Where will you be 77 years from now?
Will Israel still be a state?
Where will we stand as a community?
Will our children go to the army?
(Or there won’t be a need for an army anymore by then… )
77 years from now.
77 years ago, Auschwitz existed.
Auschwitz was a horrible place, where smoke rose up to the sky with the smell of death. Where the dead bodies of a father, a mother and a little baby, lay lifeless, murdered simply because of the fact they were Jews. Some one million Jews were murdered there. For those martyrs, Israel was only a dream. A place they will never get to see. A distant dream.
But my grandfather believed.
Two years ago after repeated requests, Grandpa accepted our pleas and with his modest blue eyes told us the story of his Holocaust experience.
My grandfather, Aryeh, grew up in Poland to a Jewish family, one of six siblings. The town he lived in was sent first to the “Prokchem” labor camp, and then to the “Plashov” labor camp.
In Plashov, my grandfather sees his father die in front of his own eyes. The Nazis shoot him to death while his two small children stand near.
Grandpa looked like a Polish child, with blond hair and blue eyes, which helped him survive. Once while traveling by train he noticed two Polish children whispering. Terrified, he ran away and hid in the station’s restroom after he saw them calling the police to find and arrest him.
In Plashov, the commander “took care” of Grandpa. The commander ordered Grandpa to report to his office after shouting at him when he lost a screw while working. The commander beat Grandpa with a club, until he was bleeding. However, it wasn’t over. Every day he looked for my grandfather, who managed to evade him time after time until a Nazi prison officer, a Kapo officer, caught him. Grandpa told the officer he will not go with him and if the commander wants to kill him- he can come and try. The Kapo officer was suddenly overwhelmed with mercy towards the small child and defended him.
After the war, Grandpa was sent to a displaced persons camp in Poland. Some tried to convince him not to immigrate to Israel.
But my grandfather – didn’t run away.
My grandfather moved to Israel, he finally made Aliyah. He came to Israel alone at the age of 16. He founded a factory that is still in business today. He raised a family, and bore grandchildren and great grandchildren who all served in the Israel Defense Forces.
John Lenon’s song “Imagine” pictures the world as just a dream against the reality of ours – full of hate.
But the world is also full of love.
We decide how we want to live.
Run away or believe, fear or courage, hate or love.
Even though he survived the worst of all, my grandfather never denigrated someone because he or she was different. He chose to live his life through a perspective of respect and equality.
His good heart, which was loved and accepted by everyone, despite their differences eventually passed on.
But death is a part of the circle of life.
We are only given one life.
The important thing is the way we choose to live it.
Dreams full of motivation – do come true.
This article is in honor of my grandfather, Aryeh Zlotnik of blessed memory who passed away in October 2015.
Written by: Inbal Zlotnik