Dialogue Group Reflections

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Read about this experience from
group participants

At the end of the seminar, I had the feeling of having climbed a high mountain. With clear eyes, I could recognize the abyss that separated us, created through the terrible deeds of the Nazis. I could also recognize the suffering that connected us as descendants. We must not close up this abyss. We can, however, build bridges across it on which we can meet each other and walk together. In that way, we can contribute to dismantling hatred and stopping the hatred from being sown anew.
— Renate W. | German Child during the Nazi Regime
 

Martin's thoughts

Emotional chaos! Rage at my father, how could he participate? Shame, disbelief, guilt, horror and grief alternate in me. So much suffering and death. Why did he never talk about it, damn it. Now it’s too late! I think of the people who were not allows to live out their lives. I am researching names in a memorial book for the Jews of Rovno, see their faces in the old photos, a girl looks at me through the pretty dark eyes, eight years old, her life is taken, before it barely begun. I cannot stand it...

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With that shared experience of our respective shame and guilt, all former arbitrary divisions between us fell away. We became two human beings, united by understanding and sharing each other’s pain.
— Carola C. | Jewish Shoah Survivor

I pray with others for those of good will

For, after all, we are part of each other.

Together, here, we have to say:
I forgive you;
May God forgive you and me.

Forgive you what you did to them

Forgive me for having hated you.

Here we have to learn to become man and woman,

People, who can love, who can forgive

People who will pray, who will work

So that we may become as God wanted us -

As he, His Image, made us.
— Bina G. of blessed memory | Survivor of the Shoah

Natty's experience

In July of 2012, I took a trip to Germany for a conference in Berlin that brings together descendants of Holocaust survivors with descendants of Nazis. Why I decided to take this trip, I didn’t know – except that when I was standing in Auschwitz almost 2 years earlier with my parents and my siblings, at the mass grave where so many of my family died, I finally understood the wrong that was done to my family, and made a promise not to forget them. It was the first and only family trip we took to the lands of our fathers, and the first time we knew their stories in detail, after much research that I had personally conducted...

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Seated in a sacred circle for five days we shared compassion, mutual understanding – and yes – love. The honest expression of our truths had set us more free from our burdens. For five days we had joined together in confronting the Holocaust – rather than each other. We carried our history like memorial candles. What happened in that room…was the closest to a religious experience I had ever had. That room in Berlin and our honest sharing with each other had become a birth canal through which we could be reborn…Judaism teaches us that when you save one soul, you save the entire world. Divided by the death of six million and bound by mutual pain, we faced each other and struggled against the power of evil to claim the future. And we each had the generosity of spirit to set our pain aside in order to receive the other. Perhaps in doing this we each saved a soul – our own….we had traversed an abyss to find common humanity.

Once we walked through the gate marked Arbeit Mach Frei (“Work Makes You Free”) it became much colder yet. I felt alienated from the rest of the human race. I wanted to say a prayer at the crematorium for my three grandparents murdered in Auschwitz. We marched there in silence and approached a statue built on what used to be the crematorium. It was surrounded by barbed wire and there was a sign warning that the site might collapse. In the presence of this tangible evidence of genocide I felt crushed. Our group huddled together and several people read prayers in German and English.

I followed with the twenty-third Psalm,
The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me….

During the prayers a perceptible warmth surrounded us. In a place from whence everything holy departed long ago, the invocation of God caused Arnold, son of survivors, to collapse in tears in my arms. I started sobbing. Ruth, the daughter of an SS officer put her arms around us and cried with us, or maybe for us. We became a tangled mass of hair, bodies and tears – Jews and Germans.
— Mary R. of blessed memory | Daugher of Shoah Survivors

Priscilla's Essay

I was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1955, and grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, California. My parents, in their 30's and 40's before immigrating, were never fully comfortable speaking English. So we became part of the expatriate Hungarian community. None of our friends knew that we were Jewish, and on Sundays we would drive into Los Angeles to attend the Hungarian Christian church, I don't even know if it was Protestant or Catholic. When I was a teen-ager, after one of these journeys, my mother remarked that she suspected that just about every man in the church had been members of the "Nyilas," the Arrow Cross, Hungarian Nazis. This shocked me...

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The legacy of our intertwined histories is a fact and cannot be erased from our collective memory by ignoring it….Our group is only a small world in which it was possible to meet on a very deep level. It is only a small contribution, but significant.

I believe that it (personal healing) is the prerequisite for non-destructive peace work in the outer world….Due to the horrendous atrocities that were committed under Nazi rule we forget how decent people built the mass basis. Without the support of the “nice” people, the system could not have consolidated itself. When people got suspicious it was too late to object. If we continue to picture the Nazis as a bunch of criminals, we shall not be able to see the danger in similar ideologies, which are on the rise, and not only in Germany.
Nazism did not start with a promise of war and gas chambers. It came step by step and was disguised in seemingly justified demands such as love for the nation, the overcoming of unemployment, and relieving women of their “double burden.” We should remember that brutality does not repel people as long as it is directed toward an enemy perceived as a threat. If we do not learn from the past, we shall have to learn the same lesson over again.
— Gertrud K. | German Child during Nazi Regime

Howard's Questions

I expected to meet other Jewish people like me, descendents of Holocaust victims and survivors, and members of the second and third generation of Germans who are connected to that period in history through their fathers and grandfathers. I was interested in learning more about how my German counterparts are dealing with their feelings, and what their struggles and challenges are...

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One by one we seek out the humanity in each other as we listen with compassion to one another’s stories of pain, guilt, anguish, loss and fear. As the stories resonate within us, the burdens are lightened and we begin to transform the impact of our legacies, offering hope to future generations.
— Rosalie G.

Alyse Lichtenstein and grandmother, Irene Wolf* *Taken from The Jewish Advocate

Alyse Lichtenstein and grandmother, Irene Wolf*

*Taken from The Jewish Advocate

Alyse's blog

So I don't think it fully hit me that I leave tomorrow until this morning in minyan* while the cantor was doing a misheberach* for me, and everyone asked when I leave. And my response was "...tomorrow." This trip is finally starting to feel real, which is scary and exciting and nerve-wracking and mind-blowing all at the same time...

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To ensure that the slogan “Never Again!” becomes a reality, we must be vigilant and recognize the signs of fascism regardless of its disguises.
— Wilma B. | Daughter of a Polish Catholic Holocaust Survivor

…amidst my fear, I have reason for hope. The day I arrived in Germany, there was a Neo-Nazi demonstration in Berlin. Alongside, there were members of One By One present as demonstrators for the other side. With education and dialogue as our most important tools, One By One is truly making a difference.

When someone like me is touched by this experience, I am able to impact other lives. In the months since I have returned from Germany, I have spoken about my experience to groups of teachers, to groups of students, to the Florida Governor’s Council on Education, to the enlisted men and women at MacDill Air Force Base, to many friends and acquaintances, and of course to the juveniles convicted of hate crimes.

If children of Holocaust Survivors and children of the perpetrator side can come together and listen, respect, and learn from each other, can’t we offer great hope to the world?
— Bonnie S. | Daughter of Shoah Survivor