I’m of Jewish extraction, though I no longer practice it, it is a big part of the who I am culturally and spiritually. As a young child, my family was involved in helping rescue German relatives who were fleeing Hitler. I remember playing with distant cousins when they just arrived and spoke no English and I no German.
I remember all the images and horrors of the Holocaust as they unfolded…almost impossible to truly grasp.
For years and year I hated Germans, Germany, the language, the culture, etc. I vowed I would never set a foot in Germany. Thus I lived well into middle age, carrying this heavy burden. I wanted to be free of such a global hatred which irrationally carried on into the current generation of children and grandchildren of the generation of perpetrators.
In 1996 I learned about an interfaith pilgrimage to Aushwitz called Bearing Witness led by Roshu Bernard Glasser. I immediately knew it was what I was looking for! During our week there, I met a group of people – the descendents of the victims and the descendents of perpetrators. The group called itself “One By One”. During the evenings, individuals told of their suffering and pain (and need for healing) caused by the traumas involved in growing up on their respective families. As I empathized with the children and grandchildren of my “enemies”, I came to understand first it was all one pain and we were all in need of the same healing.
By telling each other our stories and listening to each others stories, and embracing and crying – I became freed of all the load of hate and bitterness that I had carried around.
I won’t ever forget – but I am very happy to be free to appreciate the greatness that has also come out of Germany.