Sunday, April 11, 2010

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Holocaust Memorial Day 2010 - "Please Forgive Me"

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

I was standing by the entrance to the Kotel yesterday when a non-Jewish man and his young son walked up to me. I asked him where he was from. He said, "Germany."

I can't help it. Whenever someone tells me that they are from Germany, my blood goes cold. I feel my face drop and my jaw stiffen. I want to be civil, and rarely do I ever meet a German who is old enough to have participated in that unspeakable torture and mass murder of millions of innocent people, but still, when I hear that word, I have to hide my feelings.

He took a step closer. He said, "Please forgive me for the horrible things that my people did." He started to cry. His son looked up at him and showed sincere sadness.

"I can't forgive you for something that you did to someone else. You have to ask them. But how old are you?"

"Fifty-eight," he answered.

"You weren't even there. You weren't even in the world then! What did you do?" I asked.

"It was my people who did it." His bottom lip was shaking.

I said, "I cannot forgive you, but if you want forgiveness for your people, then at least work to reverse what that evil nation tried to do. They tried to destroy the Jewish People. You should try to help Jews to increase. You can work to prevent Jewish intermarriage. You can help any Jewish survivor you find. You can speak out against anti-Semitism. These things won't change what happened, but they will show that you are sincere and that you really want to help."

I couldn't bring myself to feel sorry for the man. He wasn't even in the world when it happened, and he seemed totally honest, but that dark hell, what they did, is still vivid, etched in my mind.

The Lubavacher Rebbe said, "There is no sign that those people [the German people] have changed."

Maybe… maybe, some of them are starting to change, now?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was in an American airport the other day, and I witnessed a youngish middle-aged German man instantly strike up a friendly conversation with a modern orthodox Jew, talking about various points of Jewish theology. The German man listened patiently to the Jew's long explanations.

In Poland and Germany there is among some people a judeophilia phenomenon, with people getting interested in Judaism, listening to Klezmer bands in which none of the members are Jewish, etc. It's particularly big in some areas of Poland, including Krakow I think. Some people make fun of it as akin to American whites' fascination with American Indians. But it's deeper than that. Some people actually convert. And among those who don't, perhaps they speak in favor of Israel where doing so is politically incorrect, or even join Noahide groups.

Anonymous said...

Seriously? You can't forgive someone who was not even alive at the time of the Shoah, on the basis that he's from Germany? I mean, I can understand that we are commanded to wipe out Amalek, including all his descendants, but how do we know that this man is Amalek? Definitely the Nazis, y'mach sh'mam, were, but how can we say for certain that all Germans are? What if his ancestors moved to Germany sometime in the late 19th century? And even if he is a descendant of Nazis, is he still really held accountable? To illustrate the following point, I would like to share something that happened on last year's Yom HaShoah. I met a German-born woman who spoke at my sister's yeshivah high school on Yom HaShoah last year. Her parents were well past the age to have children naturally (they had a grown-up son who was fighting in the Nazi army), but they were such loyal Nazis that they had the wife undergo a special surgical operation, just so she could have another kid to contribute to the German war effort (the woman being the result of it). Some years after the War, the woman (at the time, a young girl of about 10) was playing outside when a frum Jew (who she knew was different because of the way he dressed) approached her, asking if she knew the man who had saved his baby on Kristallnacht (who he wanted to thank). The girl, assuming that the heroic man was her father (who had since passed away), led the man into her home. When the girl's mother saw him, however, her stare became icy, and she ordered the girl to her room. The girl was, predictably, very confused by what just happened. Sometime later, the woman came up and scolded her daughter, screaming all kinds of vile things about Jews. Apparently, the girl's father was the one who had endangered the baby's life in the first place. At that moment, the girl's life was shattered forever, and as she grew up, she learned all about the horrors that her people, including her own immediate family, did to us. She later found out the very reason she was conceived was to grow up to fight us. That was "the straw that broke the camel's back." She felt like an impure, tainted individual, whose entire life was in vain. She couldn't live with herself, and spent the next 40 years soul-searching. To make an already-long story a lot shorter, she finally, a few years ago, converted to Orthodox Judaism. Only now does she feel at peace with herself. I believe that that just goes to show how far some Germans are willing to go to do proper t'shuvah.

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