Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Learning from an SS Commandant

by Pilpher (See all authors)

I was speaking to an 87 year old Warsaw ghetto and Auschwitz survivor before Mincha on Shabbos. He mentioned that seeing his entire family wiped out only strengthened him to keep up the energy to remain alive until the war finished - and then to rebuild his family, contrary to Hitler's wish to destroy it. He is now a proud great-grandfather. (And I thought my battles were difficult!)

Just to pound the point home, he mentioned that after the war he found a former ghetto member learning in yeshiva - he was previously irreligious. According to this ba'al teshuva, he owed his change in direction to an SS commandant: When being taken on a forced death march as the war was finishing, he was being marched in the freezing cold with no food for days - and anyone who fell was shot on the spot. Eventually, he did fall, and whilst waiting for the relief of a bullet, the commandant who was about to finish him off, instead bent down and told him to get up. He refused - he had no strength left. To which the commandant replied - "there is no such thing as I can't - only I don't want."

This man got up somehow and went on to survive the war.

To all those who had a recent fall, let us take this lesson to heart. There is no such thing as "I can't get back up". If we aren't getting back up, it is only because we don't WANT TO.