During World War Two,
countless Jewish parents gave their precious children to Christian
neighbors and orphanages in the hope that the latter would provide
safe havens for them. The parents expected that they, or their relatives,
would take these children back if they survived the war. The
few parents who did not perish in the Holocaust, and were able to
reclaim their children, often faced another horror. While the parents
had summoned the strength to survive the slave labor and death camps,
or had hidden out for years, those who took their children were
busy teaching them the ways of other religions.
Jewish children who were taken in by orphanages, convents and the
like, had no parents or close relatives left after the Holocaust.
or distant relatives finally tracked down many of these children,
the priests and nuns who had been their caretakers insisted that
no children from Jewish homes were in their institutions. Thus,
countless Jewish children were not only stripped of their entire
families, they were also stripped of their souls.
In May, 1945, Rabbi
Eliezer Silver from the United States and Dayan Grunfeld from England
were sent as chaplains to liberate some of the death camps. While
there, they were told that many Jewish children had been placed
in a monastery in Alsace-Lorraine. The rabbis went there to reclaim
When they approached
the priest in charge, they asked that the Jewish children be released
into the rabbis' care. "I'm sorry," the priest responded, "but there
is no way of knowing which children here came from Jewish families.
You must have documentation if you wish me to do what you ask."
Of course, the kind
of documentation that the priest wanted was unobtainable at the
end of the war. The rabbis asked to see the list of names of children
who were in the monastery. As the rabbis read the list, they pointed
to those that belonged to Jewish children.
"I'm sorry," the priest
insisted, "but the names that you pointed to could be either Jewish
or Gentile. Miller is a German name, and Markovich is a Russian
name, and Swersky is a Polis name. You can't prove that these are
Jewish children. If you can't prove which children are Jewish, and
do it very quickly, you will have to leave."
One of the rabbis
had a brilliant idea. "We'd like to come back again this evening
when you are putting the children to sleep."
The priest reluctantly
That evening the rabbis
came to the dormitory, where row upon row of little beds were arranged.
The children, many of whom had been in the monastery since the war
started in 1939, were going to sleep. The rabbis walked through
the aisles of beds, calling out, "Shema Yisrael - Hear, Israel,
the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One!" One by one, children burst
into tears and shrieked, "Mommy!" "Maman!" "Momma!" "Mamushka!"
in each of their native tongues.
The priest had succeeded
in teaching these precious Jewish souls about the Trinity, the New
Testament, and the Christian savior. Each child knew how to say
Mass. But the priest did not succeed in erasing these children's
memories of their Jewish mothers now murdered - putting them to
bed every night with the Shema on their lips.
(thanks to Miriam
Swerdlov for the story)
to YOM HASHOAH page