Thursday, April 19th is Yom Ha'Shoah, a day when we remember those who perished during the Holocaust. "A Sunny Day in Auschwitz" is a short story about a woman, a child, who was one of six milllion Jews to die at the hands of the Nazis. On Yom Ha'Shoah, we think of every human being murdered under Hitler's regime, and remind ourselves of the forces of evil that exist in our world today, with a commitment to challenge them, and fight them wherever they may be. May we all come together as a world, a community in peace and harmony.
A Sunny Day in Auschwitz
It was a cool spring day, and the sunlight shone kindly down on Auschwitz. Beyond the barbed wire, villagers walked briskly to church in their Sunday finest.
Eva walked in queue with the other women and children toward "the showers," a place the adults knew was the gas chamber. They were 200 meters away.
A beautiful, young Hungarian Jewess took a rebellious step sideways, and the guards yelled, "Keep the line straight."
Eva considered the peculiarity of the guards' demand while people walked to their death. It was exaggerated, and reminded her of the chastising she had received from her German music professor in Budapest for scratching her nose during her finest piano recital ever. "What a strange culture," she thought.
Eva felt a tap on her arm. She looked down and saw the cherubic face of a disheveled little boy. He didn't want to be alone in Auschwitz.
"Have you ever wanted to fly like a bird?" Eva asked in Yiddish.
The boy looked up at the hideously gaunt woman. He nodded his head and said, "I've always wanted wings, but never knew how to get them." Eva hid her giggle.
"Here's what you do," she replied. "When you're in the shower, and it starts getting hard to breathe -- you know, like when your head is stuck in a pillow -- take the biggest breath you can," she showed him, "and soon afterwards you will find your wings. Okay?"
The little boy assured her with an impish wink he would do just that. They were 100 meters away from the showers.
Eva lifted her eyes up to the sun and remembered the warm waters of the Danube flowing through her toes. She could hear her mother and sister's embarrassingly loud laughter as they splashed about in the waves. Her father's dignified and splendid face appeared to her and she smelled the familiar aroma of vanilla and cinnamon on his hands. His fingers touched her face.
"Eva," the baker said to his daughter, "one day when you need to be protected and I cannot be there to help, promise me you will say the words of the Shema in my place."
The proud daughter promised the noble man, and kissed his hands.
The shower was 50 meters away. The little boy squeezed Eva's hand. She knelt down so as to become small, and caressed his muddied forehead. "Vos is dine nomin? What is your name?" she asked.
"Sol," the little Jewish boy replied.
"Well Sol, pleased to meet you. My name is Eva, and I'm happy to be your friend."
The little boy seemed quite pleased to have made a new friend, and skipped and hopped, quite undisciplined, in and out of the line. The guards missed Sol's outburst.
They reached the showers. Eva directed Sol inside and turned for a moment, searching for a glimpse of humanity in the eyes of the guard. The doors closed, and the women cried. The air became thinner, and Sol breathed as hard as he could. Eva raised her head and sang "Shemah Yisrael HaShem Elokeinu HaShem Echad, Hear O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is One."
The doors swung open, and Eva glided out into the fresh air. Sol flew by her at top speed, and shouted to his new friend that he had followed her instructions and found his wings.
"Wow, Sol! You look like you've been flying forever," she yelled back.
A peacefulness began to settle in Eva's soul. She flew past the showers, the barracks, and the train tracks, and saw everyone who had ever come to Auschwitz, and their lives before. Eva sobbed for the Jewish people. She cried for humanity and she roared furiously, "I know we can do better."
Her spirit rose above Auschwitz. It had done so in life, and it did so in death.
It was a sunny day in Auschwitz, and children played beyond the barbed wire.