finally had gotten his wish.  I hope he is still there today and finding the life that he always wanted. I also hope that he has read the Bible that I gave him. Perhaps he has found the suffering Jew that I know as my Saviour and his Messiah.

On this same trip, the students and I visited Auschwitz Concentration Camp.  With an arm-full of flowers, my Jewish student went to the wall where so many had been executed.  He laid the flowers there. I can still picture him with his Bermuda shorts and a suit jacket and tie. He was giving as much respect as any student could. Later, in Munich we found the apartment building together that the Israeli Olympic Team had lived in when they were raided by terrorist and murdered during the Olympics.   All of these events showed me how these Jewish young people felt no matter where they lived.

My husband and I flew into Israel some years ago.  It was an airline experience like none other.  Not only were we guarded by machine gun, but as the plane approached the landing, the Israeli National Anthem was played.  One could hear a pin drop and then a cheer.  We were welcomed as “pilgrims”, which we truly were.

Some of my most memorial photos were those at the Temple Mount.  A large group of school girls in red were arriving to enter the Mosque.  They smiled and posed; happy to be photographed.   An Israeli soldier took a picture with me as I entered the area of the Wailing Wall…a special place of prayer.   Perhaps one of the most moving places was the remembrance of the children murdered during the Holocaust.  We walked down a lane with monuments to the “Righteous”….Christians who had helped protect the Jews during this terrible period.  Inside the building were tiny lights in the ceiling, representing stars and the children.  Slowly, around the clock, the names of these little ones are read aloud.

Surely, these people deserve to come home.  Yes, there are problems.  Not everything is right and the struggle will continue.  It will be up to individuals to shoulder the burdens of understanding.   Prophets declare there will be a great battle here someday.  When is not known.   However, for today, the nation celebrates 62 years.  The slide presentation below is Boyer Writes tribute to an amazing country.     Happy Birthday, Israel.

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