The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Sky's Tears

Taken in Majdanek winter of 5766, photo credit -the Amazing Yankel

This is the final and definitive version of the Wolf and Aranka . . . I've been going over some of my Merkos Shlichus posts for a certain project. I hope to have some original content up soon -until then, please enjoy the rewrites.

Of Note: I've installed a
Twitter feed on the side, so those of you who really care to get your hourly fix of Letters of Thought -or just really love me so much- can follow to your hearts content! As well, I'd like to point out that Firefox 3 is out . . . I'm loving it: get it, learn how to use it, enjoy!

On an overcast day in mid-July, I went to visit the Jewish residents of a Waterbury Golden Age home.

This home was far different from many of the others we
had visited -it spoke of a certain class, closer to a Golden Age resort
then an convalescent home.

Up the stairs and a left down the hallway brought us to a door, seemingly indistinguishable from that of any other in the building; warm yet sterile, it's blue frame covered with flower like carvings was decorative . . . in a hermetically sealed type of way. After a brief knock, and an uncomfortable pause, we were ushered in and told make ourselves at home.

Inside things were different. Gone was the dimly lit cookie-cutter hall of blue doors.
Here the lights shone brightly, casting a warming glow on shelves of well-used books and smiling pictures of grandchildren.

We had entered the lives of Wolf and Aranka Z.

After introductions - how Mendel, my comrade in arms, and I were Roving Rabbis -recently ordained itinerant Rabbis traveling the Northwest corner of Connecticut searching for Jews - we begin to
learn about our hosts. They told us that they were survivors of the Holocaust; Wolf was born Sosnowiec, Poland, Aranka in Hungary . . .

I gasped with interest, how wonderful was the hand of G-d with which He demonstrates His Divine Providence; for Mendel had been twice to Hungary, and I had spent the previous year in Poland.

Mendel leaned over to the aged Aranka,

"Megköszön I-sten." -Thank G-d

"What?" she called out, "I can't hear you."

"I said 'Megköszön I-sten'."

"Oh, Megköszön I-sten! You speak some Hungarian? I speak Hungarian -Wolf he speaks Hungarian from when he was in Hungary!"

Turning to Wolf, I said with a grin,

"Dzień Dobry!" - Hello

"Oh, you speak Polish? Jak sie Pan ma?" -How are you?

"Dzięki B-g!" -Thank G-d/ "Tak?" -Yes? We both broke out in laughter.

"So what are the Polak'en like? Have they changed in the past sixty years?"

"Nope . "

"You mean they're still foolish? I remember they would curse a Jew whenever they had the chance! Oddly though, when a Jew passed away they would stand by the funeral with great reverence, doffing their hats and making other signs of respect! They could never make up their minds if the hated or respected us!"

We laughed some more. Wolf, the more vigorous of the two was very outspoken about the need to learn about the past, about the Holocaust. He spoke of a world gone mad, as seen through the eyes of a young man, only nineteen years of age, but told now with the wisdom of one who had seen over three quarters of a century . . .

After his older brother Meyer had been taken by the Nazis as a slave laborer for the German war-machine as it marched ever deeper into the Russian interior during the dark days of 1941, Wolf knew that he would be next. Bidding farewell to the two rooms he, his parents and three remaining siblings had been sharing as 'home' since being forced to leave their own house, Wolf went into hiding. Life in the cellars was difficult, racked with constant fear of discovery, but after he was found, things would become decidedly worse.

"At one point I was transferred to Klattendorf
where I made steel rods for a private firm. We were given very thin
soup and a small piece of bread each day. Then I got lucky. T
hey sent me to work in the pig houses!"

Wolf said, an ironic smile on his face,

"There I could find a few rotten scraps, pieces of potatoes and carrots, to eat. Rods you couldn't eat."

But even this 'haven' would not last; in the waning hours of the war, Wolf and the other Jewish prisoners were sent on a death march to Bergen-Belsen. When the British finally arrived on April 15, he had been reduced to only eighty pounds. A desire to live, however, burned inside his skeletal

As we spoke the sky began to pour -a deluge of rain, so thick that it was difficult to see out the window- broke forth from thick clouds. Thunder roared through the air, then was silenced once more by the heavy dance of corpulent rain drops inundating the ground with their aqueous steps.

This was no mere summer's rain - these were the sky's tears for the past. The two survivors spoke about the past; of lost family and spilled blood. Of rebuilding a new life, first in Sweden and then later in America, of working for the first time, not as slaves, but as free people and of
raising children and grandchildren as sojourners in a strange land. A verbal kaddish, a sanctification of the struggles of life. We in turn spoke about the future; of the need to build a Jewish continuity, to involve people in practical mitzvos and increased daily observance.

In truth, our outlooks were not two discordant opinions, but rather two ways of looking at the same problem. Wolf and Aranka saw things through the lens of the past, all that the journey of their lives had led them to. We, young and idealistic, saw how the path that Wolf and Aranka had taken must not end, nor cycle back unto itself, but rather move on to a greater future.Our conversation ended, and I chanced a look outside. The rain stopped . . . and the sun came out.

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Anonymous said...


Shudders..that picture reminds me of my own visit to Majdanek. The taxi driver davka took me to the meaningless and decrepit Communist built memorial rather than to the barracks, and I saw the descendants of collaborators and guards frolicking and shouting all over the pathways of the camp as if the place were a park or public garden.

Sadly, the sun will never set over Majdanek as long as Moshiach is not here. The spirit of those who manned it is alive and well in accursed Poland.