It takes a lot to inspire me. I don’t mean that in a snobby way, I just mean that some rich Mormon lady telling me about how hard her trial on the TV show “Survivor” was doesn’t make my eyes well up with tears (this was seriously a motivational speech at a blogger conference I went to. No.) I mean, it takes a lot to pull me out of my deep emotional sour moods. It takes something really special.
And today was full of sour moods. I might recap them in another post, but for now I want to keep this space one of inspiration for the loveliest holiday of the year. I found this Reddit AMA with a Holocaust survivor and after reading some of the things she said, I found myself crying for a good hour. I urge you to read everything if you have time, but for my Valentine’s post I wanted to share a few of the more important things Ms. Eva wrote. She was a twin who spent time in Auschwitz being experimented on, along with her sister. She was permanently separated from her other family members before the experiments (meaning, she never saw them again afterward.)
She really, truly understands what it means to survive. Not survive reality tv style, but ‘live only for the next piece of bread’ survival. She says things that I believe resonate in the hearts of survivors in all walks of life. And she is sweet and caring and all these amazing things while still having her sense of humor about her. Here are some excerpts:
“The supervisor brought me a piece of bread every night and put it on my bed. I am sure if she were discovered, she would have been killed. That barrack was not supposed to have any food. Looking back, I can see there were a lot more people who were looking the other way and helping us survive than I first knew. Even when we boiled potatoes secretly, they must have smelled the potatoes and did not report us. So they pretended they didn’t smell it. Let me be clear – the regime was evil beyond description, and many of them – not all, but many – were passionately carrying out the orders. Some remained human beings even in a place like Auschwitz. Even a Nazi doctor such as Hans Munch manipulated the system in some ways to save 30 inmates. I don’t know how many examples like this there were. Obviously not enough. But there were enough to make me hopeful that human beings can remain human even among such conditions. Being me, I’ll always focus on the good rather than the bad.”
“I believe that we live life to the best of our ability, and the Holocaust, while it is an unbelievably tragic human event… I don’t think that people should go around feeling sad and bewildered for the rest of their lives. When I tell my story, I don’t want it to be used for entertainment, but if I can tell my own story and also tell some jokes and make people laugh, they will be better able to learn than if it is continuous tragedy. I don’t want to make it so sad that people will turn away and not be able to learn from it.”
“[There was] no struggle to forgive. From the moment I realized I had that power over my life, that was an extremely exciting discovery, because most victims do not know they have any power over their lives from the time they become victims. The difference between forgiving and not forgiving (and most survivors remain angry, sad, disconnected from the world at times because they can’t cope) they pass on these feelings to their children, who also become angry. I call anger a seed for war. Forgiveness is a seed for peace.
“What I am concerned about, rather than the perpetrators, are the victims. I do not want them to be victims for the rest of their lives. If we focused half as much energy on helping the victims rather than what we should do with the perpetrators, the world would be better off, because victims have a tendency to pass on their pain and anger. It becomes an endless, vicious cycle. People who forgive are at peace with themselves and peace with the world. That is the hope that I have – that most victims will be able to accomplish that, or at least we teach them that it is an option available to them. I cannot do forgiveness for anyone but myself, so everyone has that choice, and that choice is very important to have.
And one last thing I’d like to share; she cited Rudyard Kipling’s “If” as her favorite poem. I was really impressed after reading it, so here is that poem: