The Last Lesson by Fritz Hirschberger (1912-2004)
A Nazi guard talking to a nine year old Jewish boy who is on his way to be gassed in an Auschwitz gas chamber:
“Well my boy, you know a lot for your age”
“I know that I know a lot, and I also know
that I won’t learn any more,”
replies the boy.
From the sworn testimony of witness Wolken. 1965 trial of Nazi criminals. Frankfurt am Main, Germany. From the book account Auschwitz,; page 88, by B. Nauman. Publisher F. A. Praeger, New York, NY.
Indifference by Fritz Hirschberger (1912-2004)
Sunday evening, 15 April until sundown 16 April is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Can you imagine an entire country coming to a standstill for two minutes? This means stopping what your doing, whether you are at home or at work or in your car and thinking about the six million lives that were lost. A siren is sounded at 10AM on Monday and everyone stops what they are doing: cars stop driving and the drivers get out of their cars and stand in the middle of the highway for two minutes. The first time I experienced this, it brought me to tears. I was in a bus on my way to work and the bus driver stopped on the highway, he got out of the bus and the passengers stood in the aisle of the bus. In front of me I saw a sea of cars; it literally gave me goose bumps.
We lost a total of 120 family members on both sides of my family. One of my cousins, a professor at Leiden University in Holland, was riding his bike to the university when some Nazi soldiers stopped him, forced him to pull down his pants and upon seeing that he was circumcised, they shot him dead on the spot. My great-aunt and her sister and parents were rounded up and sent to Riga, Latvia. She, her mother and sister survived under great hardship, but her father z”l died on Lag B’Omer from gangrene that developed from an ingrown toenail.
My mother-in-law’s first husband was sent to a forced labor camp in Slovakia where he was murdered. They had only been married for six months. László Weiner was a promising Hungarian composer and conductor, whose musical vision was destroyed before it had a chance to blossom. Fortunately, a few of his compositions survived the war and have been played in several concerts in Budapest and elsewhere: one of them is due to be played in the Swiss capital, Berne, this coming November.
My mother-in-law, Vera Rozsa, went into hiding herself, living with a false identity as a Christian: her talent as an actress allowed her to walk unharmed out of two Gestapo interrogations. She also worked at the Swedish delegation in Budapest with Raoul Wallenberg who tried to save the lives of as many Jews as possible.
I will light seven memorial candles on Sunday, one for my family members and six for the six million who lost their lives for nothing more than meaningless hatred. Have we learned from those mistakes? I wonder……