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.