Tag Archive | Auschwitz

Fox Byte 5775: Matzot (Unleavened Bread)

מַצּוֹת

The Ossuary of Douaumont, final resting place of over 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers whose bodies were broken in the great Battle of Verdun, February 21-December 18, 1916.

The Ossuary of Douaumont, final resting place of over 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers whose bodies were broken in the great Battle of Verdun, February 21-December 18, 1916.

It was in May of 1986 that I first visited the great World War I battlefield at Verdun.  Along with Auschwitz, Verdun is on my Top 10 list of places every human being should visit to learn the extent of evil that people can inflict on one another.  Over the course of 10 months in 1916, nearly 2,500,000 French and German soldiers flung death at one another.  Total casualties cannot be known, but the estimates range nearly as high as one million, of whom 300,000 were killed in action.  The toll does not end with the soldiers; over the course of the battle nine French villages ceased to exist, and an area the size of Manhattan suffered such devastation that the French government deemed it unrecoverable and left it to nature to repair.  To this day much of the battlefield remains a poisoned wasteland and graveyard for over 100,000 missing soldiers of both sides.

France has done its best to honor the dead.  In 1932 President Albert Lebrun opened the great Ossuary at Douaumont, one of the villages destroyed in the battle.  The Ossuary ranks among the most impressive monuments of Western civilization, attempting both to remember and honor the dead, and to remind the living of their sacrifice.  Some might consider the reminders grotesque.  Beneath the Ossuary is a crypt which contains the bones of at least 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers.  They are there for all to see, together in death, having surrendered their lives that the lives of their nations might continue.  Of course their nations did continue , and still do, although much diminished and much broken, even as the bones of their lost sons and daughters.

Looking at these bones one might be reminded of another collection of bones – the ones Ezekiel saw in his vision (Ezekiel 37:1-14).  Can these bones live?  The Lord knows.  In some strange way the bones resemble matzah, the unleavened bread broken and eaten during this seven day feast after the Passover.  Perhaps that is part of the reason the Jewish sages paired Ezekiel’s vision in the Valley of the Dry Bones with the Torah readings for the Passover season.

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What I Saw in Auschwitz

The 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz is the cause of much reflection and remembrance.  A list of events and much more information is available at http://70.auschwitz.org/.

The world will pause on January 27, 2015, to remember the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

One generation ago, on January 27, 1945, the Red Army liberated the Polish town of Oświęcim.  The world has come to know that town not by its Polish name, but by the name its Nazi German occupiers called it:  Auschwitz.  This account of my visit to Auschwitz is offered again in memory of the 1.1 million human beings whose voices were stilled there.


 

On January 18, 1997, I had opportunity to visit the death camp at Auschwitz.  This is the story of that visit.  I publish it now as a necessary reminder of what has happened before, for without such reminders we would be only too quick to let it happen again.

Admiral Miklós Horthy Regent of Hungary

Admiral Miklós Horthy
Regent of Hungary

Admiral Miklós Horthy was not high on the list of Adolf Hitler’s favorite people.  He had proven a lukewarm ally throughout the war.  Even though Horthy’s Hungarian legions had fought bravely alongside the Wehrmacht in the Soviet Union since 1941, Horthy’s government had never given its unqualified support to the Nazi regime.  A particularly sore point was that the Hungarians refused to surrender their Jewish citizens for deportation.  True, the leaders in Budapest had enacted repressive laws against Jews, but they never permitted the Germans to gain any measure of control over Hungary’s Jewish population.  Consequently, Hungary became a place of refuge for Jews from Romania and other nations whose governments were far less willing to defy Hitler.

Perhaps the Führer would have overlooked Horthy’s insolence in this matter of the Jews had this been the only matter of concern.  Yet events during the spring of 1944 brought this and other issues to a head.  By March of that year, the Red Army had thrown the Nazi invaders almost completely out of Soviet territory.  In the West, the Allies threatened to invade France as soon as the weather proved favorable.  Such disagreeable developments merely underscored Hitler’s compelling need for full cooperation from all his allies.  Since Admiral Horthy would neither listen to reason nor acquiesce to demands, Hitler employed other means to ensure Hungary displayed the appropriate measure of National Socialist ardor.  German soldiers accordingly occupied Hungary late in March.  Although they left Horthy in control of Budapest and its surrounding region, the remainder of the country fell completely under Nazi control.

The fears of Hungary’s Jews soon became reality as the Fascists implemented the Führer’s orders.  Over the summer of 1944, 300,000 Jews found themselves crammed into cattle cars and shipped off to some faraway place.  The Nazis told them they were to be resettled in the conquered lands of the East.  Some believed the lie, either out of naiveté or out of the need for a hope of an end to the nightmare that had fallen upon their world.  Some did not believe it.  Some even whispered of the rumors that the Nazis had built a death factory and were herding all the Jews into it.

Admiral Horthy heard these rumors as well.  He was no lover of Jews, but he was a refined gentleman.  He was also a realist who understood what was happening to his country.  An appeal from Pope John XXIII on behalf of the Jews helped to sway Horthy’s mind, and late in June he reasserted control over all of Hungary.  Thanks to this, and to Allied bombing of Budapest, the deportations stopped for a brief time – but only a brief time.  The Germans soon put Horthy in his place, and removal of the Jews resumed.  Horthy protested and resisted up to the moment the Nazis arrested him in October, but to no avail.  By the time the Red Army smashed into Budapest in late December, almost all of the Jews who had sheltered within Hungary’s borders were gone.  Most of them were dead.

The story is true.  I know.

I saw where they died.

The place is called Auschwitz.

Please click here to continue reading

What I Saw in Auschwitz

On January 18, 1997, I had opportunity to visit the death camp at Auschwitz.  This is the story of that visit.  I publish it now as a necessary reminder of what has happened before, for without such reminders we would be only too quick to let it happen again.

Admiral Miklós Horthy Regent of Hungary

Admiral Miklós Horthy
Regent of Hungary

Admiral Miklós Horthy was not high on the list of Adolf Hitler’s favorite people.  He had proven a lukewarm ally throughout the war.  Even though Horthy’s Hungarian legions had fought bravely alongside the Wehrmacht in the Soviet Union since 1941, Horthy’s government had never given its unqualified support to the Nazi regime.  A particularly sore point was that the Hungarians refused to surrender their Jewish citizens for deportation.  True, the leaders in Budapest had enacted repressive laws against Jews, but they never permitted the Germans to gain any measure of control over Hungary’s Jewish population.  Consequently, Hungary became a place of refuge for Jews from Romania and other nations whose governments were far less willing to defy Hitler.

Perhaps the Führer would have overlooked Horthy’s insolence in this matter of the Jews had this been the only matter of concern.  Yet events during the spring of 1944 brought this and other issues to a head.  By March of that year, the Red Army had thrown the Nazi invaders almost completely out of Soviet territory.  In the West, the Allies threatened to invade France as soon as the weather proved favorable.  Such disagreeable developments merely underscored Hitler’s compelling need for full cooperation from all his allies.  Since Admiral Horthy would neither listen to reason nor acquiesce to demands, Hitler employed other means to ensure Hungary displayed the appropriate measure of National Socialist ardor.  German soldiers accordingly occupied Hungary late in March.  Although they left Horthy in control of Budapest and its surrounding region, the remainder of the country fell completely under Nazi control.

The fears of Hungary’s Jews soon became reality as the Fascists implemented the Führer’s orders.  Over the summer of 1944, 300,000 Jews found themselves crammed into cattle cars and shipped off to some faraway place.  The Nazis told them they were to be resettled in the conquered lands of the East.  Some believed the lie, either out of naiveté or out of the need for a hope of an end to the nightmare that had fallen upon their world.  Some did not believe it.  Some even whispered of the rumors that the Nazis had built a death factory and were herding all the Jews into it.

Admiral Horthy heard these rumors as well.  He was no lover of Jews, but he was a refined gentleman.  He was also a realist who understood what was happening to his country.  An appeal from Pope John XXIII on behalf of the Jews helped to sway Horthy’s mind, and late in June he reasserted control over all of Hungary.  Thanks to this, and to Allied bombing of Budapest, the deportations stopped for a brief time – but only a brief time.  The Germans soon put Horthy in his place, and removal of the Jews resumed.  Horthy protested and resisted up to the moment the Nazis arrested him in October, but to no avail.  By the time the Red Army smashed into Budapest in late December, almost all of the Jews who had sheltered within Hungary’s borders were gone.  Most of them were dead.

The story is true.  I know.

I saw where they died.

The place is called Auschwitz.

Please click here to continue reading

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