I, too, visited Auschwitz as a teenager. In 1944, my family and I stood in line before Dr. Joseph Mengele—the Nazi physician known as the “Angel of Death”—as my mother, grandparents, two sisters, and baby brother were all sent to the left to be burned in Hitler’s ovens. My father and I were sent to the right.
The first night inside Auschwitz my father said we must separate because together we would suffer double. “On your own, you will survive,” he told me. “You are young and strong, and I know you will survive. If you survive by yourself, you must honor us by living, by not feeling sorry for us. This is what you must do.” That was the last time I ever saw my father.
I’m grateful for my father’s words of grace and guidance. They echo in my heart even still. It’s a cruel thing, feeling guilty for surviving. But my father erased any future guilt and replaced it with purpose. It was a gift only a father’s wisdom could give. It gave me a reason to go forward, a reason to be. It does still.
My dad witnessed the carnage at Buchenwald (see previous post). This will help you understand what he saw and why we can never forget the Holocaust.
I was stunned to read an article yesterday that cited a recent survey in which only 54% of the respondents don’t know what the Holocaust is. FIFTY-FOUR PERCENT!! How can the other 46% not know that over SIX MILLION people were exterminated by the Nazis during World War II???? Unbelievable.
Under orders from General Eisenhower at the end of the war, my dad, along with every American soldier in Europe, was ordered to visit a liberated concentration camp closest to where they were stationed. The closest to him at the time was Buchenwald and I have pictures he took of the ovens with their human cremains. He told me dead bodies were stacked “like cordwood.” Eisenhower ordered our troops to witness this spectacle because he was convinced that someday people would forget there ever was a Holocaust and even spread lies claiming it never occurred. General Eisenhower was a prophet.
I made it a point to teach the Holocaust to students in my history classes and didn’t spare them the gory details in film and pictures (and please do click the link to watch the video). Get the word out. Don’t be part of that 46% because these were real human lives that were exterminated. That’s what human hate inevitably leads to if left unchecked.
If you are interested in participating in the Holocaust Memorial Day, tomorrow, January 27, 2105, click the graphic above and see how you can get involved.
In a Fox News article, Franklin Graham (Billy Graham’s son) writes about the faith of Louis Zamperini, the ‘Unbroken’ hero. This is a hugely important part of the story because among other things, Mr. Zamperini was eventually able to forgive his Japanese torturers.
For a time he enjoyed the celebrity of heroism and hob-knobbing with Hollywood. He met and married a beautiful woman named Cynthia Applewhite and life was good. But when all the glitz and glamour faded and reality set in, reoccurring nightmares of war and memories of Louie’s torture by his enemies tormented him.
To escape these horrors, Louie turned to alcohol. Pent-up anger overcame him.
His wife who genuinely loved him felt she had no choice but to divorce him. The man who had endured horrific physical and mental abuse, and emerged unbroken from the ravages of war, had succumbed to an enemy that would not let go — himself.
Now compare this story to the story of another survivor of Japanese brutality during WWII, Betsy Heimke. Whereas Zamperini was able to eventually forgive his captors and be truly freed from their influence because of his ability to forgive, Ms. Heimke still remains a prisoner to her captors because she cannot forgive them and that is just heartbreaking.
No one should expect any Louie Zamperini-like absolution from her.
Zamperini was an American bombardier who was held as a POW and tortured by the Japanese after his plane went down in the Pacific. Part of his story, as told in the best-selling book “Unbroken” and now a movie that opened Christmas Day, is that after the war he traveled to Japan and forgave the guards who mistreated him.
When asked whether she could do the same, Heimke lifted her eyes from her scrapbook and locked onto those of her questioner.
Today is the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor that drew the United States into the great conflagration known as World War II. Ask anyone who was living that day and they can tell you exactly where they were. It was an act of treachery and it proved to be foolishly short-sighted and ultimately fatal for the Japanese militarists. It was that generation’s 9/11.
Sadly the generation of Pearl Harbor is rapidly fading away. But its lessons remain and remind us that we must constantly be on guard as a nation because there are those out there who hate us and want to destroy us and end our way of life.
From the History Channel:
At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appears out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II.
Thank you, Mr. President.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.
Read the whole thing and give thanks for the country in which we live, warts and all.
I first encountered William Bradford’s supposed First Thanksgiving Proclamation when my family and I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner at the home of some dear friends from our church. Knowing that I was a historian, the host pulled me aside before the meal to tell me that he had found the text of Governor Bradford’s proclamation calling for the First Thanksgiving, and that he planned to read it before asking the blessing. Here is what he had found:
Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.
Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.
Ye Governor of Ye Colony
Although I was uncomfortable contradicting my host, I felt compelled to tell him that this was a hoax. Can you figure out why?
Don’t be an ignoramus about Thanksgiving, pilgrim!
We usually think of the Pilgrims as British exiles who sailed to the North America and settled in Massachusetts. But the truth is a bit more complicated than that; the original Pilgrims were 35 members of the radical Puritan faction of the Church of England called the English Separatist Church, which illegally broke away from the rest of the Church in 1607. The group originally settled in the Netherlands, where the laws were much more lenient.
There, the Separatists suffered economic difficulties and feared the loss of their English language and culture. This inspired their voyage to the New World, a new home where they would be free to practice their religion and way of life.
In September of 1620, they joined a London stock company to finance their trip aboard the Mayflower, a three-masted merchant ship headed across the Atlantic. They intended to settle in an area near the Hudson River, part of the Virginia colony, but because of stormy seas, the Mayflower eventually anchored over two months later in what would soon be called Plymouth Harbor, in what is now Massachusetts.
Today marks the 151st anniversary of Lincoln’s, Gettysburg address, one of the seminal speeches in American history. Take time to read and reflect on it today and give thanks that God has raised up leaders like President Lincoln to guide our country through difficult times.
LINCOLN’S GETTYSBURG ADDRESS
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Glad I’m a 21st-century pilgrim and not a 17th-century one! Read more about it here.
From Fox News.
Written in 1215, the Magna Carta required the king of England King John to cede absolute power. Today, the Magna Carta is seen as a first step toward constitutional law rather than the hereditary power of royalty. There were four copies of the document created at the time. One, held by the British Library, was badly damaged in a fire in 1731.
Now, researchers have used a technique called multispectral imaging to decipher the text of the “Burnt Magna Carta” without touching or further damaging the delicate parchment. This imaging allowed conservation scientists to take pictures of the document that virtually erase the damage and show details of the parchment and text.
“It was in such a terrible state, we couldn’t read any of it, really,” said Christina Duffy, a British Library imaging scientist. “It was actually quite a surprise that so much text was recovered.”
On this day in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day.