May 1, 2008, - 2:48 am

On Holocaust Remembrance Day: “My Father, Of Blessed Memory”

By Mayer Busak/ Translated from Hebrew by H.L. Schlussel, MD, Z”L
[Note From Debbie: Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. This article, "My Father, Of Blessed Memory," originally written in Hebrew by Holocaust survivor Mayer Busak in Israeli newspaper HaZofe in 1991, was translated into English by my own father, of blessed memory, H.L. Schlussel, MD. With the permission of Mr. Busak, my father translated this very moving, sad article about the days in the camps and submitted it for publication to a few different Jewish magazines. He was, sadly, rejected. After my father passed away in September, I was cleaning out his office and found the article, along with a 1991 rejection letter from Commentary Magazine. Silly them.
Although my father was a religious man and Torah scholar, he recognized--and lamented--that the horrors of the Holocaust caused some to lose their faith (though many others survived because of their faith). My father wanted more than anything for the world to read this article, as did its author, Mr. Busak. And I know of no better way to both honor that wish and remember the millions of victims of the Nazis than to print this exclusive English language translation of the article, herein.]

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My father, of blessed memory, owned a large metal tool store in the city of Krakow, in Poland. But every day, before he opened his store, he would go, in the early hours of the morning, his Tallis [Jewish prayer shawl] and Tfillin [leather Jewish prayer item] sack under his arm, for morning prayers at his house of study.
And when my father, of penetrating eyes, wrapped himself in his Tallis, his pale, Nazarite face wreathed in his black, brown beard beamed with joy at Dvekus [Jewish concept of clinging to G-d].
I will not dwell here on the great suffering and travail that came to my father during the time of the German conquest, about the loss of my brother and sisters, on my mother being sent off to a factory for the manufacture of chemical weapons. I just want to present a few episodes from my father’s last days in the Plashov concentration camp in which we were together.
My father worked in the metal shop in the camp and I in the carpentry shop. We lived in separate cabins. These were the type of large, wooden building that is always enveloped with darkness and mist. In every cabin, there lived about 500 men, that slept in four-tiered bunks made from boards. Between the rows of scaffolding supporting the bunks, there was a narrow passage way.
Every morning before I went out to formation that took place in the central square of the camp, in which the prisoners stood to be counted with their blocks, I would come to my father’s cabin to see how he was. I also did this in the evening after work. My father spoke little during the days of the war. From the time that my mother was sent off from the Plashov camp, he actually became mute. Then, one evening, I noticed that for the last few days, my father had been humming and singing a melody that I remembered from the old days, from that distant house of prayer. But the words of the melody were hidden from me, as if they had sunk into the depths of the dark mist. I asked him what this melody was. Instead of an answer, he just waved his hand.
One evening, when I was standing next to his bunk, somebody approached and told the following:
“This morning after the night shift came back from work, the SS man, Green, came into the cabin. He saw Shlomo [Solomon] Goldblatt standing wrapped in his Tallis next to his bed on the end of the row of bunks. The German drew his pistol, he took Goldblatt to a pit near the cabin and shot him . . . It’s anarchy . . .” finished the narrator. “I tell you, it is all anarchy.” When he finished, the person that had told us of the incident stood quietly in his place, as if waiting for my father’s response. But my father did not say a word.
The next morning when I came, as was usual, to my father’s bed, the cabin was still enveloped in mist and silence. My father stood next to his wooden bad wrapped in his Tallis and sang and hummed his melody. Suddenly, I remembered. This was the melody from the Yom Kippur prayer that tells about the angels singing praise and asking each other, “Who dwells on high?”
One day, to my astonishment, it was as if my father smashed his silence, and he said:

Among the salesmen from the factories that used to come to my office, at the store, there was one that would always bring up matters of religion in the conversation. During the last period before the war broke out, he would tell about the atrocities in the German concentration camps. In general, he would then add, “and you are a religious man, a believer. Tell me, if He [G-d] exists, why does He permit it. Why doesn’t He become involved?” . . . And there were arguments. Yes there was a world of arguments, he in his world and I in mine. . . Yes, it was a world of arguments . . .

And again, my father sank into the silence. Finally, I dared and I asked, “What are you thinking about?”
He answered, “The question of our first father [Abraham] gnaws at me . . .”
I did not know which question he meant.
This happened the night of the Seder of 1943. It was clear that for the Jews of the camp, this was just a date only for recalling memories. It was impossible even to dream about the Passover Seder feast. As usual, I approached the bunk of my father. And behold, from a bundle of old clothes that was sitting on the boards of the head of his “bed,” my father took out matzoh [unleavened cracker traditionally eaten on Passover in lieu of bread, which is forbidden during the holiday] wrapped in a white shirt, which he had washed in the wash cabin of the camp. He gave it to me and he said, “East and recite the blessing, ‘who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to eat matzoh.’”

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I was astonished. – Where did he get matzoh? Then I noticed that the one gold tooth that he had in his mouth was missing.
I asked, “What happened?”
I was afraid that one of the SS men had knocked his tooth out with a blow.

I pulled it out, I sold it. I had the opportunity to send some money with one of the gentiles, to mother. From the rest, I bought a little flour from the camp bakery. I baked a few matzohs on the range in the metal shop and divided them among a few people.

He did not taste the bread ration that was distributed to the Jews every day in camp. He traded them for a few pieces of potato, and he lived on them all the days of Passover. [DS: Jewish law prohibits eating bread on Passover.]
On the 15th of Iyar [month on the Jewish/Hebrew calendar], a “selection” took place among the prisoners of the camp. In the central square of the camp, twenty thousand Jews were stood in their block – men, women, old people, and children. They were commanded to undress and to pass, one by one, by the tables that were set up in the corner of the square. Next to the tables stood the SS men. As each of the naked prisoners passed next to the tables, they stated their number. The SS man took out a card from one of the boxes that were sitting on the table, and cast a glance at the passing individual. With his pen, he made a mark on the card and returned it to the box.
In camp, there was talk that those who had been marked would be sent away soon.
A week after this, the prisoners of camp were called early one morning to formation in the central square. Nobody knew for sure what the reason for the formation was at such an early hour. Just about all of them took with them their bowl and plate in which they received their daily ration of thin soup. Who knew! Perhaps, they would be sent to another camp, and there they would need them. This time, the Jews did not have to undress. With an announcement of the names and numbers, people were separated from their blocks. About 2,000 men and women, young and old, were separated and marched in lines to the freight cars of the train that waited near the camp. That very day, the train arrived at the crematoria in Auschwitz.
The next day, my father’s “bed” was empty. Only the bundle of his few clothes were left in its place and next to it, his spoon and bowl. But the Tallis in which he wrapped himself every morning was not there. It appeared he had taken it with him.*
Suddenly, there flashed within me the question of Abraham:
“Can the Judge of the Whole World not do justice?”
[* Jewish males are buried in their Tallis (prayer shawl).]

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20 Responses

Sorry Deb but I am tired of hearing about the Holocaust. For the most part 6 million sheep walked willingly into gas chambers without even trying to fight back. Where are the museums for the 20 million killed by Stalin? or the 60 million killed by Mao? Do not get me wrong I do NOT believe that Hitler was right, I am just tired of hearing about it. If it was any other peoples then it would be a footnote but because it was the “Jews” it is never ending.
Love your movie reviews though
Marty Fee
[MF: YOU ARE FULL OF CRAP. THE FACT IS, PLENTY OF JEWS RESISTED AND TRIED TO FIGHT THE NAZIS, INCLUDING MY GREAT-UNCLE WHO DIED FIGHTING THE NAZIS AS A PARTISAN IN THE RESISTANCE. THE BIELSKI BROTHERS MILITIA--A DANIEL CRAIG MOVIE ABOUT WHICH IS COMING OUT THIS YEAR--FOUGHT AND KILLED HUNDREDS OF NAZIS AND BLEW UP THEIR MUNITIONS. THERE WAS THE WARSAW GHETTO UPRISING. MANY JEWS WERE IN THE RESISTANCE AND THE UNDERGROUND. JEWS WERE NOT ALLOWED BY LAW TO OWN GUNS. YOU TRY DEFENDING YOURSELF THAT WAY WITH MACHINE GUNS POINTED AT YOUR HEAD. BUT FIRST, READ THE BOOK, "THEY FOUGHT BACK," AND MANY OTHERS LIKE IT DEBUNKING THE MYTH YOU TRY TO REPEAT HERE. NAUSEATING. DS]

mfee01 on May 1, 2008 at 6:32 am

RIP-to stop a modern day genocide go to http://www.safedarfur.org and see what you can do. Let’s make Never Again have some meaning.

mindy1 on May 1, 2008 at 6:32 am

Marty Fee I would like to see how brave you would be in the sheeps position.
We should never forget, ever!
May G_d have mercy on your soul.

DFWDawg on May 1, 2008 at 9:48 am

Thanks Miss Schlussel, very humbling indeed.
To say that these people walked willingly to their deaths is just assenine. We must never grow tired of hearing about it, and it must always be spoken of and remembered.

StoneSatellite on May 1, 2008 at 10:22 am

The Nazi Holocaust is remembered because people of the Jewish faith are not afraid to remember. While they foolishly continue to support the political Left, they are not afraid to remind us of the terrible things done to them as a people, simply because they are a people. The people of Russia allowed themselves to be treated as sheep and they continue to act like sheep – willing to return to the Communist dictatorship for its (limited) comforts – rather than condemn what was done to them. The people of China have always been sheep, willing to put up with whatever government rules them. It is their survival mode and they are entitled to it. To compare the abuses of these peoples to the Holocaust is to act the childish “jew-baiter”. There is no good or acceptable reason for an offensive opinion so Fee makes one out of whole cloth. I will never tire of hearing about the Holocaust and I will never tire of listening to my antecedents stories of the thousand or more years of foreign domination of my “Motherland”. There are things that I resent about some members of the Jewish people but I am mature enough to recognize that these are my personal and flawed prejudices. There are things I love about the Jewish people as a whole – these are the result of my life experience, my reading, my own religious exposure, and my interpersonal relationships with persons of Jewish extraction. I cry unashamedly when I read or view stories such as Debbie’s today. I cry when I hear the personal story of a Holocaust survivor or offspring of a survivor. I cry at Jewish funerals when I realize how many rituals these wonderful people have that the Nazi gangsters – not government officials and certainly not soldiers – prevented the Jews from practicing as they sought to eradicate them from the earth. Go vote Democrat so you can see Palestine become a reality and Israel become a footnote in the world’s history. You make me sick for having the lack of grace to mention that the Jews, and the rest of us, shouldn’t remember the Holocaust.

Robert on May 1, 2008 at 11:16 am

Good column. I recommend going to the Holocaust Museum in Farmington Hills [DS: MICHIGAN]. It’s a very sobering thing, to walk into that place. We had the opportunity to listen to a survivor tell his story. It should be a required field trip for all high school history classes.

samurai on May 1, 2008 at 11:34 am

Never give up your guns…….

Shootist on May 1, 2008 at 11:49 am

Forgive me, but I never knew there is a Holocaust Remembrance Day. Thanks for the illumination!
All I ever heard about, in public school, and saw on the nightly news casts, was the “May Day” parades in all the communist countries. Ya know, the missiles, APCs, pictures of Mao and Lenin, Breznev, Andropov, Borbachev, Ho Chi Minh City, Beijing et al etc. Now, what do we see and hear about? International Workers Day, Illegal Alien marches, Democans, Republicrats, the so called “Religion of Peace,” …but NOTHING important.
My family came from Bohemia (Czechoslovakia) and are Roman Catholics; but were classified as gypsys. Somewhere I heard, “…but we are all Juden.”
The NWSP (Nazi) used IBM (Deutschland) key punch machines to catalog censuses for several generations to “assist” in their “final solution.” Sickening.
In remembrance.
P.S. I can think of a not so nice definition of “MF.” MF is a putz.

Nuggler on May 1, 2008 at 12:09 pm

Marty Fee, shame on you.

John Cunningham on May 1, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Marty,
Americans are a free people and free to do anything they want.. Hence the memorials. We are free because many people have sacrificed their lives for liberty. Have the Russians? Have the Chinese? I don’t think so. They still live with only limited freedoms. Having lived there for decades, I think I know of what I write. As for your getting fed up with hearing about the Holocaust, it says to me you lack compassion. Its never too late show compassion to those who were slaughtered.

lonewolf on May 1, 2008 at 2:03 pm

What century does Marty Fee live in? How in the world can an intelligent human being in the 21st century make a comment such as “because it was the ‘Jews’ it is never ending”? How’s that for stereotyping an entire culture? Keep writing, Deb, and keep exposing ignorance wherever you find it. P.S. I recently learned that one of my great-great-great grandmothers was Jewish. That makes me–what?– 1/32 Jewish? I am honored to know I have a connection to the Jewish people, however small it may be! Shalom, y’all!

Rhonda on May 1, 2008 at 2:48 pm

Three big points:
1) Those that governments would enslave — or destroy — they first disarm.
2) Never forget that the American Revolution started with a British gun grab.
3) While I’m on a roll: when fools make moral comparisons between the USA & Nazi Germany ask them who the White Rose students were. Chances are few even on this list know. Then ask them if they know who MLK was. “Non-violent resistance” only works if your nation has a conscience — in other words, if it still holds to the Judeo-Christian tradition.

DocLiberty on May 1, 2008 at 6:13 pm

Marty Fee–
So you are “tired of hearing about the holocaust” eh? What arrogance you show.
The idea that because of other attrocities occurred against other groups, we should all “just chill” over the holocaust is asinine.
We should ALL lament the Armenian genocide, and the Pol Pot Cambodia, and Maoist China killings and Stalinist Russian genocide, and other such horrific events in history as well. All these surviving peoples should strive to “never let the world forget,” as we know that forgetting is what leads to history repeating itself.
Debbie, I was very touched by this account. It is very compelling and gut wrenching. At a minimum, all men of good will owe the victims of such attrocities the honor of opening our hearts to their sufferings.

BB on May 1, 2008 at 6:24 pm

Those that do not know history are condemned to repeat it.

marsh113 on May 1, 2008 at 6:34 pm

Debbie,
That was not nice calling Marty MF! But I get your point.

BB on May 1, 2008 at 10:55 pm

This comment is addressed to the complete IDIOT Mfee01 who said Jews were like lambs to the slaghter. In addition to all that Debbie mentioned, try looking up Hanna Senesh.
For those who don’t know, she was a Hungarian Jew, living in then Palestine, now Israel, who was trained by the British army to parachute into Yugoslavia during the Second World War in order to help save the Jews of Hungary, who were about to be deported to Auschwitz.
Senesh was arrested at the Hungarian border, imprisoned and tortured, but she refused to reveal details of her mission, and was eventually tried and executed by firing squad.
BTW: Hanna Senesh was about 23 years old when she was executed. She could have stayed in Israel where she was safe, but she chose to try and resecue fellow Jews. She died L’ KIDDUSH HASHEM! Hanna Senesh, Z”L, May her memory be a blessing!

OneIrishJew on May 1, 2008 at 11:51 pm

“There are stars whose radiance is visible on earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for Mankind.”
–HANNA SENESH

OneIrishJew on May 2, 2008 at 12:00 am

May we never forget any of these atrocities. But if we expect our public schools to make sure our children are taught this, then we are doomed. The biggest culprit out there is Farmington Public Schools – as NFHS rarely sends high school students to the Holocaust Memorial Center that is less than 2 miles away (in their backyard.) Their excuse? Money. Not much of an excuse is it? So what is the real reason? I’ll leave that up to you to determine.
So, that means it is up to the rest of us, as parents and community members, to make certain that our children never forget.

sueb on May 2, 2008 at 10:34 am

I was trying to figure out the fundamental flaw in Marty Fee’s ‘system of accounting’. Russia, China, Darfur, Cambodia – these are not OUR civilization. In the heart of of Western Civilization in our own living memory – using the technologically advanced products of that civilization from the first IBM punch cards to railway transport to chemical experimentation (poison gas) as well as the sophisticated mass media and systems of education, universities etc. WE meaning OUR civilization efficiently gassed, shot, tortured, starved and murdered (at the most conservative estimate) 5.8 millions of Jews.
Of course once they started on Jews they went on to Gypsies, the ‘unfit’, Slavs, whomever.
OUR Western20th century modern mass crime is still difficult for the mind to grasp. We must never stop trying to understand the implications.

poetcomic1 on May 2, 2008 at 12:01 pm

We must NEVER forget. These atrocities happened just a decade before my birth. We need to be reminded MORE not less. May the souls of all the Holocaust victims and Dr. Schlussel rest in peace.
For the record, I am a Gentile.

ParaLyzer on May 3, 2008 at 12:22 am

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