LEST WE FORGET .....
I was uplifted recently to read about my fellow North Carolinians from Henderson County. They decided to honor their World War II veterans. They conducted a campaign that raised enough money to send 220 of them to Washington, DC. They ranged in age from the late 70’s to 102. The group spent the weekend visiting the World War II memorial, laying wreaths at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and visiting other points of interest.
I was amazed at the men’s capacity for recall. They related their war memories as if they had happened yesterday. But I was especially touched by a man who was very reluctant to visit the past. His memories were obviously still raw and he stumbled over his words and had tears in his eyes when he said, “But I know that it’s crucial that we remember those times…”
This brought to mind what I had experienced just a few months ago. I was visiting a friend in New York. She is 87 years old and a victim of the holocaust. Both she and her husband met in a concentration camp during World War II.
My husband and I met them in the late 1960’s. They never referred to the war years at all...except for the first time when they explained where they had met. She was from France and I believe he was from Germany. We became great friends and, although we’ve both lost our husbands, we still keep in touch.
When I was with her a few months ago I could tell that she was agitated and she confided in me that a woman had approached her to write down her remembrances of the war years and her experiences in the concentration camp. She had decided to do it and, when I asked her if it was cathartic, she answered with a very strong “no, and it is tearing me up inside...but it must be done. Pretty soon there will be no one left to record the facts and it’s critical that we don’t forget.”
One of the memories that she shared with me that day was when she was forced into the bus that would take them to the camp. It was difficult to breathe because they were packed in so tight and the Nazi guard let them open the windows. They were still in a city and at one point the bus had to stop on a busy street. A girl suddenly flung her small infant out the window. Someone caught the child and before the Nazi could see what had happened the baby was gone from sight.
Of course she was crying by the time she’d finished her tale and the only response I had was to cry with her. Can things like this happen again? Are they happening? So many questions...so few answers.
We need to be told. We need to listen. Lest we forget.