Sunday, 27 April 2014

Holocaust Remembrance Day


Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) 2014 begins in the evening of Sunday, April 27 and ends in the evening of Monday, April 28. In honor of this very important event I would like to share my thoughts on forgiveness and evil. Is true forgiveness realistic? Can mortal man be like god and forgive without retribution? Well last year I watched an amazing documentary produced by Allentown Productions called “Inheritance” ,that answered this question for me. It is a true story about the daughter of a Nazi SS officer. The Nazi officer’s name was Amon Goeth and he was without a doubt one of the most maniacal men of all time.  He alone was responsible for the torture and slaughter of thousands of men women and children during his reign of terror, as the Commandant of the Plaszow Concentration Camp located in Krakow Poland. Through survivor’s accounts, there can be no doubt, that Amon Goeth not only took pleasure in the misery of others but truly reveled in it and he accomplished his life’s work in a mere 500 days.
Amon brought with him to Plaszow, his young mistress named Ruth and their daughter Monika, who was only a baby. Growing up, Monika was told that her father was shot down in the war like everyone else’s father, but by age 11, her Grandmother, to whom she was very close, told her the truth, which was that he was executed by hanging for his atrocities. From that moment on Monika was weighed down with an intolerable burden of guilt and shame.  This was her inheritance.

Monika was told that her parents had 2 Jewish slave girls living in Krakow with them, and that one of them was alive and living in the USA. Her name is Helen Jonas.  Monika felt driven to talk to her. She called her on the phone and though the pain of the past had not left Helen, she agreed to meet Monika in Poland at the Plaszow Concentration Camp Memorial. The women walked through the home where Amon and Ruth lived with Monika and where Helen was their slave. Needless to say it was painful for both extraordinary women. One carried all the pain of the torture of thousands and the other carried the unbearable chains of guilt and shame.  Both these women were innocent. Neither of them did anything to bring about these horrific injustices. Monika was driven to gain forgiveness for her parent’s sins and Helen was unsure if she should oblige. A part of her felt that Monika was the enemy. This fear and hate towards the daughter of her torturer may have been irrational but it was real. Both women showed great bravery and honor by putting their feeling aside and making the choice to let go of the things which continued to haunt them. Together they gave up their demons of hate and fear through remorse, atonement, forgiveness, mercy and love. Two strangers came together to repair a wrong that wasn’t even theirs. When they chose to give up the negative energies produced by hate and shame, they chose to not allow evil to win. Monika was able to begin this miraculous transformation of righting a wrong through a desire to repent and atone for what her father had done and Helen completed the cycle by choosing to be merciful and forgive her.  

The story of these women changed me forever. I, like everyone else, have struggled at times with bitterness and resentment. I have even gone so far as to feel righteous in my un-forgiveness. Hearing these women share their journey made me question my rigidity. Monika and Helen each made an enormous effort to right a horrible, horrible wrong. Maybe I should try a little harder to forgive. And so I have, and it has brought me more strength and inner peace than probably anything else in my life. Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness but of strength. It is the way evil is destroyed. May we all make more of an effort to follow the path of love, especially with those who need it most.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

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