A blog focusing on politics in Central Illinois.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

I am speechless

by amprather
Fri Mar 4th, 2005 at 16:07:33 PST

[Promoted from the diaries by DavidNYC. My father is a Holocaust survivor - and my grandfather a victim of it - so I imagined this diary might have special meaning for me as I read it. But I could never have imagined the stunning conclusion. I insist that you read to the very end of this miraculous story.]

After writing my diary "A Promise to My Grandfather" yesterday, I received over 40 emails from all over the country (I am still getting some right now) from those that were also impacted by the Holocaust. I read each one of them and shed a tear for every word. Many thanked me for sharing the story of my grandfather, but I should thank all of them for their stories. It helped me see that I am not alone in my pain, but also to see that there is hope. Hope that there are those that want to fight the hate that is now forming and stop it before we repeat it.

However, there was one email from BettyG in San Rafael, California that moved me that it is taking me way too long to write this diary.

Here is my follow up with BettyG's email.

Diaries :: amprather's diary ::

The original diary:

Last year at my grandfather's funeral, I made a promise to both him and myself that I would fight to the very end to prevent the evil that he had to endure in his life from happening again. Everyday when I look into the blue eyes of my daughter, the same blue eyes my grandfather had, I am reminded of that promise and know that it is not only a promise to him, but to her as well.

Diaries :: amprather's diary ::
In the fall of 1943, after being captured by the Nazis in the Ukraine, my grandfather was sent to Auschwitz. At first, he was just one of many Soviet POWs held at the camp, but it was later discovered that he was Jewish, so he was removed from the Soviet soldiers and placed with the other European Jews. My grandfather never knew why he survived while others parished, but there was never a day that passed after liberation in 1945 that he thanked God for that gift of life.

My grandfather was able to get to England and then on to America to restart his life. He raised 5 children and later cherished his 22 grandchildren. He loved to work in his garden, even on the hottest of days. As a child, I always wondered why he wore long shirts even on those August days when it would easily be 100 degrees (even in the shade). When I was 9, I caught my grandfather shaving in the bathroom and that is when I saw it: His Camp Number - 58877241.

Not knowing any better, I asked him why he got such a "stupid tattoo". He told me that he really didn't want to get it and quickly tried to cover it with a towel. I followed him asking him, "Why don't you get it removed then?" He stop dead in the hallway and without turning around said "So I don't forget." We never discussed it again.

When he died last summer, I told myself that he was finally at peace. As I stood over his coffin with my wife, I reached down and took his arm in mine. I unbuttoned his sleeve and rolled it up. I looked at the number again - 58877241. My wife looked at me and asked "Why are you doing that?" All I could say was "So I don't forget." Right then I made my promise to him - Never again.

Now when I see the hate and bigotry that comes out of those that call them "Christians" or "Moral People", I know that this is how it began seven decades ago in Europe. It was too late, when people finally woke up, millions had been carted away in cattle cars to their deaths.

I don't want to see that here or anywhere else. I do not want there to be cattle cars filled with people that these hate mongers scream out against. I do not want to see gays, liberals, Mexicans, hippies, Hollywood Actors, or anyone else have to be tattooed with a number. No more 58877241s.

This summer, my family and I will be traveling to Auschwitz, so my children understand what there grandfather went through. I want my daughter to know why I see him in her eyes. And then everytime I look in her eyes I will see hope and love and not 58877241.

So to the Phelps and Coulters of the world, you are on notice, we will fight your hate because we will not have this happen again.

Here is BettyG's email-

Roman Edemskoi (58877241) was my grandfather.

I am traveling to San Rafael next week to talk to BettyG. If you don't think the Web is a powerful, earth-shattering tool, I hope you think differently.