I am the son of a survivor from Auschwitz/Birkenau. I have promised my now dead mother, to continue to tell the true story (hers and mine) of what happened to our family and thus make my contribution to the world so that we never forget and that hopefully we can try to learn about the consequences of these mass murders and to try to prevent it from happening again.
What was the Holocaust?
The Holocaust was the state-controlled systematic mass murder of Europe's Jewry, planned and implemented by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945.
Jews were the primary goal - because Jews were considered the only active enemy of Truth - and as such they prevented the liberation of humanity.
Look, the Jew is like a cancer that spreads through the body of society - the Jew is predisposed for destruction of mankind etc etc. And when indoctrinated in this way of thinking it was not that problematic that Jews disappeared - and 6 million of them were murdered, of which 1.5 million were children. Europe changed and it will never be the same again.
The others executed who were considered to be of low racial biological value were regarded as passive free loaders of society's resources - many of them were affected by the violence - Roma, political dissidents and people with mental or physical disabilities were executed. Furthermore, millions of Soviet prisoners disappeared, Jehovah's Witnesses and gay men disappeared in the society of racial biosynthesis and executed or worked to death.
It always begins with the Jews but it never ends with the Jews.
Over the last two years I have worked at a Jewish retirement home on the Swedish west coast. Here around 15 - now between the ages of 85 and 102 years old - live the remaining Jews who spent their youth in the extermination camps, the industrially established death mills in Europe.
These 15 Jews are among the few remaining survivors of the Holocaust, but they are also survivalists in the true essence if the word. They are the strongest of us all - those who lost not only the lives they once lived, but their families and also their faith in humanity.
Ester says to me; - Stefan, do you see the bump that sticks out on the elbow here? And she slowly pulls at the sleeve on her thin 91-year-old arm. Do you see? There’s nothing like it on my other arm. See, there is a bone growth there.
"He shot…” she said, suddenly starting to cry where she sat on the edge of her bed in her small apartment. Her voice barely carried. - The German, a 20-year-old boy, she continued - he went around there with his gun and shot Polish Jews. Because he felt like it. He hated us the most, the Polish Jews. I was 15 - or was I 16? - there in the camp, I can’t remember. He came up to me waving his gun and I knew I was going to die. I thought it might just hurt a little bit and then it would all go black, you understand? But he turned the gun around instead and hit me with it and I held up my arm, like this, to protect my face, you understand? And then the bone broke, right here at the bump. The other prisoners took care of me and made a sling and the arm was probably three times as big it was so swollen, you understand? And then I had to pretend to work and you know, at the roll calls ... - oh, I prayed to God every day and he heard me, you understand? He heard me, she said, crying. How bad it was, how it hurt, day and night, she shook and whimpered and every pore in her skin seemed to open.
- What's up, I thought - what's happening? And it seemed the whole world stopped and held its breath.
She continued, "Lord my God, I thought, give me strength, and you know I was six years in the camps. I was 14 years old when they took me and 20 when I finally was set free, she said, and the tears kept running down her wrinkly cheeks, - you understand?
- You are a nurse, Stefan, can you see here in the white of your eyes if you are alive? She said, pulling down her lower eyelid. You know the Americans who walked around there in Bergen-Belsen among the piles of dead bodies, they pulled down the lower eyelids on the eyes on the corpses. To see if they might still be alive. So did they did with me, you understand? And they saw that I was alive, there on the pile of bodies, you understand?
Before we got to Bergen-Belsen we went for six days and for six nights without water and food. It was in the winter. We took snow in our mouths to get some fluid in us, you understand. Oh, how we suffered. No sleep, no food or liquid and no clothes, just thin dirty rags, you understand. We padded our feet with paper and string so as to avoid frost bite, you understand. In the end I had no strength left in me, I lay down to die, but my friends lifted me up and dragged me until the legs could carry me again, you understand - they were dragging me. We heard shots all the time and then we knew that now there was another one of the prisoners who had fallen, you understand, the Germans walked last to get the stragglers and they shot everyone who fell or did not hurry up enough, she said while the tears ran. I prayed to God all the time and he heard me, you understand, he was listening to me. 29 kilo I weighed when I came to Sweden in May 1945 and it took a year before I could walk again. I dared not go to Palestine, you understand. I dared not leave Sweden, you understand.
"Imagine when the message reached me that no one knew what had happened to my mother and father or my siblings," she said, and her small body writhed with anxiety - I knew their strength ran out. We had promised we would find each other after the war was over, she said, - do you understand how that felt after six years as a child and a teenager in hell?
- If I've told anyone? Only my husband, before he died, you understand? I wanted a Jewish man and God sent a Jewish man to me and I told him, but otherwise not. I kept kosher and I kept all the Pesach dishes in the basement and I prayed to God every day, at least twice. And we had children, two. Stefan, I've done my best but it's not easy with what I'm carrying around with me and no mom and dad. But God heard me, you understand? I have tried to give the children everything, you understand, but it was so hard, she said and she shivered.
- Many people like me have killed themselves, but I can’t. I'm religious, I believe in God, you understand, I cannot kill myself, you understand, Jews are not like that. But why do those Nazis have to chase me every night? She nodded and said, - and it's soon night again.
- Well, it feels a bit better now, she said, pointing to the left side on her chest.
She is like a little bird where she is sitting, holding her walker. - It feels a bit better, she says, yes I feel a bit relieved, actually. Her face lights up.
- I’m telling you this, because you're wearing kippa and tzitzit. You understand me, I know you do. My dad wore tzitzit and kippa. He worked until 11 o'clock and then came home and prayed and put on tefillin before he ate anything. - Do you know they took him to the extermination camp but let him go - he didn’t look Jewish. He came back to the ghetto and told people about the camps and what it was like there but they didn’t believe him. Then they took him again and I never heard from him again, you understand. The others, the Christians - they do not understand. Many Jews don’t understand either. They say there is no God, but I know Stefan, I know he's there. I know. How can you believe? they say to me, - you saw how they threw the babies in the fire. How can I know? I was a child myself. I do not know. God made it happen, so it is, but he is still good, I know it, I can feel it in here, she said, pointing at her thin chest.
I'm so empty here, every day, Germans try to shoot me, you understand? Every night I revisit the camps. Six years and just because I'm a Jew, - she said while the tears kept flowing. - I was just a child and what do I know, but Stefan, both you and I know, there is a God, he exists.
Who am I to question you, Ester, I thought, who is entitled to question you at all?
- I’m religious because you are, I said. I'm religious because you had the strength to believe in God and because you have the strength to do it, I said. If I'm not religious, I'll let both you and your dad down together with all the others who recited Shma Yisrael there on the planet Hell. It’s as simple as that. Nothing else, no intellectual Darwinistic theories in the world can convince me otherwise or disappoint you or your dad, I said.
- And you're right, I continued. I know God is there and I do not know why he let it happen and lets it happen to you every night, I said, but I want to listen to you for as long as you’ll let me and maybe I was put here in this world just for this moment.
Maybe that’s why I’m there, I thought. - Just as Mordecai told Queen Ester at a crucial moment in her life; that it is God's will and that it will make your nights free from nightmares and anxiety.
- How does it feel in your chest now?
- It’s strange Stefan, it actually feels a bit better, it actually does, maybe I can sleep now, it actually feels easier, not so heavy. I just have to kiss my Mezuzot first.
- Ester, I said, pointing with my whole hand - I'll never forget a single word of what you said - never - and that's a promise I give to you. Listening to you and seeing what is necessary for you to transform your feelings into words, is a favour, it is an honour and as long as we can, Ester, I am ready to listen. You are one in a million.
- Really, Stefan? You think? I have never ever told anyone about this. Not for 71 years. I have never said anything to the doctor or the rabbi about why or how my arm was broken, you understand. I don’t want to make them sad, they have their lives to live, I want them to be happy.
She has been silent for 71 years and now, suddenly, she is speaking.
Ester and all the 15 survivors are still being haunted by their memories, their depressions, their anxiety, and their longing for the life they once had that was taken away from them all - they all have nightmares and are on psychiatric drugs, everyone is suffering from anxiety, everybody thinks about what happened every day and they are still being chased in their dreams every night.
On the other hand, they have managed to build a life here in Sweden against all odds, many have had great success in their careers and with with their families but we, the children of the survivors are also deeply imprinted by living in the shadow of the impossible, the unthinkable: That 80 percent of Europe's Jews were murdered in history's most well planned and implemented genocide.
What does it look like today?
During the past year, we have on several occasions had police armed with submachine guns guarding the inside and outside of the nursing home due to external threats.
25% of the Jewish community’s budget goes to security.
Why? - Because the only thing that surpasses our paranoia for persecution is the reality we live in.
Jews choose to protest in the way we have always done. We protest by embracing life. It really should be impossible to be religious in the shadow of the Holocaust but in spite of this many Jews are religious anyway. It is our sacred duty to protest by lifting up the sanctity of life - we Jews love counting the number of Jewish Nobel Prize winners - and there are many - even though we are 0.1 percent of the world's population and this despite the fact that we - or perhaps thanks to that very fact - believe that our God has a responsibility for making it happen.
We do not simplify this moral dilemma by what is the greatest danger, polarisation.
We distance ourselves from what forms the ground for the Holocaust, Nazism, Communism, and now the Islamic terrorist groups’ twisted ways of organising its own version of truth.
The Chief Rabbi in England, Jonathan Sacks, writes in his book about the worst of human beings:
Polarisation - and this applies to both religious and atheist movements - polarisation that calls for ”us” and ”them” and which explicitly prohibit debate and questioning as a way forward:
1. I have the truth - my god stands for the Good - Love - or in the atheist movements - science has the Truth, Hitler with race biology, Stalin or Mao with Karl Marx's utopian idea of humanity's liberation, but when we people think we are gods ad act as if we are, we are walking on very thin ice.
2. Somebody else stands for what is Evil because what we stand for is the Good.
3. Once we have defined what ”the other” stands for - and here it is now time for us to prove our thesis and when we can not find evidence that they actually are what we believe, the conviction of ”the Evil of the other” is further strengthened - it’s all just hidden away from plain view and they are really planning Evil secretly - an example of this is the Protocol of Zion - a recognised forgery which is a bestseller in, among other places, the Middle East.
4. The next step is now not far from it seeming reasonable to eliminate Evil - in the name of goodness and love, of course.
5. We now have a perverted morality - it is now morally right to kill Evil in the name of Love and Truth.
Polarisation threatens the world again. Polarisation is the basis of all terror - currently in the form of the Islamic terror that sweeps across the world and have reached Europe. The polarisation that threatens world peace and peaceful coexistence that reverses the moral concepts so that mass murder and genocide becomes a moral act.
We must dare to meet and confront the polarisation, otherwise what happened will happen again - not exactly the same but as a rhyme, as a copy but with the same devastating result.
It is polarisation that underlies all anti-Semitism - whether in the Middle Ages, as ”Christ killers", during the first half of the twentieth century, as racially biologically inferior or now that all anti-Jewish templates are laid on the small Jewish state of Israel - the only country in the Middle East from which we have not received any asylum seekers - but which the UN systematically and without batting an eye lid also points out as the Center of Evil on Earth. The UN, which in 2016 adopted countless resolutions against Israel, but only four against for example Syria, a country torn to pieces, bleeding after several years of civil war.
What is the antidote?
We must not neglect our duty to counter the polarisation.
My personal conviction is to rest on our ancestor Abraham's insight. There is a God who stands outside creation and who has created everyone in his image. He has given us a moral code to follow and this moral code clearly shows the basis upon which human coexistence should rest so that the value of individual human beings are at the heart of our actions.
When humanity takes over the role of God, albeit with religious or atheist motives, never mind how good their intentions may be or seem, human self-esteem eventually collapses.
In 2016, the Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel died, a man who, like my own mother, survived Auschwitz/Birkenau. He summarised his experience with these words:
The opposite of love is not hatred.
The opposite of love is indifference.
Let's not be indifferent.