'Let the Screams Come Through'
Rosa Blum, from Hungarian Rumania, now 54 and living in Dallas, Tex., was 14 when she was taken to Auschwitz.
"I was an Orthodox Jew in a very Orthodox home. I remember in Auschwitz when Passover came, the first day I didn't eat nothing that day, because you're supposed to eat matzo. So I just fasted that day to observe. . . .
"I did ask how can this happen. One night, it was Yom Kippur night, and the Germans used to be very, very, cruel--they used to do cruel things on the Jewish holidays. In 1944, in Auschwitz, I was working in the kitchen the night before Yom Kippur. In the middle of the night, they threw a curfew, a complete, silent curfew. And the black cars arrived, and they took all the children out of the children's block.
"They had loaded all the children into this block, fed them better, gave them cream of wheat, milk. And then that night, they came in with little black cars and took them all to the crematorium, a couple hundred children. And as they were going out the children were chanting the memorial chant, 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord Our God is one. . . .'
"That's when I was questioning it and I still question it today. How can You do it? Why did You do it? I fought Him. But right away I ask for forgiveness.
"Before this whole thing happened, my grandmother told me about a dream she had, and that dream helped me very much. I have not revealed it to anyone since. She told me she dreamed a dream, that she had seen that God had pulled a black scarf on the heaven, that he would not see the screams of the Jewish people. And each time things happened very hard on me, it helped me. I said, God, put a hole into the scarf, your curtain, and let the screams come through.
"I keep a kosher house in my home, I keep it up. It's something my family kept." 'We Cannot Live Without God'
Sigmund Shochlitz, 66, from Bendzin, Poland, now a businessman living in New London, Conn., and chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council's Days of Remembrance Committee, was in three concentration camps for two and a half years: Auschwitz, Stuthof and Bergen-Belsen.
"I have seen human beings in Auschwitz who came and were deeply religious before, losing faith and defying and challenging their past, and on the contrary, people who were atheists who went with me to schools and were mocking God, and coming to Auschwitz, becoming great believers.
"Many times I was thinking that perhaps those that were atheists coming to that hell, perhaps were blaming themselves for the tragedies by denying God, while those who strongly believed in the existence of an omnipotent, protecting God see children being thrown into ditches and fire, that their world broke down for them, their belief and their faith were shattered. This is an explanation that a layman could give, and based on my personal observance.
"I was not a very religious human being, but a human being who couldn't understand that there are human beings in this world who could go in the morning to church, and play in the day with their children, and be fathers and husbands, and go every day to work knowing in advance that their work means just killing innocent people that they have never met before, and doing it perhaps even with relish, SS men. And when after the war I found out that many of them were highly educated people--professors and doctors, and even theologians--this was my disbelief.
"We cannot live without God, and it is difficult to live with the existence of a compassionate God after the Holocaust . It is impossible to live without God, and it is very difficult to live in the belief of a compassionate Supreme Being, an omnipotent Supreme Being. It is difficult.
"I raised my children in the belief and to have faith. I have a very traditional home. All the holidays are being kept. They're mainly kept with the historical aspect being underlined. I feel that this gives them identity and rules. It develops in them a very strong feeling for the Jewish people and their responsibility to each other. It's a traditional home with a love for our people, and for mankind." 'I Never Did Doubt God'
Max Glauben, 52, of Dallas, Tex., is vice president of a plastics extrusion company. He was born in Warsaw and from 1939 to 1943, he was in the Warsaw ghetto; from 1943 to 1945, he was in four concentration camps.
"I didn't lose my faith. The Holocaust strengthened my faith in God. I had my own communique with God. I felt when I wanted to pray to Him, I could get to Him. I always thought never to question the power of God. Just the fact that I'm here is a sign He must have been good to me.
"The first camp, Maidanek, was a gas chamber. My mother and little brother perished. The next, Budzyn, was a concentration camp. My father was beaten to death. Because three people escaped, they punished 30 people.
"I was only 15 years old when I was liberated. I was denied my youth. I was denied my religion. Being forbidden religion, I believed it more and it was strengthened in me. My faith in God was strengthened. Our only hope was the unknown, and that was God, and in my case, it strengthened my faith.
"I was always taught as a child not to doubt God, and I never did doubt God. I was raised in an Orthodox home. My father owned an Orthodox newspaper in Warsaw. I was 13 years old when I went into the camp.
"I truly did not believe that God with His power did the horrible things of the Holocaust. I think people did them. He permitted them only in a matter of speaking. He provides us with the power of living, creation, destruction. I think He gives us these powers and says, you do them with the best of your ability. I think the peopleare abusing God's powers that He gave to them." 'It Was an Unmerciful God'
Isaac Aron, 69, is a retired businessman from Brooklyn, N.Y., and author of a book on the Holocaust, "Fallen Leaves." He was raised in a small Polish town near Vilna, now the capital of Lithuania, and fought with the partisans during the war.
"I felt why God permit this crime for innocent people, that children, women, and men should be destroyed in such a terrible way without judgment, without investigation. I felt depressed, hurt inside, and always with doubt and questioning why God permit this crime. Not losing my faith in God, but still doubt in God's judgment, no doubt in His existence, but in the way He allowed this terrible happenings. This is something I couldn't understand. It always bothers my mind. I couldn't get over it, because I lost my family, I lost my parents, two sisters and all my uncles, their children, my friends.
"The German SS with the help of the local police made a grave in the wooded section around our village and divided the population in groups and took them to the grave and killed them, children, women, and even sick.
"They took the groups to the grave on the excuse of checking the documentation. They took groups and brought them to the wooded section and there was prepared a grave, and a board was over the middle of the grave. Groups of 10 were told to undress, because they wanted to keep the clothes, they did not want bullet holes, and they shot them, and they fell straight to the grave. Many of the Jews when they saw it, started to rebel. They jumped on the Germans and escaped. The single ones. The older couldn't throw away the children. Over 1,000 in one day were killed . Fifty escaped. I was 18.
"Always, from June 1942 in my mind it bothers me. Why does this happen? Why such a punishment? How would God allow to do this, there were children, women.
"I still believe in the existence of God. I still believe it, I still pray to God, and my children pray. But still I can't get over the fact that God permitted such a crime. I can't find an answer. I was trying to read and study, and even our religious authorities try to avoid this question. The idea of His existence, that's not questioned, but His action at this movement, in the Holocaust, that is questionable. It was an unmerciful God on this morning.
"We have no other substitute to depend on, to pray to. Sometimes I'm bitter at God." 'If We Give Up God, That's It'
Lea Spiro, a gift shop owner from Los Angeles, was from Radom, Poland. She was in five concentration camps from 1940 to 1945.
"I was only 14 when the whole thing started. Our house was traditional Jewish. You observe the Holy days. You keep kosher. I never thought about it before it happened, I was taught that there was a God, and I believed it. Now I am married to an Orthodox Jew. I do believe in God, of course. I think I have the same belief. Of course you blame God. You just blame. You blame.
"If everyone would deny God, there wouldn't be any reason for being Jewish any more. It's a way of life. Everything is just in a frame of believing in God.
"You don't give it up. On the contrary. There are so few of us left now, if we give up God, that's it. Hitler has won. What he couldn't do in the concentration camps, we would do ourselves.
"I had a very close friend, a boy that I went to school with. He was born in a courtyard apartment building built around a courtyard and grew up with a boy and they were always playing together. It was in 1940 when they took us into the ghetto. Anyone who told where a Jew was hiding would get one kilo of sugar--that's two pounds. And that friend of his knew where he was hiding, so he brought the Germans there and they shot him.
"In Poland, when you were born in one of those courtyards, you lived there all your life. All the kids played outside, were together always. This was just one example, but there were so many. They used to come and look into the ghetto and laugh and laugh their heads off. When the Germans came to Poland, they couldn't tell who was a Jew and who wasn't a Jew. I was blond and blue-eyed. The first German word the Poles learned was Jude. If the Gentiles hadn't helped, he couldn't have done the job.
"The Poles were all Christians, Catholics, there. The Poles were a very depressed country, and the priests said this is the reason you are economically depressed. They were telling them the Jews killed Jesus. Before the war we had a housekeeper . She was a country girl. She asked my mother, why did you have to do that, why did you kill Jesus.
"The Germans didn't do it because of religion, but the Poles did.
"My mother was planting something. They laughed and said, a Jew can't grow anything. You see, for hundreds of years occupations were restricted . A Jew can be a money lender, a merchant; he cannot be a teacher, a bureaucrat; he cannot own land.
"In a work camp, we planned to escape. I was the eighth one. I caught my thigh in the barbed wire and went back. They the other seven were shot by the Polish underground. I would have been dead, too. There were two Polish undergrounds. One was the Polish communist, and they accepted Jews. And then there was the national underground; when they caught a Jew in the forest, they shot him."