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Auschwitz story of freedom

Thursday, 25 March, 2010 - 10:21 am

Dear Friends,   

I was honoured to be invited to a lecture by Mr. George Pal, a survivor of Auschwitz and two other labour camps. The lecture was this past Wednesday at Uvic. Besides the fact that the days leading to Pesach are quite busy, I also wasn't sure that this was the talk I needed to hear before Pesach. After all, Pesach is a festival of joy and freedom, ideas that probably don’t mesh so well with a Holocaust story. To my surprise, I left the lecture with a very strong and unique lesson for Pesach! 

The lecture was very moving. Mr. Pal shared "snapshots" from his horrific story with the students and guests. As many times as you hear Holocaust stories, it is still so difficult to accept how evil humans can become and how survivors actually lived through such horrors.

George’s description of his arrival to Auschwitz was heart-rending: the shock of what they saw; meeting "the angel of death," Josef Mengele; the separation from his family; and other very difficult details of that awful experience. Then, George shared the following episode:

"While standing with my father, I saw my grandfather weeping. I walked over to him. He looked at me and said, 'George, all my life I ate only Kosher food, and now, in the cart on the way here, I ate bacon. That’s all I was able to get to eat."

Can you imagine? The man was going to a death camp and was separating from his family, and what was on his mind? That he was unable to keep to his standards of spiritual expectation that he has set for himself. Isn't that the deepest expression of freedom, for one to be able to stand for ones values under such unbearable circumstances?

So when we come to celebrate our liberation, I'll remember this message of freedom. Being able to keep to our beliefs in the most difficult of times comes from a sense of independence, a freedom to be who we are, to express it, and to live by it.

I must complete this post with a happier “Zeide story" which happened yesterday, when I was rushing through Hillside shopping centre. Sandy, a young woman selling at one of the shopping booths turned to me, a bit hesitent "do you know when Pesach is?" to which I replied "Pesach is Monday, and you are invited to join us for the Seder", and I told her when and where.

Sandy was excited beyond words. "I’m certainly joining you. My grandfather in Montreal will be so proud of me. You know what? I'm calling him right now..." 

Comments on: Auschwitz story of freedom

Prettiiy wrote...

I thought deienr wasn't supposed to compare AGW deienrs with holocaust deienrs. Thanks for clearing that up. Holocaust deienrs include mostly Muslim groups and KKK types. AGW skeptics are typically the opposite of those types, both politically and intellectually. Muslim groups such as the Bathists in Iraq and Syria are very much like Nazi's even down to their anti-semitism. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as Senator John Kerry and other democrats very recently were supporting Syria's murdering strongman, Assad? Dare I suggest a common link between the administration and the Syrian Holocaust deienrs. There must be something they see in Syria besides its denial of the Holocaust and anti-semitism but I don't know what it is. The Palestinians probably have the highest percentage of Holocaust deienrs in the world. Who does President Obama pander to and who does he throw under the bus. He throws the Jews under the bus as he panders to those who deny the Holocaust while they plan the next.