the tale of a tetovierer

Who has inflicted this upon us?
Who has made us Jews different from all other people?
Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now?
It is God that has made us as we are,
but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again.
If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left,
when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed,
will be held up as an example.

Anne Frank


(image of some of the children in Auschwitz holding up their arms to a cameraman,
showing the tattooed number on their arms / BBC)

I am not a fan of tattoos.

I’m just not nor have I ever been.

And this coming from a retired art teacher who had many an aspiring tattoo artist
in class.

I truly believe that what one finds grand, fascinating, bold as well as defining
at say age 18, will not hold the same sense of fascination, boldness nor still
be defining at say age 58…

Plus I can’t help but see a good bit of an underlying psychology underneath a
need to permanently “ink” ones’ body…..

But hey, that’s just me.

It’s obviously not the rest of our culture’s or society’s mindset….
I’m just a one hole pierced earring sort of girl….

I like things understated and simple really…elegant, ageless and timeless.
I blame my grandmother…thankfully.

I grew up with many Jewish friends.
I attended Synagogue with them as they came to church with me.
I feel a deep connection to our Jewish brethren as I happen to
claim one of their own as my Savior.

Yet in all my years, I never knew nor had met anyone who had been a survivor
of the Death Camps.

I knew many a WWII veteran but never an individual who lived to tell the
horrific nightmare of having lived when one was expected to die…

I knew Vietnam Veterans and even POWs of that war, but none from
those infamous Death Camps of a previous war.

So I have never seen an aged wrinkled arm that bears the fading yet distinct
numbers of one’s time spent surviving death.

I did a pencil drawing once of a portion of a forearm and hand…
It was a man’s arm and hand.
There was a number scrawled on the inner wrist running about an inch and a half
lengthwise up the forearm–along with an inch wide hole piercing all the way through
the palm of the hand…
the backdrop was what one would assume to be a rough hewn piece of wood….

His death, the death of the man whose arm I had drawn, had not been in vain and
had not been for but a select few…it had been for all…
as He had been there, in their midst, with all those who had those numbers
inked onto their arms, despite many Jews to this day truly believing that God
had abandoned them during the Shoah …

The biblical word Shoah (which has been used to mean “destruction” since
the Middle Ages) became the standard Hebrew term for the murder of European Jewry
as early as the early 1940s. The word Holocaust,
which came into use in the 1950s as the corresponding term,
originally meant a sacrifice burnt entirely on the altar.
The selection of these two words with religious origins reflects recognition
of the unprecedented nature and magnitude of the events.
Many understand Holocaust as a general term for the crimes and horrors
perpetrated by the Nazis;
others go even farther and use it to encompass other acts of mass murder as well. Consequently, we consider it important to use the Hebrew word Shoah with
regard to the murder of and persecution of
European Jewry in other languages as well.

Yad Vashem

And so I never gave much thought as to those tattooed numbers on those forearms.
I never thought about who was charged with having to “write” them…
I never thought about when exactly it was, during the ordeal,
that they had received them…
And how odd that I had never known anyone who had endured what it meant to have one.

The other day I caught a story with a rather interesting title….
The Tattooist of Auschwitz–and his secret love

Visions of today’s tattoo artists in my mind is of an individual who
themselves is covered in various images and colors, electric pen in hand…
a master of a cultural craft.

Throw in the notion of a secret love and all manner of clandestine activities
suface in one’s imagination.

Clicking on the story, I am met with the tale of a man and of the life
he lived and of an age-long sense of heaviness for having betrayed the
millions who did not survive.
I believe that is called survivors guilt.

And yet in this tale there is found love, loss, rediscovering, life, hope….
and finally a sense of understanding that there was no culpability for
simply having survived.

The story is set in Melbourne, Australia…
a far cry from a Death Camp in 1940’s Poland.
And the hero of this tale actually died in 2006.
It took him until he was well into his 80’s to even be able to share his story…
much of which his now grown son had not known. Not many who survived liked to
talk about their stay.

The story is of Ludwig “Lale” Eisenberg who later changed his name to
Lale Sakolov.

Lale’s story was coaxed out of his memory by Heather Morris
who has since written a book The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Lale was a Slovak Jew who, like the other Jews in Czechoslovakia, was sent
to Auschwitz.
He was 26 years old.
He did manual labor at the camp until he contracted typhoid.
He was cared for by a Frenchman who had actually been the one who had
tattooed Lale’s number on his arm 32407.
The man was known as in the camp as a tetovierer, or tattooist.
He was charged with “writing” the numbers onto the arms of those coming into
the camp who would be staying—those being sent immediately to the gas chambers.
did not receive numbers.

Eventually Lale became the tetovierer to the camp.

Yet in the middle of madness and death, love was actually kindled.

An 18 year old girl found herself standing before Lale…one in a myriad of women
waiting in the long line…
waiting their turn to exchange a life and a name for a number.

Lale did not like tattooing the women—there was always a sickening feeling in
the pit of his stomach, but he did as he was ordered.

Gazing up at this girl who stood before him, his heart was immediately taken
by this girl’s bright eyes.
Her name was Gita.

Gita and Lale’s life together actually began that fateful day in Auschwitz–
and the twists and turns are amazing…

There is a lovely video clip on Heather’s kickstarter page that she put together—
which I assume was created to help raise the necessary funds to write and publish
Lale and Gita’s story.
The book is now available on Amazon…I ordered mine today.

Below are two links—
the first is Heather’s story along with a brief video overview about her finding
and forging a relationship with Lale, who would eventually share his story with her.

The second link is about the story as written by the BBC.

For even in the midst of misery and death, remains hope…there is always Hope.

http://www.bbc.com/news/stories-42568390

what’s really real anymore?

“It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it;
but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal
which have been instilled into them,
and each time they come in contact with the real,
they are bruised and wounded…”

W. Somerset Maugham

Between the books I’m reading, the barrage of breaking “news” stories,
our caustic and even catastrophic political world..add to that those issues that
scream for our attention yet go woefully ignored….
throw in a good dose of life, seasoned with “this time of year”…
and something or maybe everything is leaving me a bit unsettled..

By all outward appearances I am going through all the proper motions…
I am saying all the right things while doing all the necessary things.
Nothing would lead anyone to suspect that anything was awry.
And yet something unseen continues to pull at my sleeve as I unconsciously try
pulling back….such that the unconscious is almost becoming conscious.

Am I just becoming Ebenezer?
Perhaps more Grinch than Scrooge?
Or am I simply now jaded beyond repair?

After thinking about the two posts I wrote earlier this week—
the first being about meat and potatoes vs purposeful yet empty noise and distraction….
with the second tale being about of the continuing saga of the annihilation of
the oldest, as in the very first group of collective Christians, I have found myself wrestling with what it is that we think we’re passing off as Christmas.

Whoa.
Sacred cow now being looked at sideways…

I’ve allowed this thought to ruminate as I’ve chewed the cud over it.

Christmas is for children….that is a certain absolute..as in for sure.
And I have loved Christmas–both past and present as I anxiously await
sharing it with a new granddaughter next year…..
but…..

Christmas, for me and mine, has basically been a joyous time of melding
tradition and custom with Biblical teaching.

But something is starting to really trouble me….
There are…
Advent wreathes with the lighting of candles while there are “Advent” calendars
counting down the days until Christmas—with more and more equating simply to
good food, family and presents…..

There is…
Santa Claus Christmas
and there is….
Jesus Christmas.

Hummmm….

I have Jewish friends who have decorated Christmas trees, stockings on their mantles,
a menorah in the kitchen as they take the kids to Santa for pictures
and wrap up gifts and goodies in red and green paper to nestle under the tree.

I know nonbelievers who have decorated Christmas trees, stockings on their mantles
and presents wrapped in red and green under the tree…as their children, along with
those Jewish children, leave out cookies and milk for Santa.

Christmas.

Expectation verses Expectancy
Lights verses Light.
Gifts verses Giving…

Has it all gone too far?
Have we allowed it to go too far?
Have we been sucked into a lie?

I think that which is tugging at my sleeve is the Holy Spirit Himself.
I am being reminded that what I’m seeing as Christmas has nothing to do with
Christ’s Mass….nothing to do with the expectant waiting of the birth of Salvation.

And so I wrestle—where do we as Believers now draw the line?

Do we do so silently…or…a bit more loudly?
Loudly as in no longer just riding merrily along in the sleigh with everyone else
jing jing jingling into the oblivion of Currier and Ives… or rather do we say
a collective “hold up”…

First and foremost Christmas is about one thing…and one thing only….
and that is the birth of Christ…
So don’t try to pass this societal thing you’ve created off as anything
other than secularism masquerading as the Christmas of Christ.
You want your Yuletide but you don’t want the Christians to have their
Christ’s Mass…
You want your goodies and your holidays but you don’t want to acknowledge the
Savior of all mankind…..

And so while wrestling with this gnawing notion rolling around in my thoughts
and heart, I caught the latest offering by the Wee Flea Pastor
David Robertson….talk about reading my mind…

It is the tale of fake news verses real news…..

Is Christmas Christian?
….But what about as a Christian festival?
It can be argued that Christmas becoming a secular/pagan festival is just
returning to its pagan roots.
It was the Church that took over the midwinter festival and turned it into a
celebration of the birth of Jesus
(who was not born on December the 25th – more likely to have been a day in April).
Was this a bad thing?
Some of our ancestors thought so –
and famously refused to celebrate Christmas.
Even in living memory there are those who can recall Christmas just being a
normal working day – with New Year being the main festival.
Most Free Churches still do not have a Christmas Day service
(unless it is on a Sunday) but we do have a New Years Day.

It’s not wrong to celebrate Christmas,
and its not wrong not to celebrate.
Let each be persuaded in their own minds.
What however is wrong is to turn the birth of Jesus Christ,
into an orgy of commercialism, greed and drunkenness.
The idea that people will get themselves into enormous debt to buy things
they don’t need in order to celebrate the birth of the one who though he was rich,
yet became poor, for our sakes, is grotesque.

We are able to use our building to proclaim the good news of Jesus,
as opposed to the ‘fake news’ of the secular Christmas.
In that respect I love what the angels told the shepherds as they looked
after their flocks
“Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news that will bring great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David,
a Saviour has been born to you.;
he is the Messiah, the Lord”
.
(Luke 2:10-11).

Great Joy for all the People – The Christmas Record

Silence, authentic and evil

“The Islamic State’s genocide of Christians in the Middle East is well
documented. Yet this modern atrocity is often judged less newsworthy than the
jihadists’ destruction of the region’s cultural heritage. What are the roots
and human realities of this unfolding tragedy in the birthplace of three
great religions?”

back cover offering of the book The Last Christians by Fr Andreas Knapp


(one of our trees in last week’s snow / Julie Cook / 2017)

Speaking of books arriving via the post….
another bookmailer showed up in my mailbox yesterday…

Dare I say that this most recent book will take us in a vastly different
direction than the children’s book seen in yesterday’s post
If My Moon Was Your Sun by Andreas Steinhofel….
Not to say that there won’t be both poignancy, sorrow and loss…
but such will be on a scale that will touch all of us rather than some of us….

This recent book does not look to be an easy read.
Not that there should be great burdensome amount of academic depth but rather simply
the hard tale of human loss and suffering on an epic and historic proportion….
and yet mostly on an overlooked and even ignored level.

Of which is actually most perplexing given the significance of the situation.

The book is entitled The Last Christians by Andreas Knapp

“For a long time Christians in the Middle East have been condemned to silence.
For centuries they have been discriminated against by a predominantly Muslim
society and, as a minority, they have been forced to quietly accept
injustice and lead an inconspicuous life in the shadows.
Even I, a preist and theologian, was for a long time unaware of the moving story
of Christians in Syria and Iraq.

Two years ago, I met some Christians from the Middle East who now live in my
neighborhood of Grunau, in Leipzig, Germany. Having listened to their stories,
I was so moved I had to write them down.
They may not be entirely politically correct, but they are correct in
the sense that they are authentic.”

Fr Andrea Knapp

It is noted from the publisher that “remarkably, though these last Christians hold
no hope of ever returning to their homes, they also harbor no thirst for revenge.
Could it be that they–along with the Christians of the West, whose interest will
determine their fate–hold the key to breaking the cycle of violence in the region?

Their’s is a story that I have actually written about before…
around the same time Fr Knapp, the German priest,
came to see with his own eyes, then came to write down his interactions
and observations…
but yet this is a story that is still exceedingly timely and necessary to hear.

My origianal post is from March of 2015 and is more informative
than what is offered here today…as it includes a 60 Minutes segment in which
Lara Logan had also gone to visit the region in order to see and hear
first hand the plight of this particular group of ancient Christians.

The post offers images and insight into the barbarism used by ISIS to systematically annihilate this last vestige of the original Christians who have existed in this
region since both the death and resurrection of Christ.

Regarding the book…I have not yet had a chance to delve into it…
but from what I have gleaned from the tantalizing tidbits…
this will be not only a very important tale to Christians but also a hugely important
story for historians, Jews as well as Muslims…as it actually determines the course
of humanity.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/blood-of-the-lamb/

And perhaps ironically today, as I was thinking about these first Christians who are
lined up to be the last of their kind, I caught a very brief, like all of 2 minute,
video clip of an interview of sorts given by the Reformed Presbyterian Minister David Robertson—
a clip where he is responding to the question of
‘How does the existence of Evil undermine the atheistic worldview?

Pastor Robertson notes that in the mind of an atheist, the existence of Evil
is a clear sign that there is no God.
As they will rationalize that if there was a God,
He would in turn be all powerful and therefore He could and would prevent all Evil….
So since there is Evil, there is obviously no God.

Yet on the flip side of all of that is how then does the atheist define Evil
with no moral absolutes?
If there are no rules, no judgements, no afterlife, no God, no way of resolving
or dealing with Evil, how does the atheist actually deal with the concept of
evil in any sort of defining way.
The answer… He cannot.

So the non believer has a conundrum…with the mindset of ‘well, since there is no
God and Evil isn’t Evil, we might as well just live it up….

This as humankind wrestles with what to do about the historic and epic genocides…atrocities which have taken place throughout all of time.

And so you are now asking as to why I would write about such during this time of
Advent—a time of all things full of Expectancy, Anticipation and Christmas…
a time that is to be of softness, love and dare we say, hope…
Why should we worry ourselves over the ugliness of reality as those are problems
not on our particular or given radar—things that are happening over there some
place and out of sight.

Why write about the annihilation of Aramaic Christians, atheists and their fight for disbelief and the very concept of Evil….

‘Please not here, not now, not at Christmas…’ we are each heard to lament.

Well it actually is because it is Advent and the Christmas season that we should be
and need to be most mindful of such….

As those of us who confess to be Believers must not find ourselves falling
into the hole of secularism and the Societal notion of Christmas…
of which we have done.

This secular celebration of all things Christmas that is currently in all
its full glory and regalia is lulling us into a time of contented ignorant bliss.

And just as I reminded us in Tuesday’s Meat and Potatoes post….
this time of year is particularly very loud and very noisy…for a reason…

Do you not think that there is one who delights in the pure distraction
from what is to be our Truth?

Advent….
yes…
be ready,
be watching,
be waiting…
for there are epic things taking place all the while as we busy ourself with
the minutia of the moment while missing the importance of the day…

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.

Isaiah 14:12-15

Sun, moon and the love of a grandfather

“There are fathers who do not love their children;
there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson.”

Victor Hugo


(an older moon shot I’ve used before / Julie Cook / 2016)

I know that yesterday I had given us, or perhaps actually issued is a better word,
a laundry list of “issues” that we were going to need to play catch up with….
all sorts of pressing issues that had come down the pike while I was busy
with all things snow….

And yes, we shall indeed visit those issues…however, I was called into active duty, unbeknownst to my best laid plans, with active duty in my case being
the emergency holiday help at my husband’s store…

So now that I’m finally home, it’s late and I’m trying to prepare some sort of
hot meal of sustenance and get a post ready for tomorrow (which is now today if
you’re reading this), so I think we’ll hold up
on those more pressing topics until I have the proper time to do them justice….

And as life would have it, something interesting arrived in yesterday’s mail
that is now taking precedence.

You may recall that the I have a friend at Plough Publishing House who actually
happened upon my blog about a year ago or so.

That’s how we met.

She has been sending me sample copies of books that she thinks that I will enjoy…
and in turn will perhaps share with others….of which I have as time has allowed.

The small package that arrived in yesterday’s mail was one of those books.

A book that probably has made a bigger impact on my heart than my publisher friend
would have imagined.

Those of you who know me or have been reading this blog since this time last year…
know that I was knee deep in caring for my dad and stepmother.

Dad had an aggressive form of bladder cancer…he was diagnosed in late August and died
in March. Both he and my stepmother had also been diagnosed with varying degrees of
dementia quite sometime before that…
so needless to say we were just all in the middle of a downward spiral is putting it
mildly.

It was a hard road for us all…with dad being an amazing example
quiet acceptance, perseverance and fortitude.

This time last year we already had 24 hour care as well as Hospice care…
plus I was driving over each and every day.

The last time dad had actually gotten out of the bed was on Christmas day when we
wheeled him to the table to enjoy Christmas dinner.
Naturally he didn’t have much of an appetite but he was most keen for the dessert.
So dessert it was.

Dad and my son had a very special bond.
My son was my dad’s only grandchild and Dad was more kid than dad…
so needless to say, they stayed in cahoots most of my son’s growing up.


(Christmas day 2016, Brenton and Dad)

My dad was always graciously generous to his grandson and to say that my son
was dad’s partner in crime was to have been putting it mildly.

I won’t go on as it seems I’ve written about all of this before and if I do go on,
I’ll simply loose focus over my original intent of this post and
cry more than I already am.

The book my friend sent me is actually a children’s book.
And I imagine it came my way because I will become a grandmother soon.
Yet the tale of the book resonated so much with me, not so much because I am
a soon to be grandparent,
but rather because it is a tale about a grandson and his grandfather.

It is a book written by a German author, Andreas Steinhofel and illustrated by a
German artist Nele Palmtag—and yet the tale is quite universal.

Max’s grandfather is in a nursing home because he has what is surmised to be
Alzheimers or some other form of dementia….’forgetting’ being the key word.
And nine year old Max, who adores his grandfather and misses their life together
before the nursing home, formulates a plan to “spring” his grandfather from the
nursing home…
in essence a plan to kidnap his grandfather.

And in so doing another member of the nursing home escapes by accident.
A long and spindly woman who is in search of the sun…as she dances
behind Max and his grandfather on their misadventure.

The tale is not a long read—-
I read it in less than an hour’s time.
Yet it is a deep read by adult standards.
It is funny, it is cute, it is painful, and it is very very real.

I think my 29 year old son would appreciate the story much more than his 9
year old self would have—as he now has the hindsight of understanding
Max’s deep longing.

I know that if my son could have kidnapped his “Pops” from that hospice bed he
would have….and off on one more adventure they would have gone.

But in this tale of last adventures, Max’s grandfather reassures Max, who is now desperately afraid that his grandfather, in his forgetfulness, will forget
he loves Max…explains to Max that he will always be there, loving Max,
even if it appears he has “forgotten.”

He explains to Max that when we look up into the sky we know the moon is there
because we can see it. Yet during those nights that the sky appears to be moonless,
which is only because of how the sun is shining on the opposite side of the moon—
the moon is indeed still there—just as his love will always be there for Max,
even if Max won’t be able to directly see it….

After finishing the story last night, I could not recount the tale to my husband
without crying…finding myself just having to stop talking as I allowed the tears
to wash down my face.

The story as read for a child would be fun, poignant as well as mischievous…
As for any adult touched by the stealing effects of memory loss or just the loss of
a loved one in general, will find the tale heartwarming and very poignant.

Just as I now fondly recall a life that once was…

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.

Psalm 143:8

A bookstore, a war and a reunion….

“Be swift as a gazelle and strong as a lion to do the will of God in Heaven.”
(as seen on the ex libris of a book looted by the Nazi’s, a reference to
a line form the Mishnah, the Jewish redaction of oral traditions:
Andres Rydell The Book Thieves)


(the interior of a book store in Padova, Italy (Padua) / Julie Cook / 2007)

Today’s tale began many years ago, when my aunt and I found ourselves wandering
and weaving up and down the snake-like alley streets twisting through the old historic district of Padua, Italy…
better known to the Italians as Padova.

We were actually en route from Milan to Florence and opted to stop over for 3 days
in order to explore this deeply rich historical city.
And it just so happened that during our stay, during this particular mid June,
it was the height of the city’s yearly commemoration of Saint Anthony.

Padua is home to the Basilica Pontificia di Sant’Antonio di Padova, or the Pontifical Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua—a massive and beautiful church built to honor the Portuguese born saint who settled in Italy, making Padua his adopted home.
The building of the basilica was begun  in 1232, a year following Saint Anthony’s
death, and was finally completed in 1310—with modifications taking place in both
the 14th and 15th centuries.

It was a wonderful experience being a part of such a festive atmosphere, as
thousands of Catholics worldwide flock to this small Northern Italian town for
the June 13th feast day—
The city goes all out to make a colorfully vibrant yet equally respectfully spiritual
time for the thousands of pilgrims and tourists who flock to this city just south of Venice.

There are parades where the various ancient guilds are dressed in period costume as children, nuns, priests, monks and lay people march solemnly through the
narrow ancient streets all carrying flags as residents drape banners from their windows.

Yet Padua is more than just a spiritual hub, it is also very much of an intellectual
hub as it is home to the University of Padua, one of Europe’s oldest universities,
having been founded in 1222.
It is here where Galileo Galilei spent 18 years, of what he has described as being
the happiest years of his life, while he was the head of the Mathematics Department…
teaching, studying, lecturing and writing.

Italy, so rich in history, also happens to have a wonderful history with
paper making as well as bookmaking.
And Padua has its fair share of both fascinating and beautifully rich paper
as well as book shops–shops selling books, antique lithographs and rare prints.

It is said that after Spain, Italy is where paper making actually had its start.
It was most likely introduced to southern Italy by the Arabs who had in turn first
learned the craft from the Chinese.
Arab influence, particularly in architecture, can still be seen in and around the
Veneto region.

So it was during our visit, as we were wandering about one evening following supper,
that we saw the book store I’ve included in today’s post. The store was closed for the night and as we were going to have to be at the train station bright and early the following morning, I knew I would only get to visit this store by pressing my nose
to the window.

All these many years later, I still think about that store.

It had a wealth of what I surmised to be rare antique and ancient books.
Books, despite the language barrier, beckoned for my further investigation.
I would have easily considered giving up my train ticket to Florence just to be able
to wander in, dig and explore….
but it would take years for me to actually understand the draw as to what I would
be digging and looking for….
And as Life so often has her way, time has simply afforded for my wistful musing of
what might have been.

Having finally finished reading The Book Thieves by Anders Rydell,
the image of that book store in Padua has drawn me back time and time again
as I made my way through Rydell’s book. There is a very strong pull to go back
to look, to seek and to wonder.

There are not words nor adjectives enough for me to do justice to the meticulous story
Rydell lays out as he recounts the Nazi’s scrupulous, maniacal and highly
calculated quest to en masse the books of the all of Europe and Russia with
a keen penchant for those of the Jews.
Not only did they attempt to eradicate an entire race of people, they wanted
to hold, own and control the entire literary word of man—
particularly that of religion, science and history.
As they saw themselves as the new keepers of the history of humankind.

Millions and millions of books, both precious and random were taken…as myriads
are now lost or destroyed for all of time.

The Nazis had a detailed system for categorizing the stolen books.
And many of the books that are now scattered across the globe…
be they in large University libraries or small college collections,
to the random bookshop or second hand store—
many of those books still bare the labels of the Nazi’s numerical filing system.

The long arduous journey of Rydell’s very sad, horrific and overwhelming tale ends
in England with his actually reuniting a granddaughter, Christine Ellse, with a lone
little random book that had belonged to her grandfather–
a man she had never known personally but knew he had died in Auschwitz.
There were never any photographs, no sounds, no memories of a the man
this now grown woman so longed to know.

“Although I’m a Christian I have always felt very Jewish.
I’ve never been able to talk about the Holocaust without crying.
I feel so connected to all of this,” says Ellse,
opening the book and turning the pages for a while before she goes on.

“I’m very grateful for this book, because…I know my English grandparents
on my mother’s side.
They lived and then they died.
It was normal, not having any grandparents on your father’s side.
Many people didn’t, but there was something abnormal about this.
I didn’t even have a photograph of them.
There was a hole there, an emotional vacuum, if you see what I mean.
There was always something hanging midair, something unexpressed,”
Ellse says, squeezing the book.

“You know, my father never spoke about this.
About the past, the war.
But my aunt talked about it endlessly, all the time.
She was the eldest of the siblings, so she was also the most ‘German’ of them.
She coped with it by talking;
my father coped with it by staying silent about it.
I knew already when I was small that something horrible had happened.
I knew my grandparents had died in the war.
Then I found out they’d been gassed, but when you’re a child you don’t
know what that means.
It’s just a story—you don’t understand it.
Then I learned they’d died at Auschwitz. Only after I grew up did I begin to understand and get a grip on it.
It was very difficult when I found out they’d been murdered just ten days
before the gas chambers were shut down.
It was agonizing.
I imagine myself sitting on that train, experiencing the cold and the hunger.
And then straight into the gas chambers.
I’ve never able to get over it.”

Historian Patricia Kennedy Grimstead, a woman with a mission to see that war plunder is eventually reunited with families, notes that “millions of trophy books–although no one can say how many there are—will remain as ‘prisoners of war,”
Today, in Russia, there is no willingness to return books to the countries or families
that were plundered. But we still have to know what books are still represented there
from Europe’s cultural inheritance, a monument to the libraries that were destroyed
and scattered as a consequence of the most terrible war in human history.”

And so my mind wanders now back to that bookstore in Padua—
what book, if any, was there that had once been someone’s personal book
before madness took it away…
a book I now wish I could have found, in order to have brought it back home
to its rightful family.

The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind.
At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark.
You will be unsuccessful in everything you do;
day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you….

All these curses will come on you.
They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed,
because you did not obey the Lord your God and observe the commands
and decrees he gave you.
They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever.
Because you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly
in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst,
in nakedness and dire poverty,
you will serve the enemies the Lord sends against you.
He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you.

Deuteronomy 28:28-29, 45-48

Thoughts no longer your own….

Denouncing your neighbour for a ‘thought-crime’ was a favourite past time
in the old Soviet Union.
The problem for anyone accused of having the ‘wrong thoughts’ is that it’s
impossible to defend yourself.

Bishop Gavin Ashenden


(stock image CNN Soviet Army Parade)

“Well the practice is back.
‘Hate crime’ is the new thought crime.
If someone else’s views makes you feel uncomfortable,
all you need to do is to accuse them of either ‘hate’ or, if you prefer, ‘extremism’,
or best of all, both.”

Bishop Gavin Ashenden

I read the latest posting by Bishop Ashenden this morning as he continues to address the maddening debacle of a Church of England church school kicking out a Christian
organization because parents complained that the group was too Christian for their children.

Remember we’re talking about a Christian church school and a Christian organization…
You may read the post here as I’m still in disbelief:

Hatred, like beauty maybe in the eye of the beholder; cowardice, complicity and the Church of England

And I have found myself ruminating over this whole incident on and off since first
reading about it over on the Wee Flee blog of the Scottish Pastor David Robertson.

https://theweeflea.com

However it was more than what the good Bishop added today to the story that reignited
my ire over all of this, it was what he said about our very thoughts that disturbed
me more than anything else.

You may recall my having mentioned reading the book The Book Thieves
by Anders Rydell
The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return A Literary Inheritance

I’ve yet to finish the book.
It is a very difficult read…for all sorts of reasons.
It is a story that I have had to put down for extended periods as it is not easy
processing the sheer overwhelming information—
the tragedies, the unbelievable acts and the mercurial madness of humans
against other humans

Mr Rydell has done an exceptional job with the devastating facts and figures…
that of the cities, the towns, the libraries, both public and private,
that were decimated.
He has traveled extensively all over Europe, as well as into Russia,
in search of recovery efforts.
He has followed the often frustrating breadcrumbs left by owners…trails that
eventually lead to various death camps or simply stopped as abruptly as they
had begun.

Millions of priceless, and the not so priceless, manuscripts, books, torahs, diaries, incurables that were stolen, plundered, confiscated, hidden, burned or reduced to pulp
the for Nazi’s own paper needs…
With many important collections simply being scattered to the four corners
of the globe…
As there is now a race against time underway to reunite families with the
recovered “treasures” of lost, and sometimes forgotten, loved ones.

But the one thing that Mr Rydell has actually unearthed is the reasoning as to why
the Nazis would go to such extensive and meticulous extremes to confiscate books
along with entire libraries across all of Europe and Russia—
a reason which was more than merely amassing of war booty—
it was something so much darker.

It was to be the complete eradication of the spirit and soul of the
People of the Book.

“The Nazis knew how important books were to the Jews. Reading makes you into
a human being. When someone takes it away from you they also steal your thoughts.
They wanted to destroy the Jews by robbing them of what was most important to them”

Michal Bušek

And so today with Bishop Ashenden’s words of recounting the notion of
“thought crimes”–something the Nazi’s and later the Soviets would each attempt
to master, we are reminded that such practice is now alive and well with a key focus
on the Christian thought….

“If it were possible for any nation to fathom another people’s bitter experience
through a book, how much easier its future fate would become and how many
calamities and mistakes it could avoid.
But it is very difficult.
There always is this fallacious belief:
‘It would not be the same here; here such things are impossible.’

Alas, all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

lord of the flies

“From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.”
Denis Diderot

“Maybe there is a beast… maybe it’s only us.”
William Golding, Lord of the Flies


(I used this image back in June, but it fit so well today)

I suppose the reading of certain books during our time spent in high school
lit classes is all a part of the adolescent right of passage.

Most folks my age read such books as Animal Farm, Catcher in the Rye,
A Farewell to Arms, The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Crucible,
1984 (yes published in 1949 and I read it long before 1984),
The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men…the list goes on and on.

Some books I enjoyed.
Some books I loathed.
Some books left me unsettled.

Lord of the Flies was just one such book.

No happy ending there.

It was a tale that left me terribly unsettled.

Any sort of story showcasing those who are oh so civilized one minute while
quickly falling into barbarism the next,
when all the trappings of modern life suddenly disappear,
leaves me less than happily settled—

Perhaps because it is a blatant reminder of how thin is the veil that separates
modern man from his animalistic alter ego …
and yet that was indeed the author’s intent…
A stalk reminder…..

I was in high school just past those heady days of Woodstock and Flower power.
The early 70’s were to be a time of reemerging.
We were coming up for air from an unpopular war, grave national unrest,
sit-ins, love-ins as a president was preparing to leave office in disgrace…
people wanted to reset and move forward.
Our naiveté was long gone.

Sounds as if I could be talking about today….

We read the works of writers who addressed such feelings..some being current, some
simply ahead of their time.

And it appears as if I am not alone in my recollection of my required reading
of such a tale…

The newly consecrated bishop of the Christian Episcopal Church of Canada and the US,
The Rt. Reverend Dr Gavin Ashenden, also recalls reading Lord of the Flies.

I found his post Wednesday to be most timely as he touched on an issue I’ve been
referencing in just these past many days…

That being the Nazis and their obsessive need to plunder, loot, and burn millions of books… in an all out attempt to control the thought processes of those they
wished to manipulate and rule while at the same time obliterating an entire
swarth of humanity.

“I can understand why the Nazis burned books.

One book can subvert a whole culture.

Perhaps one of the most subversive books I’ve known was “Lord of the Flies”
by William Golding.
I must have read it when I was 14 or 15.

It tells the story of a group of schoolboys whose plane crashes onto a remote island.
They survive the crash, but descend into violence and chaos and finally murder.
They lose all the trappings of civilisation, inside and out, in a very short time.

This was and is a shocking book.
It called the bluff of moral progress and ethical evolution.
Our civility is just skin deep Golding was saying.
From the moment I finished the book,
I knew that Golding was right and that progressive politics was based on a
misjudgment of human nature.
Our ethical progress was just skin deep, and could be lost in an instant.

I keep on being haunted by images of Nazi book burning and the smashing up of
Jewish shop fronts from Germany in the 1930’s.
Something like a collective madness came on the people of Germany.
It really seemed to erupt almost out of nowhere.
How could such a civilised people, the children of Goethe and Beethoven,
so swiftly become the breeding ground of Nazism, with its book burnings, thuggery
and ultimately the horrifying and very Golding-like final solution?”

The good Bishop goes on to explore the similarites he sees between the current acts of violence taking place on both sides of our collective pond in regards to the
progressive liberal groups and their lack of tolerance, or perhaps allowance would be a better word, with the more conservative and Christian groups over the current battle
lines.

Bishop Ashenden notes in particular a rather nasty incident taking place in Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park when several protesting groups converged.

It seems that a 60 year old feminist sort of protester was punched in the face by a transgendered male dressed as a female type individual,
who after punching said 60 year old woman in the face and knocking her to the ground,
then ran ran off.

Ashenden makes a rather stalk comparison between a now and then sort of moment:
“Mindless thugs beating their opponents in public were not the preserve only of the Brown Shirts in Berlin, of state apparatchiks in Moscow, but it’s odd to find gender activists demonstrating in favour of love, peace, tolerance and inclusion, beating up elderly feminists at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park.”

Ashenden goes on…
“A great deal is made by the left that the threat of violence comes from the
‘far Right.’ In fact the press and media don’t bother with the ‘Right’ any more.
Anything less than socialist is called ‘Far-Right, – or Nazi.
There is no near-right, or middle right, or further right; just Far-Right.’

You may read the full post here:

‘Far-Left’ and ‘Far-Right’ need to be replaced by ‘Far-UP’.

The irony of our current thuggery groups behaving so terribly badly while they shout
for rights, proclaim justice, preach love, and of all things, demand tolerance….
all the while commencing to malign and beat to a pulp those who oppose their current
trend of senseless thoughts……

They might do well to reread a book or two from their day’s in lit class.

Barbarism is but a step away from the the civilized…..

“You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.
He was a murderer from the beginning,
and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.
Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature,
for he is a liar and the father of lies.

John 8:44