Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Holocaust and Life

During the 1970s, I attended, “exercise classes.” This was before my aerobic adventures in step classes and long-winded, dry mouthed jogging days. Back then, women exercised in black leotards that covered neck to foot, including arms. Racer back tank tops, sports bras and thongs had yet to score on the trendy list of futuristic neon colored workout apparel. Of all the classes I participated in, I recall only one. Off all the women I met during workouts, I recall only one.

An older, petite lady, she stood straight and proud in a thin frame. Her thick dark hair nestled behind her ears in bob-cut style. A bit of a gracefulness flowed about her in the way she moved throughout the 45 minute session. I didn't know her name, in fact, I never knew it, but a smile, or nod sufficed each time we met eye-to-eye. It wasn't that I paid much attention to her, or to any other woman in the class. I rather focused my attention on the instructor in the front of the room, and my perspiring twin in the mirror. Yet, there was something about the woman that suggested she was different.

On that long ago unforgettable day, the class was quite full; free space being limited, we were almost within arms reach. About 20 minutes into the class, I glanced over to the side and that's when I saw it. Because of the body heat in the room, the bob-cut woman had pulled up her sleeves. On the inside of her left arm were numbers - a tattoo. I stood still like a peeping Tom looking into the window of a soul. Immediately, I knew what the faint, but legible numbers represented. My eyes misted. Of course, the woman was a Holocaust survivor. 

Since then, I've been in awe of that woman, along with the other survivors and their stories. Whenever the opportunity arose and a book or a movie about the Holocaust was within reach, I greedily absorbed whatever information I could. Some are of the opinion that it is morbid to be interested in such things, but I learned from the survivors that it's all about the living and the remembrance, not the denial, as there are some that profess the Holocaust never occurred. It did. I saw the numbers. I met and spoke to survivors.

On March 22nd, 2012, Schindler's List Survivor, Rena Finder spoke to a packed audience at the Bahamas Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort. Among the guests in that hushed banquet room, we heard firsthand about Ms. Finder's remarkable story. She spoke eloquently and slowly of her shocking capture and the eventual death of loved ones. In the middle of it all, she shocked the audience even further. It was with deep reverence that Ms. Finder spoke of Oskar Shindler, a Nazi party member and factory owner. Through the kindness of Shindler, Ms. Finder, along with over 1,000 other Jews, survived the Holocaust. 

Tonight, Holocaust survivor, Walter Absil speaks at New Providence Community Center in Nassau. I debated briefly why I am inclined to hear yet another depressing narrative documenting the Holocaust. I concluded that I will attend because of the nameless woman in the exercise class; because of Rena Finder's spoken wish that her story be told and retold in the hopes that genocides cease to occur, although history repeats itself; and, I will attend to support and honor Walter Absil and the right to life.


  1. Replies
    1. I would not have written it had it not been for your invite. Thank you.