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.
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.