The woman approached Dr. Mark Glick at a conference for survivors of the Holocaust. She had been left for dead in a mass grave in a Nazi labor camp. Glick’s mother, digging ditches, saw signs of life and returned that night to pull the woman out and share her rations.
“Your mother,’’ the woman said, “is why I’m here today.’’
Glick shared the account with Homeland residents to illustrate the need to keep stories of the Holocaust alive, even as the number of survivors dwindles.
“When someone tells you something like this, it can’t get more powerful,” Glick said.
At a time of rising intolerance worldwide, Homeland Center conducted a commemoration of Kristallnacht, the German state-sanctioned rioting against Jews and their homes and business in 1938. The rampage by quasi-military mobs disguised as civilians is considered the beginnings of the Holocaust. Glick put it into context with an explanation of its historical roots, as Adolph Hitler rose to power by blaming Jews for deprivations suffered by Germans after World War I and during the Great Depression.
“Scapegoating is something we all do every day,” said Glick. “As human beings, it’s very difficult to say, ‘It’s my fault.’”
The Kristallnacht commemoration on Dec. 11 culminated Homeland’s “ Seasons of Shadow and Night, Love and Light” that started with a Hanukkah celebration on Dec. 4. Homeland Hospice chaplain, the Rev. Dann Caldwell organized the events with help from Homeland residents.
“When a group comes for one, often, the group will come for all,” Caldwell reminded the audience of about 20 residents gathered in the Homeland chapel. “Dr. Glick’s story is a reminder of how we should respond today as people of good will and people of spirit and faith and people who are called to help others in need.”
Glick told the audience that his Polish mother survived German labor camps. Her liberation came during a death march meant to eradicate the survivors as the war’s end was in sight.
His father and a sister escaped through a back window of their home in Poland while their siblings were marched out the front door and into the town square, where they were executed with their neighbors. The pair survived by hiding in forests, getting help from the Resistance and sneaking onto farms at night for food.
Though Kristallnacht occurred 80 years ago, its lessons remain urgent and timely, said Glick.
“You do not have to look very far around to see hatred, bigotry, racism, and violence,” he said. “It’s not just in our country but in the world. It is everywhere. Racial nationalism, which is the concept of uniting a country by hating another race, is very strongly practiced in this country and other countries. You don’t have to look far to see people all over the world trying to escape persecution, hatred, and violence.”
Bravery can counter the forces of hatred and violence, he said.
“Unless we understand what can happen, unless we stand up and stop it, we can and will have another genocide in this world,” Glick said.
Homeland residents responded to Glick’s talk with comments about parallels in current events and perceptive questions about the conditions that led to the Holocaust.
Resident Vicki Fox, who helped organize the program, found it “very enlightening and a little scary, because you see parallels in what’s going on in our country and the world, about people being so afraid of everybody and everything.”
“People have to have a dialogue about it,” Fox said. “A lot of people are afraid of Jews, but many have never met one.’’
Resident Ray Caldwell, the father of Chaplain Dann Caldwell, said the program revealed how events unnoticed at the time could devolve into crises.
“Nobody understands what Dr. Glick’s family went through to be free today,” he said. “We take our freedom very lightly here, and somebody like that, with his family, appreciates everything that he has. We do, too.”
Glick acknowledged that politics is “a tough business,” but encouraged listeners to do what they can to combat injustice.
“For me, it’s being here today,” he said. “It also starts with you. Every one of us has pain, has suffered, and we have to shift our outlook. Instead of complaining and pointing fingers at people, we have to look at ways to strengthen ourselves. We have to hope that if we bond together, we’ll heal as a country and find answers.”