yesterday

“To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”  Elie Wiesel

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Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Several of my blogging friends wrote about it and covered the details thoroughly.  In my newspaper today a well-written article by the AP also gave recognition to the greatest act of inhumanity ever in modern history.

And some people say, “Whaaaat? What are you talking about?”

To me it is unfathomable that anyone living on planet Earth does not know that over 6 millions Jews plus Roma, gays, and the handicapped were systematically rounded up, sent to the death camps and murdered.  To me it is unconscionable that groups exist in my state that say the Holocaust was a hoax.

My newspaper article this morning referenced a study released by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the Azriekli Foundation stating that in Canada 52% of millennials cannot not name even one of the concentration camps and that 62% of millennials did not know about the 6 million Jews killed.  These findings are similar to a study conducted last year in the USA.

We must never forget nor allow others to forget what happened in the death camps.  We must always stand up for the oppressed and disenfranchised.  Not knowing is not an excuse.

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Lest we forget

Elie Wiesel published NIGHT in 1958, thirteen years after his liberation from the Nazi death camp of Buchenwald at 6 P.M. on April 10, 1945.  It is said he could not or would not speak of his experience for several years, but decided he needed to face the memories and the horror of his experience because the world needed to remember.

ELIE WIESEL NOBEL PEACE PRIZE ACCEPTANCE SPEECH

Excerpts from that speech in Oslo, Norway, on December 10, 1986:

“I remember: it happened yesterday, or eternities ago.  A young Jewish boy discovered the Kingdom of the Night.  I remember his bewilderment, I remember his anguish.  It all happened so fast.  The ghetto. The deportation.  The sealed cattle car.  The fiery altar upon which the history of our people and the future of mankind were meant to be sacrificed.”

I remember he asked his father, ‘Can this be true?  This is the twentieth century, not the Middle Ages.  Who would allow such crimes to be committed.  How could the world remain silent?

And now the boy is turning to me. ‘Tell me,’ he asks, ‘what have you done with my future, what have you done with your life?’  And I tell him that I have tried.  That I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget.  BECAUSE IF WE FORGET, WE ARE GUILTY, WE ARE ACCOMPLICES.”

As a caravan of desperate Central American men, women and children from Honduras snake their way north to a land which they hope will give them a chance for sanctuary from a despotic, violent government, will America shut the door?

In June of 1939 nine-hundred-thirty-seven passengers aboard the ship St. Louis, most of them European Jews, were denied entry to the port of Miami and forced to return to Europe; more than a quarter died in the Holocaust.  Our government under FDR stated that they posed a national security threat.

In February of 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR ordered the internment of 110,000 – 120,000 Japanese-Americans in western parts of the United States.  Sixty-two percent of those were United States citizens.  Again the government said they posed a national security threat, but historians lay the blame on racism.

“And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.  We must take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.  Sometimes we must interfere.”  

How can we remain silent?

 

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GENA TURGEL

NAMASTE       

 

“Truly I tell you that whatever you have done to the least of my brothers and sisters, you have also done to me.”

Chapter 25 in the book of Matthew shows humanity a blueprint for us to follow into a world dedicated to compassion and peaceful co-existence.  The lives we live can be a powerful testimony to the one we call Lord or they can be complicity with a world run amok.  It’s our choice, yours and mine.

Gena Turgel died on June 7 in London, England.  She was 95.  As a survivor of the Holocaust, she witnessed Nazi horrors at the death camps of Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Bergen-Belsen.  She said at a tribute recently in London’s Hyde Park:

“Maybe that’s why I was spared – so my testimony would serve as a memorial like that candle that I light, for the men, women and children who have no voice.”

She once told BBC of her time providing comfort to 15 year-old Anne Frank dying from typhus:

“I washed her face, gave her water to drink, and I can still see that face, her hair and how she looked.”

What is my testimony today?  Would it be pleasing to the one I call Lord?  So much that is happening in today’s world is abhorrent and evil and it is so easy to feed into the hatefulness and violence that we see everyday on the news media.  But, it is also happening next door, in my neighborhood, in my community.  The horror of homelessness and hunger is not a distant problem in a foreign country.  It is a daily struggle for people living in the woods down the street.

Drug abuse is rampant.  My county is termed as a “rural area”, yet it has the 2nd highest drug abuse problem in the state.  Poverty and absence of job opportunities feed this drug use.  Good men turn to illegal activity in an effort to support a family.  Addiction does not discriminate.  It accepts the poor and wealthy, men and women, illiterate and educated, gay and straight, black and white.  Unfortunately, jails fill with men and women who don’t really have a drug problem.

It is a heart problem from which they suffer.  Empty, bitter hearts need to be filled with something.  For many alcohol and drugs are the solution.  The recovery fellowships which bring addicts and alcoholics to a better way of living are filled with stories of forgiveness and redemption.  Mine is one of them.

But is my sober testimony adequate recompense for the miracle allowed to me by the grace of a Higher Power?  Perhaps Jesus would say, “Depart from me, I knew you not.”  Gena Turgel believed she was spared from death at the hands of the Nazis in order to tell the world again and again and again what happens when good people don’t care enough to protect and nurture the “least of these”.

The least of these could be you and I someday.  In a tumultuous world society, we don’t know when we could be the next target of racism, bigotry or hatred.  I see my life as a day-to-day blessing from God.  I am not assured that I will have food tomorrow or a roof over my head.  I do not know that my freedoms of today will be here tomorrow for me to enjoy.  But I do know that what I do unto the least of these, my brothers and sisters, today will have eternal consequences.  How about you?

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Margaret

“If Muriel had said, ‘I am sorry, my father says no,’ I would have stayed in Vienna and they would have killed me.”

Muriel, my sister, corresponded with a pen pal from Austria, Edith Muhlbauer.  Edith was 17 years old in 1938 when the Germans crossed the border and occupied Austria.  That same year in November on Kristallnacht all but one of Vienna’s synagogues were burned to the ground by mobs, 8000 Jews were arrested and 5000 were sent to Dachau.

The Muhlbauer family lived in an area of Vienna where many Jewish professionals lived.  As the situation with the Nazis grew worse Edith wrote to my sister and asked if she could come live with my family.  We did not have the money but my father asked members of his Rotary club for the money to bring Edith to England.  They also agreed to provide money for her needs and to share hosting in their homes.

Edith arrived at our home in April of 1939 bringing 2 red handbags as gifts, one for my sister and one for me.  Our home was very small, didn’t have a proper bathroom.  She was accustomed to much nicer accommodations in Vienna and she was very careful with her wonderful wardrobe.  I remember Edith would not go for a walk in the countryside because it would ruin her shoes.

Our father was concerned that this worldly girl from Vienna would lead Muriel and me astray while Edith felt our puritanical lifestyle here in England revolving around church and work was repressive.  She was tall and beautiful with dark, styled hair and she wore lipstick.

I was brought up Methodist.  Methodism means method.  It means sticking to your guns, dedication, triumph over adversity, reverence for education – the very qualities Jews have always cherished.

MARGARET THATCHER, the Iron Lady, sister of Muriel, friend of Edith, served as prime Minister of England from 1979 – 1990

“When people ask, ‘What can one person do?’ Thatcher responded, ‘That is the question that people so often ask.  Never hesitate to do whatever you can, for you may save a life.’ 

written in 1st person narrative by larrypaulbrown from information credited to the following sources:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/margaret-thatcher-s-family-sheltered-austrian-jew

Sources: Robert Philpot, “How Margaret Thatcher’s family sheltered an Austrian Jew during the Holocaust,” (June 29, 2017);
Robert Philpot, Margaret Thatcher The Honorary Jew: How Britain’s Jews Helped Shape the Iron Lady and Her Beliefs, Biteback Publishing, (June 29, 2017).