Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A 106 year old survivor speaks out

     In my last "Wisdom through Story-Telling" class the instructor shared more stories from Greek mythology, about the bickering among the gods and how the five visible planets were given the Roman names of prominent Greek gods (Jupiter, Saturn, Mars) and goddesses (Venus).  She reminded us of the summer Olympics in London this year, and how in early days, all wars were put on-hold for the Olympics as nations competed for the finest athletic prowess instead of doing battle.  To this day, the flame of the Olympic torch is ignited in Greece and carried by private plane (you can't have an open flame on a commercial flight) and by foot-messengers to the site of the current Olympics.  We do still honor rituals globally that celebrate the human spirit!
     Last evening on Independent Lens I watched an incredible documentary about a man, now 106 years old and his wife of 60+ years who were Hollanders transported to German concentration camps, surviving under horrific conditions in the Holocaust.  Over 120,000 Dutch Jews were in their camp, and only 5000 survived till the Allied Liberation.  They were in love, writing letters to share their passion and hopes for survival, for over five years.  Near the end they were deported in different directions by train, not knowing if they'd ever be reunited.  The man was 70 lb. after years of hard labor and starvation rations, barely surviving typhoid fever, which killed so many fellow mal-nourished prisoners.
     The documentary is a modern story of heroic survival against unspeakable odds.  The couple were reunited, married and had three children and five grandchildren.  The wife was as spunky and articulate in the interviews as her husband, and there were scenes of him playing tennis and chess into his nineties.  They attended the 60 year Commemoration of the Liberation in Holland, with tears flowing freely as they remembered and honored so many of their fallen countrymen.  Even in their hundreds, they speak of what the Holocaust was like before school children whose parents have often forgotten how dark this chapter in human history truly was.  This documentary is a modern-day story of the triumph of the human spirit against adversities and atrocities few of us living have ever endured.  Without enormous optimism, great love for one another, perseverance, and sharing their dreams for a brighter future in the darkest hours when only their determination to survive kept alive their flames, they too would have been among the 16,000 comrades dead in their camp when the Allies came, ending this horrible chapter in human history.
    If your local WORLD PBS station airs this documentary, I encourage you to see it.  It helps put our own troubles in perspective, showing how common folks can indeed become heroes,  living to share their stories with generations to come.

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