Posts Tagged With: holocaust

We Will Outlast

Wednesday, Scott and I and all his family arose long before the crack of dawn and hit the road to attend the funeral of their beloved Aunt. It was a lovely service, and I have much more to say about that later, but we left the house at about 6:15am and returned home just after 9pm and I still had to do laundry. Scott hit the pillows pretty much immediately, so I sat down in the living room to sort and fold and decided to watch the Daily Mass via YouTube. I had read (and posted) the readings for the day for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a homily sounded just perfect for topping off the evening. Unfortunately, Wednesday’s homily was not available, but after a medium-sized hissy fit, I decided to settle for Tuesday’s mass. I was exceedingly glad that I did.

Fr. Mitch Pacwa gave the homily, which focused on the life and death of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who was killed in Auschwitz after volunteering to take the place of another prisoner. For anyone to volunteer to be starved to death in order than another person might live (there were no guarantees of life in Auschwitz, of course), is amazing, but what truly struck me about Fr. Mitch’s homily was what happened before and what happened after in regards to the friary he founded in Nagasaki, Japan.

St. Maximilian made several mission trips to Japan. When he built the friary, according to Shinto beliefs, it was built on the “wrong” side of the mountain and therefore out of harmony with nature. However, when the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, the “right” side of the mountain bore the brunt of the blast and the monastery was protected.

The deadliest bomb ever created is dropped on a town, but the friary, built where it should not have been built, survives. We are that friary!

We live in difficult times. Christians cannot stand up for their beliefs without ridicule and animosity. Our Catholic institutions are being forced to pay for contraception and abortion insurance which is in direct violation of our beliefs. What will happen next? Evangelical atheism is rising and we see more and more billboards, videos, even t-shirts, for crying out loud, demanding that we stop this ridiculousness and throw away our faith. We face constant bullying and smear campaigns against anything or anyone which supports the gospel. Look no further than the Chick-fil-a fiasco. A businessman states that he supports biblical marriage and the internet explodes with accusations of hate speech. Co-workers I’ve spoken to who didn’t check the facts were under the impression that Dan Cathy stated outright that he hated gays, wouldn’t hire them, and wouldn’t serve them. Bottom line, you can’t stand up for what the Bible says without having a massive hate campaign launched against you. But this is much bigger than worrying that someone will be put out of business for standing up for what they believe. It raises this fear that Christians will eventually be stamped out and silenced forever.

But after the mushroom cloud dissipated, the friary still stood.

The Nazis rose to power and were destroyed. The communists came and the communists went. Even the Early Church was persecuted for over 300 years by the Romans. ROME FELL. All sorts of evil rises but it will always fall, and when it does, the Church will still stand. We will outlast this madness  because we are the carriers of a sacred message. When all of this has passed, no matter who rises to power and who falls, the Word of God will continue to be spoken and carried to those who need it. God will always make sure we’re on the right side of the mountain. Christianity isn’t going anywhere.

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…as we forgive those who trespass against us.

My dear husband, Scott, has been working the late shift recently, and the upshot to that is that he can stay up all hours of the night without judgement. A few days ago, he came crawling into bed at 7am, going on and on about a documentary series he watched about Auschwitz. The next day, it was Forgiving Dr. Mengele. Last night, the two of us sat down to watch it together and I must say, I was floored.

Forgiving Dr. Mengele is the story of Auschwitz survivor Eva Mozes Kor, who arrived at Auschwitz in 1944 at the age of 10. Children at the camp generally were sent directly to the gas chamber as they could not work. In fact, most of the prisoners at Auschwitz were killed immediately upon arrival. Eva and her sister were spared, however, because they were twins and ideal candidates for medical experiments.

Dr. Mengele preferred twins because they were virtually identical biologically which created a “control” group for experiments. One twin was injected with a disease or germ and if they died, the other twin was immediately killed via a shot of chloroform to the heart and a comparative autopsy was done. Hans Münch, another doctor who worked side by side with Mengele, says in the documentary that these experiments seemed to be carried out with no real goal or purpose.

The only word I can think of to describe this is horror. The chief defense of the Nazis on trial was that they were merely following orders. However, this man, this “Doctor,” was not given orders so much as he was given carte blanche. He could do whatever he wanted. He chose to use these children as his own personal playground of terror.

Eva’s twin, Miriam, suffered miserably from the experiments. Her kidneys never developed past the age of 10. Eventually, Eva gave Miriam one of her kidneys, but it was not enough. Miriam’s doctors said they may be able to do more if they knew what she had been injected with. This led Eva on a search for Dr. Mengele’s files, a search she continued after Miriam’s death. In 1993, Eva met with Hans Münch, which changed the course of her life in ways she could never imagine.

Hans Münch was a member of the Nazi party and an SS physician, but was clearly not a true believer in the same respect as Dr. Mengele. He participated in the experiments, but he often did so as a means of keeping prisoners from being killed. As long as they were considered useful for experiments, they wouldn’t be sent to the gas chambers. At his meeting with Eva, he was candid with her about the effects his time in Auschwitz had on his life, and about the nightmares he still had. Like the victims, he was haunted and tortured by the evils he participated in. Eva was blown away. Nazis were unrepentant monsters, weren’t they? But this was just a man who got caught up in mass hysteria and was a part of something he would regret for the rest of his life. Something he could never take back or make reparation for.

Eva decided to do something extreme.

She forgave him.

I just cannot wrap my head around that sentence. A Jew, who was tortured and experimented on, forgave one of the Nazis who participated in the experiments. They were both present at the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and they walked arm in arm around the camp together. They were both healed by her forgiveness. Eva decided that even that extreme act of humanity wasn’t enough. She decided to forgive all of them. 

Eva Mozes Kor is not the most popular person amongst her fellow holocaust survivors. They feel that forgiving means forgetting. They also discussed that a prerequisite of forgiveness is for the offender to express remorse and reparation. In this situation, it’s not appropriate to forget what happened. Truly, we must never forget the suffering, the death, the inhuman torture and disregard for humanity. But Eva has forgiven. She recognizes that there is nothing any former Nazi can do to make reparation for what happened there. She also feels that by forgiving the people who killed her family, she allows her own soul to be healed, to be set free.

Forgiveness is not my strong suit. It’s not my suit at all. I bear many grudges and I bear them close to my heart. Lately, I’ve felt God tugging on my heart, telling me it’s time to let these things go. After all, what can those who throughout my life do to make reparation? If they feel no remorse, that leaves only myself to bear the burden, to suffer under the hardness of hatred. It is only my heart that is made rotten by my grudge. Jesus himself is clear on the topic:

“And when you shall stand to pray, forgive, if you have aught against any man; that your Father also, who is in heaven, may forgive you your sins. But if you will not forgive, neither will your Father that is in heaven, forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25-26

Notice how He doesn’t say anything about “once reparations are made” or “as long as you’re sure they’re really and truly sorry.” No, there are no prerequisites made. At His death, Jesus practices what he preached:

“And Jesus said: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. But they, dividing his garments, cast lots.” Luke 23:34

Jesus teaches forgiveness again and again:

“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.” Luke 6:37

“So that on the contrary, you should rather forgive him and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.” 2 Corinthians 2:7

There is healing in forgiveness. There is peace in forgiveness.

But it’s hard. It’s hard when someone has caused you indescribable pain and shows no sign of remorse. When someone hurt you and doesn’t seem to think it’s even important. I am beginning to realize that forgiveness is essential. Bearing a grudge puts a wall between me and God. It serves no purpose but to fester in my soul until I distrust not only the person who wronged me, but everyone else who might.

It’s time to put the past away. Time to walk away from events that have scarred me. It’s time to move on.

Eva forgave the Nazis. Jesus forgave the soldiers that beat and hung Him up to die, even as they cast lots for his clothes. With God’s grace, certainly I can forgive anyone.

All verses courtesy Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible.

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