Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Amcha" Yom Hashoa 2009

As in previous years on Yom Hashoa, so also this year, I participated in a couple of workshops at “Amcha”. Under the guidance of a senior psychologist we discussed ‘Emuna Beshoa’ - Belief during the Shoa. There were vast differences in the approach to this subject. 

My own personal belief goes back on my upbringing at home in Germany. My mother was a devout Zionist. From a young age I belonged to “Habonim”, a Zionist pioneering youth movement. My belief, then and now, is based on Judaism, Zionism and Pioneering. The Shoa did not change my belief. My mother was willing to make great sacrifices for her belief. She parted from one child after the other, in order for us three children to be able to live. Her parting words were "Lehitraot Bearzenu" -See you again in our homeland-. My brother came to Erez Israel with Youth Aliya, my sister and myself were throughout the war on Hachshara in England.   There I waited  until I could fulfill my dream to come on Aliya,  to arrive in Erez Israel as soon as it was possible, which was within a month of the end of the war in 1945.  My parents perished in Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, their bodies bend, but with their spirit alive. They preserved  their integrity, dignity and  "Emuna"- 'belief' in humanity until the end.

My mother lived under the Nazi rule for eleven years, from 1933 –1944. I left home in 1939 aged fifteen. For three and a half years, until in 1942 together with my father she was on the transport to Thersienstadt, where my father died, she accompanied me during my growing up stage. It was my mother in her many letters I received from her, who gave me the courage and inspired me to live up to my belief.  It is precisely that, which keeps me going 70 years later in my old age. 

In the discussion there were people who objected to my saying that my parents perished. They insisted and tried to imply that I should say they were murdered. The word “murdered” for me brings up the image of the murderers. It sounds  like the language the  historians use.

For me it is important to remember my parents as they were. They were always concerned and helpful to others, loving and caring for each other and their children and until the end strong in their belief in humanity. It is their image that I have in mind when I tell the story of a Jewish Family, my family. 

It is my narrative, a narrative I can live with. I cherish the memory of my parents and the values which they instilled in me, hoping they will be passed on from generation to generation  


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Twenty Years of Friendship

In the spring of 1988 I met Pastor Berndt for the first time in answer to a small notice that I saw in the Jerusalem Post:  “Will be visiting the Rutenberg House in Haifa with a youth group from Germany and would like to meet with someone who remembers the “Kristall Nacht” – the pogrom night of November 1938”. 

1988 was a general awakening in Germany to pay attention to what happened fifty years earlier. I got an invitation from several cities to speak in schools and tell the story of a Jewish Family - my family.

Pastor Berndt invited me to stay with his family in his home for the duration while I was talking in schools and in the community. A deep friendship developed and I called him my Pastor. On my annual lecture tours to Germany it became a regular stopover for me. He visited Israel with different groups over the years. His younger son who studied Theology spent a term to study in Israel.

A couple of weeks ago I received a mail from Pastor Berndt that he will be touring Israel with his wife, hid elder son, daughter in law and their 4 children aged 12, 10, 6,and 4. They would like to visit me. He wanted his grandchildren to hear me tell the story of my family in my home.  While I gave the younger children paper and colors to paint, I used my picture book that I specially made for such a time when I can’t use my computer power point presentations. 

Pastor Berndt recalled our first meeting 21 years ago and his amazement at that  time when he met an old lady who greeted this group of young Germans boys and girls with a bunch of spring flowers. 

Twenty years of friendship, covering three generations, was crowned with the present visit. Everybody showed great interest, hugged me, thanked me warmly and promised to return.