Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Last Wednesday evening was a very sobering evening.
My husband and I went back to my alma mater, Heidelberg (college for ever in my heart) University.
A gentleman from my home town, Don Behm, was speaking along with a friend of his, Jim Lichtman.
Don was in the 11th armoured division. Jim survived 3 concentration camps. Don liberated the camp in Mathausen that Jim was in.
The Great Hall, where they were speaking, was packed full of students and community members alike. The community members understood why we were there, the students, not so much. Im sure some of them appreciated it, but most just didnt understand.

Listening to Mr. Behm as he described pushing in the gates of the camp with his tank and what he saw when they broke through was devastating to hear. The tremor in his voice, holding back tears, made me break down. He was just giving a prologe to what Mr. Lichtman would be telling us.
Mr. Lichtman watched as his mother and sister were taken away at Auschwitz. He didn't know where to, but the guard pointed to the crematorium and told him that that was where they were going. Then he watched as his beloved uncle threw himself against the electrified fence because he didn't want to go through what the rest of them would be.
He was loaded back on a train and taken to one work camp after another. Finally settling in Gusen (Mauthausen.)
Here, he would watch as his father was beat to death because not enough Jews were killed that day. It broke my heart to hear him describe this. How the guard made him watch. How his father tried to give his tiny piece of bread to his son as he was being murdered. I sobbed. I broke down. Kevin was crying too. Yet, the girl sitting next to me asked me what my problem was.
Mr. Lichtman survived 100 days in camp, while most only last 90. He was in the infirmary, a place where the sick were taken to die, not get better, when the tanks broke through. He was 18.
He returned to his home to discover his mother was still alive. He worked to pay $1000 each for passage to America with fake passports.
He moved to New Jersey and began working for an appliance company and later bought it and became very wealthy. He didn't tell his wife, children, no one about what he had been through until he was in his 4o's. Then he decided that people needed to hear his story, if only to prevent it from happening again.
He speaks in Germany each year to students and all over America.
I felt blessed just to be in these two men's great presence.
I can't thank them enough for sharing their very difficult story to tell.
I wish the student's could understand how lucky they are. How this generation is dying and we are going to lose all their knowledge with them.
That it is our duty to carry on their memory and what they went through so that we never have to.


  1. This is so sad. What a terrible terrible thing it all was.

  2. A heart-wrenching story no doubt. I interviewed a couple of my family members who survived the Holocaust. I have been meaning to edit the audio and start posting clips of their stories. My great grandfather died in the Holocaust, but his remains were never found. My grandfather spent years, going back to Germany and to Poland looking for any indication that his father once existed. Nothing.

  3. I realized this only a couple of days ago: when I was a kid in the 70's/80's all the elder people around you had been around during the Third Reich, they've witnessed it all first hand. And you didn't think about that fact, it was just the way it was. Actually, it takes a while until you realize that all that had only been two generations before.
    Of course you learn about those times in school, lots of times actually, not only in history class. But the times have changed so radically. There's always been an air of surreality surrounding incidents which are so cruel that it's difficult for the human mind to even comprehend them. But then comes the point when you actually tell yourself, crap, it's been only 50-60 years since then...
    It's like a missing link clicks in - your grandfather's generation had been the ones that were part of it. That's a tough cookie to swallow.
    But what's almost equally strange a feeling is that now the times have changed again. This generation is dying out so quickly. Where have all these white-haired people gone that you grew up with? The witnesses that you could actually ask first hand -- if you dared!
    To me, that feeling is almost terrifying. Soon, we will only be able to read about the terror of those days in history books. The feeling is like an illogical fear of losing the only hope that we could ever make sense of something no sane mind could ever cope with.
    But then, what will we be left with?...