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The Holocaust Survivor (Part II)

Author: The Redneck Pagan
Posted: September 15th. 2013
Times Viewed: 1,669

One day, they were captured…

They were taken to a shed and the survivor remembered there being more and more people coming into the shed. The shed smelled bad. One day, all of the people in the shed left and walked into a field. She remembered being tied to her mother's back while everyone began to dig a hole. A fog came up while they were digging and her mother dropped her shovel and managed to crawl away into the woods unseen. A few minutes later, gunshots rang out. The people who had been digging their own graves had been slaughtered.

After going back into hiding, her mother found their cousins. The cousins obtained forged papers for them and smuggled them into another town. Stating they were the family of a Soviet soldier, they lived in a village pretending to be Protestants until the end of the war. When they returned to their village, they discovered the textile mill had been taken apart and their home stripped of all belongings. They were able to recover a family photo album and a shirt her mother had made because one person – only one person in the entire village – tried save their belongings from thieves.

The rest of the village was very hostile to the family, blaming Jewish people for the German invasion, so they left the village and walked. They trekked across several countries with a friend who would eventually marry her mother, bribing border guards along the way. They made it to a Red Cross Displaced Persons camp. The Red Cross was able to locate cousins who had moved to Canada prior to the war. It took over a year for them to be able to come to Canada, with only a suitcase apiece of their possessions. Before leaving Europe, the survivor and her mother went to a cemetery where her mother buried a piece of soap. The soap had been made in a Concentration Death Camp from the fat and ashes of people who had been burned in the crematoriums.

They came to Canada, started new lives and freely practiced their religion. The Holocaust Survivors who came to Canada and lived in Calgary banded together, supported each other as they adjusted to their new lives, and attempted to move forwards from the horrors of their pasts. Years later, as Holocaust survivors began to pass away, the survivor who came to talk to us felt it was important to come forward and share her story. When asked if she and her mother ever returned to Europe, the survivor said no, “all that land is a cemetery to us”.

The presentation closed with a question and answer session. The Holocaust Educator who had brought the survivor gave a small closing speech. She said "they were the witnesses, and now we have shared their stories with you so that you, too, are witnesses. And so that you will know what can happen, and help keeping it from ever happening again".

Her story took about an hour to tell. She maintained throughout a very calm and dignified manner. Her story captivated the kids and even some of my worse misbehavers were silent. Anybody who did try to talk during the story was told by other kids to stop talking (a miracle in my books) . My husband and I spent some time talking to the survivor afterwards, commenting on how well our kids listened to her. My husband remarked on the struggles we have had to make them listen to us. He commented that perhaps the problem was ‘too much freedom’… She replied, “Never, never, never. There can never be a thing as too much freedom. We are so lucky to have such a beautiful thing as our freedom. I am grateful even today for Canada.”

Sadly, her story is not unique across human history. For thousands of years, we have been this cruel to each other. Countless atrocities have marred our heritage. The Armenian Massacres, The Killing Fields in Cambodia, The Genocide in Rwanda, are all tragedies of the highest order. We know the most about the Holocaust because the Germans had documented everything well with photographs, videos, official documents and the still standing concentration camps. There are also records of the trials at Nuremburg, where thousands of witnesses provided testimony of the atrocities. And finally, there are the survivors… those who were dehumanized and beaten, those who had to struggle every day to live when those around them were intent on destroying them.

These survivors, of all genocides and atrocities of our species, have a strength that is beyond our capacity to measure. They see the depths to which we, as a species, can sink. They see things that cannot be described accurately in words, experience horrors that we, sitting comfortably at home, cannot understand. They have found a way to live through it, and begin again. Those survivors have a level of courage that I am not sure I myself would be able to attain on the best of days.

These survivors not only find the courage to survive, they find the strength to recall these events and recount them to us. They have taken upon themselves not only the burden of their past, but also the burden of being our memory. They remember that which we do not wish to remember, but should never forget. They push past the pain of their memories to remind us of what we must never become.

As a Pagan, I honour them and their courage, and call upon us as a community to share the burden of memory. I call upon us to ensure that while we may have different opinions and religions than those around us, we always remember to grant them their freedom. I call upon all Pagans, regardless of path, to stand up against tyranny and oppression and honour the memory of those who were once persecuted. We should stand against persecutions and resist prejudice wherever we may find them. I also call upon us to each day thank the Gods for our freedoms and never to take them for granted.

Yours Humbly
The Redneck Pagan




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