The Holocaust, a German Woman, and Me–What they have in common

Finally I have a story worth sharing. I say this one is worth sharing because it’s not one of my own stories which pale in comparison to this continuing story. Not being that my stories aren’t worth sharing, although I do prefer telling them in person so I can see your reactions. This story is just different in the best of ways.

The story begins in 1929 when a group of young Jewish activists for the zionist movement planted a commune in the future territory of Israel. Among their ranks was a young girl from Berlin named Hannah. She stayed and worked in the commune and married. All the while, WWII was in full gear. Even in the Middle East and far from Hitler, Hannah and her husband still didn’t escape the Holocaust. You see, Hannah and her husband were Jews. Which makes their family Jews too. Hannah fled Germany before the Holocaust but it became too late for her family to flee from Hitler’s uncontrolled hate. Hannah’s family was murdered in a concentration camp; probably separated and alone, without dignity or respect.

WWII ended in 1945 and the nation state of Israel was established in 1948. Everything Hannah had been working towards was now hers. The Jews finally had a place to call home, but not Hannah. Her home was starved and tortured and eventually, after the pain became so much that death was a way out, murdered. I don’t know how I would have acted if it was my family dead at the hands of Germans. I certainly wouldn’t have done what Hannah did and invited Germans over for supper. The grief of her bereavement is what I believe drove Hannah to open a foundation for rebuilding the relationship between Jews and Germans (also Jews and Arabs! because why not?). Hannah’s home was the foundation’s headquarters and her home was open to everyone from everywhere. The front doors were literally open for every passerby. And for many years they remained this way and, for many years, Hannah impressed her open mindedness on Jews and Germans alike with her seemingly endless love. I find myself wondering how could a women slapped by such hate turn the other cheek? And not only turn but fight back with a kiss on the hand that hit her. She was an ugly women, short with a sort of hunched back but I heard that her inner beauty was so outwardly that it wasn’t possible to find a single imperfection on her. She was as it seems, an angel on earth, a light in the dark, a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day, the type of person that leaves impressions on people and impacts lives.

In 1968 a young German girl travelled to Israel with some emotional baggage. She carried the pain her countrymen inflicted upon the Jews and hoped to make amends with her shame. Through Hannah’s front doors she walked on her first visit and again many years later she returned with her daughter Anja. Like I mentioned, Hannah was the type of person that impacts lives. Anja was 12 then and it wasn’t until seven years afterwards that Anja made her own pilgrimage to Israel and to Hannah. The relationship between Anja’s mother and Hannah connected her daughter to the angel and after weekdays spent working in a commune’s hospital, Anja spent every weekend visiting Hannah. Spending a lot of time with impressionable people has a way of changing you. Maybe that explains why Anja is a ray of light in this increasingly dark world. Before leaving Israel and long before I met Anja, Hannah influenced her in such a way that changed her perspective on life. And before leaving, Hannah told Anja that one day she will have the opportunity to open her home to a stranger who needs her help to impress upon him the same love, generosity, and compassion. Then she made Anja promise her she would.

In 2013 a young traveller was loitering in Berlin when he was introduced to Anja. She opened her home to him and subjected her sweet innocent family to his crude American ways (her youngest son now yells Shit instead of German curses). She kept her promise to Hannah and continued this continuing story that by now has continued long enough and we’re both ready for it to end. Only thing is it never will. I met Anja thanks to a little womanizing and a lot of luck. Actually all luck, because my idea of womanizing is probably your idea of introducing oneself. And you know what she said to me when I left her home for the first time? She told me that one day I will have the opportunity to open my home to a stranger who needs help and to impress upon him the same love, generosity, and compassion that Hannah showed her. And then she made me promise I would. Albeit that day won’t come for years, I’m sure that one day it will and this continuing story will well; continue.

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2 Responses to The Holocaust, a German Woman, and Me–What they have in common

  1. Anne Silberstein says:

    Eric we are so fortunate and very grateful you met Anja and her family. This story moved me to tears (even in my right eye).and makes me want know them. Someday in the not to distant future I hope we can meet. Hannah lived what James teaches us and that is to love the way Christ loved. You have been blessed son.

  2. A Voice Shouting in the Wilderness says:

    I love Jewish people being that we are of Jewish Ancestry and God’s chosen sons and daughters.What a blessing to experience that kind of love, I cant wait to hear of all the stories I can pry out of you when Christmas rolls around.

    Agape love, being a decision and an act to love, completely independent from this human definition of love, usually revolving around I love you because you love me and we share warm and fuzzy feelings. Agape is a decision and action to love regardless of all circumstances. I know the human definition of love well, but working on the Agape promises to be the most rewarding and challenging.

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