On Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, and during this week of remembrance, we reflect on one of the darkest periods in the history of the world and honor the victims of Nazi persecution. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, when the imprisoned Polish Jews mounted a courageous and extraordinary act of armed resistance against their Nazi guards.
The Holocaust, known in Hebrew as “Shoah,” was the culmination of the Nazi regime’s “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” an attempt to eradicate the Jewish population in Europe. Although spearheaded by one individual, this undertaking could not have happened without the participation of many others who recruited, persuaded, and coerced in their efforts to incite the worst of human nature and carry out the ugliest of depravity. The abject brutality of the Nazi regime, coupled with the failure of Western leaders to confront the Nazis early on, created an environment that encouraged and enflamed anti-Semitic sentiment and drove people to engage in depraved, dehumanizing conduct.
By the end, the Nazis and their conspirators had murdered 6 million men, women, and children, simply because they were Jews. They also persecuted and murdered millions of other Europeans, including Roma and Sinti Gypsies, persons with mental and physical disabilities, Slavs and other minorities, Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gays, and political dissidents.
This morning I read the tale of a man, Murray Goldfinger, told by his grandson, Stephen Black. Stephen says that his grandfather is 91 years old now, and has told his story for 65 years. Now Stephen will continue to tell it. Here is the Thread Reader compilation of his story:
This is my grandfather, Murray Goldfinger. The tattoo, 161108, was given to him at Birkenau. He’s 91 and his health is failing. He told his tale of survival for 65 years. Now, I’ve taken the responsibility.
He tells several stories on Twitter about his grandfather’s experiences. Here is another one:
At the work camp Szebnie, Monek was working as a gardener at the villa of one of the SS officers in charge. Every day while the officer was away, his chef would bake fresh dog biscuits for his German Shepherd. She would leave them out, but the dog had no interest.
One day, Monek approached slowly. The dog wagged its tail. Monek was starving, and he took the biscuits and ate them. “They were delicious!” he recalls. “I don’t know what was in them, but I can still taste them to this day.”
After a while, the chef grew wise and told the SS officer.
One afternoon, the officer emerged from the villa with his shirtsleeves rolled up, his gun in holster. Monek had seen the same officer torture and murder children in the camp. He knew his reputation.
“Did you take my dog’s biscuits?” he asked.
Monek knew if he lied, he’d be tortured.
“Yes,” he said.
“You know something?” the SS said. “I should shoot you. But you’re doing such a beautiful job on my garden, I won’t. However, if you take one more biscuit, I will shoot you. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Monek said.
“If you’re hungry,” the SS continued, “go into the kitchen at the end of the day and take the leftovers.” So each day, Monek took a bucket of leftovers (he says the food was “gourmet”) back to camp and shared it with friends.
A split-second decision not only saved but enriched his life.
Perhaps the outcome would have been different if the SS officer was in a foul mood. Who knows. What’s interesting is that Monek formed a bond with the dog, who seemed to like having him around.
Twenty years later when he had a family and three daughters, he got a German Shepherd. He said it always reminded him of the dog who shared the biscuits that saved his life.