Sunday, June 13, 2010

Looking at Life Differently

Tonight I had the opportunity to listen to this man...

His name is Alter Wiener.  Behind him is an image of himself shortly after he was rescued from a Nazi concentration camp by Russian soldiers on May 9, 1945.

This man, by sharing his story--the experience of losing all 123 members of his immediate family during the Holocaust, his survival of five different concentration camps, and the torture and terror he endured--saves lives.

Tonight, he changed the lens through which I see life.  I came home, and the first thing I did was peek in on my sleeping baby.  The one who was told in her blessing that she would "see much in this life."  Those words are daunting.  I am concerned for what she will see with those sweet blue eyes.  My hope is that she will never see what this man, Alter Wiener, has seen.

The other thing I felt strongly from his message was the importance of writing.  He has written a book about his experiences.  He shared with us tonight that we were his 617th presentation.  What courage this must take!  I felt proud of him for revisiting his experiences over and over again that others could benefit from his experiences.

He is now 84 years old.  He said he is one of the youngest of those who have survived.  How sad it is that my youngest children will never get to hear a first-hand account of one who experienced such tragedy.  Sad, because they will never feel the urgency to keep these kinds of experiences from ever happening again.

I felt that although my life is mundane and relatively easy, I also owe it to my children and grandchildren to write and share my story.  There are things they can learn from my failures and successes.

I'm so grateful for this courageous man.  This is one of the last things he shared this evening.  I thought it was worth sharing here:



First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out--
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the communists
and I did not speak out--
because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me--
and by that time no one was left to speak up. 


                                                                         --Rev. Martin Niemoller


Good for him for speaking up; for sharing his story.  Now, if I can only be so brave.

3 comments:

Lillian Angelovic said...

What a haunting tale! Fortunately, our children will not lack for opportunities to hear these stories because, unfortunately, similar horrors of war and genocide continue today. Our children will hear these and other stories from the people who experience them.

I recommend the book "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier", by Ishmael Beah, as just one example of the horrors of war that are going on right under our oblivious noses even today.

Messy Jess said...

Your post made me feel thankful for my life and all the blessings I have been given and so sad and feeling helpless for all the pain in the world. I do have the ability to control that in my home and with those I encounter - it's a reminder of how we all should treat one another.

Grace said...

Julie,

I went to that as well, I couldn't believe some of the things this man went through! I know that I learned a lot more in school about what happened in the camps then our kids learn...I am SO glad our kids could be there and hear how this man was treated. They need to know and understand how hatred really is. When Wes served his mission in Munich he met an old Nazi. Wes said this man was still filled with evil and that this man knew that Wes and his companion were missionaries. This old former nazi came over to them and began spewing horrible things to them. Wes to this day has said he has never felt or senses such evil.

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