The Human Side of the Story

For the week ending 9 April 2005 / 29 Adar II 5765

A Czech Communist and a Chief Rabbi

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Library Library Library

When the former chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, recently said the "Keil Malei Rachamim" prayer on the site of the Auschwitz death camp 60 years after its liberation, it brought back memories of his own liberation from death as a child in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

His older brother Naftali smuggled the 7 year old Yisrael Meir into the camp hidden in a knapsack. But when the Nazis ordered everyone to throw their belongings into an oven as a precaution against spreading disease, he was forced to jump out and join the line waiting to be inoculated by a doctor. This doctor, a Czech gentile imprisoned because of his Communist affiliation, stood there like a robot, injecting arms without even looking at the faces. Suddenly he saw no arm before him and looked down to see a little boy. "How old are you?" he asked and Yisrael Meir answered "Fifteen" as his brother had taught him to say so that he would not meet the fate of other children his age. After asking his brother the same question and getting the same answer, the Czech turned to Naftali and pleaded: "Please tell me the truth. I am not one of them and you must tell me how old the boy is. If I administer an adult dose of the serum he could die from it and I am not a murderer." Naftali then revealed his brothers true age and the doctor spilled half of the serum on the ground before inoculating Yisrael Meir. Upon hearing that the youngster spoke fluent Polish, the doctor came up with an idea of how to improve his situation. He tore off the sleeve of a dead Pole and attached it with its letter "P" to Yisrael Meirs clothes. He then told the Nazi guards that this little Polish boy lost his parents in the bombing of Warsaw and should be put in the barracks of the Poles, which had far better conditions than the ones designated for the Jews.

Heaven has many agents and a Czech Communist was the one sent to assure the survival of a little boy who would someday become chief rabbi of the Jewish State.

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