The German apology

I’ve never really understood people who don’t buy German products because of the holocaust. It always seemed a wasted effort for their piece of protest and act of remembering. But we must remember. In a few days its Yom HaShoah, the commemoration of the holocaust.

Before tonight I had never met a German, let alone a Jew-loving, Israel-living, Messianic one. Although I know Germany extends a lot of support to Israel these days and pays survivors, I’ve never heard an apology before.

Tonight this middle aged lady with blond hair and strong Arian features sat in front of me and told me in the most sincere kind voice how apologetic she is for what happened to us Jews. She really meant every word. She herself feels responsible and guilty for what her people did to us.

I tend to think of myself as very forgiving, everyone deserves forgiveness. And yet, as she spoke I couldn’t look at her. While intellectually I know she was not involved as an individual, inside of me I can’t help but feel disdain. The damage they did in each city, each street, each house and to each individual is in fathomable. How can any apology be enough?

So you have to ask yourself why? Where are these emotions and thoughts coming from? And as more often than not the answer always lays within.

One of the triggers for my journey back into Yiddishkite was my family history. My Jewish heritage was torn away from my family and therefore me during the last few generations, the generations of war and communism. For some reason I’ve always blamed the Russians more than the Germans. Yet it was the Germans that captured and hung my great-grandmother’s two brothers and then killed her pregnant sister. They did that. They forced all sides of my family to flee their homes, to run for their lives, and many didn’t make it out. Those that did left their Yiddishkite with their demolished homes. I wonder, what would we have been if not for that grotesque war. Would we still be frum living in the shtetle? Would I have to spend many years rediscovering who I am as a Jew? Would I have had the opportunity to return to Israel, to Jerusalem, as my ancestors had prayed?

What is there to forgive her for? I have nothing against her personally. She did not pull the trigger. But the thought that her grandfather may have is what bothers me. It bothers me because of the family I’ve lost as a result and the gap it created that i now have to fill. The reason we have so many baalei teshuva is this gap. My mission is this gap. And so, in my being baal teshuva i am remembering and commemorating every day. Maybe this is why Yom HaShoah is not such a big day in the religious community. We are the commemoration. Every shabbos candle we light, every bracha we say, every mitzvah we do, we are bridging the gap and living up to our ancestors.

So, while i try in my own way to fill the Jewish link of Torah that was lost, and these repenting German’s try to fill the gap with their money and apologies, maybe Hashem will forgive those who created the gap: those that held the weapons, those who stood by and did nothing, and those of us who could not go on as Jews after.

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