C.W.H. Wedekind tells about his friendship with the Jewish Meijer Korper in the time just before the Second World War.
We lived in the centre of Amsterdam close to the harbour. At that time many houses were empty and for rent, including in our street, the Lijndenstraat. I was eleven years old when opposite of us the Jewish family Korper moved in: father Wolf, mother Rebecca and the two sons Meijer and Loekie. Meijer Korper was one year older than I. Although the Korpers were not the only Jewish people in the neighbourhood, it was not an explicit Jewish area.
One day Meijer spoke to me and told me that he was a Jewish boy. I told him that I had seen and heard that already a long time ago. Did I hate him for that? “Of course not,” I told him, “after all I play soccer with the Jewish boys.” The fact is, I played at the club “The Centre”, that was set up by Jewish boys. They even had shirts and shorts in the colours of the Israeli flag.
I was born in a traditional Jewish family. Although my parents were atheists, we celebrated in our family the Jewish feasts as Rosh Hashanah, Purim, Chanukah and Pesach; all accompanied by the corresponding traditional dishes. I looked forward the most to Chanukah, because then I would get Chanukah-money. The spiritual meaning of the feasts passed me completely. I remember my grandfather with his tallit (prayer shawl) and his siddur (prayer book) in his hand. He prayed regularly and also from time to time a minyan, a group of ten Jewish men, came together in the house of my uncle. This all happened secretly, because such a meeting was forbidden in that time. In spite of all this religious diligence, little real knowledge of God could be found.
Does God exist?
Only in military service I started to think about the existence of God. A Jewish man from Krasnodar in Russia was my buddy. Often we would speak about subjects as creation or evolution, but to the most important question, if God exists or not, we could not find a satisfying answer. When I left the army, I took a subscription to the magazine “Science and religion”. I hoped to find here the answer to my questions. In that time it was impossible to purchase a Bible. For my desire to get to know God I had to use other sources.
Henryk (later Zvi) Weichert was ten years old, when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. His mother brought him to an orphanage. With his fair hair and blue eyes nobody saw that this sturdy boy was Jewish and so he had a greater chance to survive. As she was leaving she told him: “Be strong and never tell anyone that you are a Jew. From now on you are a man!” His parents ended up in the ghetto of Warsaw and Henry stayed alive through working as a smuggler, farm labourer, partisan and even through doing jobs for German officers. Often he feared for his life, but his mother’s parting words were an encouragement to him. He witnessed how the uprising in the ghetto ended in blood. Only at the beginning of 1945 the situation changed when the Russian army drove out the Germans from Poland.
After the war he travelled through all of Europe to the offices of the Red Cross to find again his parents, three brothers and sister. They kept lists of people that returned from the concentration camps. At this long search he heard time after time: “No news”. Emptiness and aimlessness grew. Was there still any meaning in life? He had just tried to survive to see his family again. What was the use of all that shrewdness and perseverance?