Wednesday, 25 February 2009

A little testimony about a testimony

I haven't been able to post much recently as life has been pretty busy but I have been manging to keep up with each of the apparition anniversaries. Today is one of my favourites- the digging of the spring . It is amazing how fast Lent seems to have descended upon us and I know many bloggers will be quiet for a while and I will miss their posts but understand and admire their Lenten sacrifice. I look forward to their return.

As for me I have been spending a fair bit of time preparing for my trip to Auschwitz next week. On Sunday I met a Holocaust survivor who came to speak to the students at the seminar I attended. His testimony was so deeply moving I cannot express in words its meaning to me. Above all he testified to the value of life. He suffered the ghettos, several camps - including Auschwitz and the death marches. Yet his conclusion - at the age of 79- is that most people are good. He talked of the lives wasted- of the countless bodies he had seen while still a young child. At the end of the war he was only 15 and his close family had been wiped out. Yet he was able to stand in a room and talk about his love for people and how he cries when he sees children in Zimbabwe or in Gaza (yes he is Jewish) who are suffering as he did.

He also spoke about the birth of his daughters and how the moment when the midwife entered and declared 'This is YOUR daughter' were the greatest moments of defiance in his life. The Nazis had wanted death - his death - yet here he was defying them with life. It is his view that life is the finest defiance of evil and death. He spoke of how the disabled, elderly and children had been disregarded and how this must NEVER happen again and yet DOES. His own grandmother, the woman who had raised him, died on the day of the liberation - a beautiful woman who had loved him as her child - she has no grave and no monument except in him. The only regret of his life was never having the chance to say a simple thank you.

For many years he could not believe in God- such was the destruction he had witnessed. At the selections in Auschwitz he saw babies ripped from their mothers arms and shot in front of her because she would not be separated from them so they could go to the gas chambers (the picture above is of an actual selection taking place at Auschwitz). I can understand his feeling. Yet now he says he hopes there is a God. It took him many years to realise it was not God who willed the death of those children - it was man. Yet now he can see that with clarity.

This man was one of the finest I have ever met- brimming with love. My students and I were blown away by him. He said only God could forgive yet he had no bitterness or anger towards any human beings - he told the kids that these things were the real destroyer of man - they had caused the Holocaust in the first place. He is so committed to this message that at 79 he travels round Europe sharing his testimony. It is a marvellous thing to meet someone who is a true example - I remain deeply touched by my encounter with Ziggy and I don't think anything I could write here could give a true impression of his bubbly character, sense of humour and inspirational nature. Yet I felt compelled to share something of this with you.


Laura said...

The Holocaust is a passion of mine. I have had the profound opportunity to meet with 3 surivivors.
One is Flora Singer. She and I became friends because I had her speak to my students on 3 separate occasions. She was hidden by nuns in Belgium and pretended to be Catholic. She loves our Church and said that she envisioned herself becoming a nun had she not fallen in love with a Jewish man. She has been very ill and can no longer speak, but now I have become friends with her daughter.
Her book is Flora Singer I Was But a Child.

Another one was Nessie Godin, also an Auschwitz survivor. She also believed that people were good and filled with love.

Finally, Manya Friedman came to speak to us last year. I wrote a post about it on my blog. If you search my blog with her name you can read about her story.

These people touch me like no others can.
I love their courage, tenacity, and forgiveness.

SQUELLY said...

Oh thank you for this! I am trying to arrange for Ziggy to come and talk to my Year 9 (14 year olds) I loved your post on Manya and Flora's story too - I would love to get hold of her book. It is really a passion of mine too. I am quite nervous about actually going to Auschwitz and seeing what remains of the horrors there.

Truly, like yousrelf my admiration for these people is so deep.


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