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

Can’t shake a tiger

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.
Joseph Campbell

unknown
(Clemson Tiger Paw)

As you may remember I am a faithful member of the Bulldog Nation.
Win or lose, I am a bulldog.

That’s what we call a fan…
a person who is there in both the good winning times…
as well as the bad losing times…
And might I add that this Bulldog season is proving to be a challenging one,
but remain a fan I do, none the less.

It’s what we do as fans, we cry for joy and we cry in defeat..
We celebrate and cry…
or we cry while dusting ourselves off as we roll up our sleeves…
all in order to ready ourselves as we do it all over again, and again and again…

Maybe the American populace needs to be reminded of the life of a fan.
But I digress…

Today’s story is about a fan,
a fan who became a hero.

A hero by definition is:
he·ro
ˈhirō/
noun
1.a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements,
or noble qualities.

And before all the women out there cry foul, the woman version would be heroine…
but today we looking at a hero…so hold thy wrath…

I am hard pressed these recent days, as I survey this great land of ours,
casting my sight while I seek a hero or heroine…

Heroes are not our political leaders…a far far cry.
Nor are they our sports stars…
They are not our entertainers nor are they our news personnel.

They are the quiet ones among us.

They don’t march, rally or protest.
They don’t scream or yell at others.
They don’t name call or throw insults.
or even stones…

They square their shoulders and tuck their heads as they trudge forward doing what is expected.

They don’t question,
they don’t argue,
they don’t whine,
they don’t demand do overs

They don’t harbor bitterness,
they don’t disregard their fellow man or woman
and they don’t seek accolades, applause or recognition…

Clemson University’s William Funchess, age 89, is an example of both a fan and a hero…

In 1944, while America was embroiled in the throws of WWII, Funchess entered Clemson
at the tender age of 16.
He graduated four years later from his beloved Clemson, which at the time was a male military college.
He was commissioned as an officer, 1st Lt. in the United States Army.

Funchess was sent to Korea to join American forces who now found themselves fighting yet another war.
After a harrowing clash between Chinese forces, Funchess, who had been shot through the foot
and having lost his entire unit to either battle or capture, was taken prisoner of war…

His unit had been told to hold their position, so they hunkered down to defend the area which in turn allowed 700 fellow soldiers to retreat.
Yet his unit paid the ultimate price for standing their ground.

Funchess shot by a machine gun, was captured, beaten, starved, tortured, humiliated
and held for an endless 34 months by Chinese forces…two months shy of three long hellish years.
Almost 3 years cut from life that Lt Funchess would never be able to get back…
No re-dos,
no re-votes,
no-replays…
Funchess had a young wife back home who did not know whether he was dead or alive…
but it was to this young woman whom Funchess was determined to return.

During his time as a prisoner, Funchess was befriended by a fellow prisoner, Father Emil Kapaun…
an Army chaplain from Kansas.

Fr Kapaun’s tale of complete self sacrifice and bravery is a story unto itself
as the Vatican is currently working to bestow Fr Kapaun with the title of saint.

After 3 months of having to eat snow in order to survive, it was Fr. Kapaun who had
given Funchess his first actual drink of water. And later is was Funchess who would care for
Fr Kapaun and all his physical needs during the devastating illness that would
eventually lead the Chinese to remove Kapaun from the prison,
taking him away to die totally alone.

http://fatherkapaun.org/father-kapaun

The story of Lt. Funchess as a solider is sobering.
Yet upon his release, it was his love for Clemson that eventually led him back
to his beloved school where he earned a second degree while
spending the next 30 years working for Clemson.

In 1997 Funchess finally decided to put his war experience to paper, writing about his
time as a prisoner. When he finally put down his pen after filling yellow legal pad after pad,
it was only then that the years of never-ending nightmares…blessedly stopped.

A book was published in 2002 “Korea POW: A Thousand Days of Torment

Both these men remind us what it is to be a hero…
These men, who despite the evils of war and what such can do to the human soul…
demonstrated the ultimate in endurance, selflessness and sacrifice…
as their lives continue to be reflections of everlasting hope…

Please click on the link to read Lt Funchess remarkable story:

The Unbreakable Tiger