I have no words to describe the misery of the Holocaust and the suffering of the generation that has gone through the Second World War. No word is able to soften the painful memory in the slightest way. That is why I would like to speak about an experience that is more wonderful than I, a victim of camps, dead marches and forced labour, could have ever dreamt of.
A heavy strike
Now, every day, I receive new hope and new strength, yet I once cursed that I was born. My start in life seemed so promising. I was raised in luxury in a large mansion in a beautiful suburb of Budapest, Hungary. I was only eleven years old when my world collapsed with one strike. Our family business went bankrupt and my parents committed suicide. I was just eighteen years old when Hitler invaded Hungary. Although our family name, Fodor, was a common Hungarian name we were Jews. Previously our name was Goldberg, but my name didn’t give me protection; old friends turned their back on me and called me “filthy Jew”.
Crying out to God
A period of staying in camps, forced labour and dead marches followed. Days without food, water and facilities, escaping and being caught again. Several times I cried out to God. One day I worked in a mine and had to get water. On the way up my carbide lamp went out so I carefully took my last match and prayed, “God, if You are there, please light the match, it is so damp here. This is my last hope.” I scratched with my nail over the match and it lit! Now I could continue my way up! Another evening during an exhausting dead march I hid in a ditch and kept as quiet as possible. When I was laying there in fear, I even forgot my anger and cried in desperation to God, “God, I don’t know what to do. I don’t even know where I am, but if You are there, then please help me.” Miraculously I managed to reach the Austrian border unnoticed. Continue reading
Alexei was harassed a lot as the only Jewish child in his class. He became disillusioned with people, addicted to drugs and asked himself what he lived for. He ended living on the street and eventually became so desperate that he wanted to jump off a building. Then his life took a turn…
One against all
During my early childhood I developed feelings of hate. As the only Jewish boy in class I was not accepted by my peers. Of course the adults were to blame for that. The kids simply listened to their parents and called our family ‘the Yids’. My father was a military man and I was born when our family was in Hungary. Our family did not lack food or clothing. Maybe simple envy was the trigger of these harassments?
I did not tell anyone about the mocking and the beatings, neither my parents, nor friends, since I had no real friends. It was so hard, to be one against all and that is why very early, at the age of fourteen, I became disillusioned with people. On the other hand, however, I was glad to be Jewish, it was a kind of positive pride.
What do I live for?
When I thought about my life I would ask myself, “What will happen to me in twenty, thirty years?” I knew that time would pass quickly. “What will happen when I am sixty or seventy?” It was painful for me to realise that I would just die and be forgotten forever. “So what do we live for? Why does it matter how we live our lives? The end is the same!” At those times I liked to remember the words of a rock song, ‘To be born in order to die!’
As a child, Paul Liberman was deeply touched by the words from Psalm 118:22 ‘The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.’ “What or Who can be this Stone?” Paul wondered, “Is it that Jesus of Nazareth against whom the rabbi warns us so much?”
No satisfying answer
I was only eight years old when I started to fire questions about God at my parents, but their replies were hardly satisfying. I longed, therefore, to go to an orthodox Jewish school. My father was not happy about it because it was so expensive, but my mother knew how to persuade him. Yet this school didn’t bring a spiritual breakthrough in my life.
Money… my new religion
When I started to earn some money after finishing my education, my interest in religion was pushed aside by the desire for money. For fifteen years that was my religion. Owing to my follow-up study at a liberal university, I even started to doubt if there was a higher Being. As my job didn’t promise much financial success, I decided to give up my economic ambitions and go into politics. This all went well, and anything I did, I was successful. Then I got an interesting job in a business office in Washington, but the joy was short-lived. The man who hired me was dismissed and soon after I met with the same fate.