[ INTRODUCTORY NOTE TO READERS: The following, Spirit-inspired letter was sent to me by my friend Fritz Voll, who has devoted many years to Jewish-Christian Relations, as well as an active member on the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews, and was the founding webmaster of the excellent cyber library and reference website, Jewish-Christian Relations. This website is, in my humble opinion, the best of its kind in the world. Fritz has kindly given me permission to publish his letter here on my blog, many thanks Fritz, and blessings always! Dim Lamp ]
Thank you very much for writing and pointing me to your blog. I had just taken a break from reading the book of Sidney Cyngiser about his Holocaust ordeal, when I read your mail and looked up your blog. I started to write something directly into the Web page but then thought, this is getting too long, so I decided to send my comment to you as email. You can perhaps then put whatever you want into the comment box, the whole thing or just a few sentences. You can of course also make page of it as a letter from a friend of yours, whatever you decide will be fine with me.
Here it is:
It is Friday, the 29th of April, two days before Yom HaShoa, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and I am reading the book that my dear Jewish friend, Sidney Cyngiser has just published. He and his wife Bronia are Holocaust survivors whom I met in Calgary, AB, about 27 years ago. He is six years older than I, and was as young teenager together with his family forcefully taken by German soldiers from their home in Radom, Poland. His mother and siblings were sent to the gas chambers in Treblinka and murdered, while he and his father were chosen ('selected' they called it) to do slave labour at only about 17 years of age. He survived the hunger, cruelty of the guards and hard labour in more than one concentration camp and in the end the death-march from the east of Germany to Stuttgart-Vaihingen in the west. Diseased and as a skeleton of skin and bones he was freed by the American army and received prolonged medical care, only to see other survivors die around him with no chance to survive their survival. In hospital he had met Bronia, a child survivor of the camps.
I am reading the book as a German who came to Canada and to the City of Calgary rather late in life with my wife and three teenagers. I was 46 then and at age 53 I met Sidney at a Holocaust Symposium for high school students that I attended as a German in order to answer questions about the new democratic Germany. I also met adult children of survivors -- they were called the "Second Generation." Some of them encouraged me to stand with them as witness of what had happened, they considered me "Second Generation" as well, being a German of the generation after that of the perpetrators of the Shoah, the Holocaust.
When I first met Sidney, he accepted me with open arms and an open heart. After having had studied the Holocaust already in my youth soon after WW II, I had expected to be shunned by survivors. I had never before met one before in Germany and here in Calgary were about 70, all integrated in a vibrant Jewish community. After they had heard my views on the Shoah and my deep sorrow over what had been done and had perceived my utter condemnation of what was done in our name as Germans, some begun to trust me, and one of the first and most remarkable persons to do so was Sidney Cyngiser. We sat together and talked. He told me some of his experiences of German SS-guards that are so horrific that he would not relate them to the students. Sometimes I wept with him when we talked over the phone about the unspeakable cruelty of ordinary Germans who actually believed what their Nazi masters had told them about the Jews and enthusiastically or just in blind obedience debased, tortured and murdered the people of God's covenant, the people of the Christian Bible, whom Christians, for centuries, had considered only in a "theology of contempt" (Jules Isaac), who for Christians had been replaced by the church, who were expelled from 'Christian' countries and blamed for all the evils in the world for centuries.
In meeting these survivors I had to face recent German history again, but now in experiences of people like myself. Since that time the Jewish Shoah is present to me on every day of my life. When I hear the rumors people are spreading about other people -- I know where it can lead to. When I am in physical pain due to an illness, I think of the suffering of God's people Israel before they had a country of their own. When I hear and read about the denial of the Holocaust, I can sense how the survivors and their children are again hurting, because after all their unspeakable suffering that left deep wounds and scars in their bodies and souls, they are tortured again as liars. And then there are those, even 'Christians,' who blame the Jews for their fate, as people blame the raped woman for her ordeal. Every day new wounds are thoughtlessly or violently punched into the souls of the Jewish people in conversations, on the Internet and by badmouthing Israel, as if the young nation was not a nation of Jewish individuals, many of them survivors of the Holocaust, others of anti-Semitism in diverse countries who finally found a home, after no one wanted them.
Recently I translated a small German Anthology of Citations. Words by historians, philosophers, theologians and even perpetrators and survivors of the Holocaust that span the history of Germany from the outgoing 19th through the 20th century. A chorus of voices that can make us watchful for the early signs of discrimination against groups of people different to ourselves but no less human than we are.
The book that I am reading:
Sidney Cyngiser: Surviving the Survival: The Life Stories of Holocaust Survivors Sidney and Bronia Cyngiser. 2010, 484 pages. ISBN 978-0-9811715-0-0 . Contact: Sidney Cyngiser, 119 Canterville Rd SW, Calgary, AB T2W 4R2 Tel: (403) 238-3788)
The small book I translated from the German:
Konrad Goerg, We are what we Remember: Germans, Two Generations after Auschwitz. Voices to Remind Us.
116 pages. http://konrad-goerg.com/index.html
I don't know if I told you about the Holocaust Education Week that takes place in Toronto in November of each year, organized by the Jewish community and the Christian-Jewish Dialogue of Toronto. They had 100 different events during the week last November in libraries, schools, churches and synagogues (not in a mosque). I attended an event in Markham at a Baptist church, whose senior pastor has become a good friend since, and at a synagogue, where I heard Prof. Harold Troper speak, one of the writers of the book "None is too Many."
Thanks again and every blessing to you and yours.