I'm going to make this short and sweet: First of all Happy New Year to anyone observing the Yom Kippur holiday! La Shana Tova (Happy New Year)
Yom Kippur is THE most significant date on the Jewish calendar. Otherwise known as the Day of Atonement it is a day when we refrain from eating for 24 hours from sundown today through sundown tomorrow.
Why do we fast, you may ask? The short answer is so we can focus our attention on God and simply contemplate our gratitude for being here. I'm grateful for sobriety, reasonably good mental and physical health and that my wife and boys are doing well. I'm also grateful that my parents and mother-in-law and immediate family are doing reasonably well. In short, to me, it's about gratitude and a time to reflect and make amends to anyone I've hurt over the past year. So, if I've said something to offend you, I would like to make amends for my transgressions!!!
Moving ahead: Annie's mom, Rachel Rosenberg is a survivor of the Holocaust. As she gets older (now 87) and sees less survivors are around to tell their stories. She gotten more "into action" and speaks in front of children. The note above is a thank you letter from a young girl who was moved by hearing Rachel tell her story.
Last night, Rachel spoke to a small group of men and women at an Al-anon meeting. Her story is powerful and in a nutshell here are the key points she made to the group.
- She lived in a small village in Poland. Her father was a cattle buyer and mother a seamstress. There were 6 children (3) boys and (3) girls. One afternoon, the Germans, along with dogs came and rounded up all the Jews in the village and relocated them to a large ghetto in Warsaw. She wanted to take a few things with her but was not allowed to.
- After moving from camp to camp (around four) she described her experiences at Auschwitz. She rolled up her shirt on her left sleeve and showed the group her tattoo. She lost her name and became a number. Everyone became a number and every morning there was a roll call for them to line and be counted. Some of her comments: "They would shoot you for no reason. We lost our faith because we knew there would not be a tomorrow." "We worked from sunrise to sunset and were always hungry - I was hungry for five years."
- Her biggest hurt: "when they took my little brother away from me and sent him to the gas chambers. It's a hurt I will never get over."
- A labor pool was needed to work at a munitions factory in Czechslovakia. Rachel was loaded in a boxcar and it took 6 days to get there. She doesn't remember if she was given any water but does remember at the end of the day, the guards would open up the box card and feed them a teaspoon of sugar. She had long beautiful brown hair. As she worked at the munitions factory, a German guard called her number and took her with her to a small cell. Rachel was certain this was it - she was going to be shot. Instead, after sitting for six hours, the woman guard game in with a big pair of dull scissors and cut all hair. She gave her a dirty bandana to cover her head.
- The conditions were horrific. "I didn't have a home for five years, was hungry all the time, and lived in fear."
- Liberation: "My parents and brothers had all been killed. I found my two sisters. We somehow found our way back to our small village in Poland but there was a Polish family living in our home. We knocked on the door and asked them if we could get some family pictures hidden in the basement. They let us in to get the pictures. On our way back to Czechsolvakia, somehow we lost the pictures, so I don't have any pictures of my family at all."
- On coming to Omaha: "We had nothing. When we came to Ellis Island, we had no money, we didn't speak your language, we had no family to claim us, no place to live, we had nothing! We were sponsored by the Jewish Community Center in Omaha where eventually they lent us $90 to rent a store where my husband, who was a tailor, opened his business. At that time we had our oldest son and all of us bought cheap cots, a small ice box and a hot plate. We had our store and lived in the basement. We hired a lady who spoke English so she could communicate with the customers. We got a big job from Boys Town. Carl and I worked from eight in the morning to ten at night sewing and fixing the clothes. When we finished, we were given a piece of paper. I showed it to a lady at the JCC and asked her what it was. She said, Rachel, you just made $250 - we're going out and finding youa house to buy! So we bought a house across the street from the store."
- When asked how did she survive? "I don't know how I survived - I honestly don't know."
Rachel and Carl went on to learn to speak English, they built up their business into one of the most thriving tailor shops in Omaha, raised (3) children, put them through college and re-acquired their faith in God. It's an amazing story.
How did she survive? - I know the answer . . . first let me say this - I married a child of the Holocaust and have friends on Facebook that are also children of survivors.
How did they do it? One quick example: my late father-in-law, Carl Rosenberg, author of "As God Is My Witness" made a promise to his mother that if he survived the horror of being a slave and internment and the target of sadistic treatment by the Nazi's that he would tell the world what happened. He was relentless too! Everytime I saw him all he wanted to do was keep on telling his story. I'm not sure how he did it but his experiencing so much loss caused him to get stronger and stronger about surviving. I really don't know how anyone could do it but my hat is off to any survivor from the Holocaust and from other forms of abuse.
Happy New Year!