Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Story about Darkness, Light and Faith

This past week, the grade ten students heard some stories about light and darkness that they will not soon forget.  Mr. Fellner, a holocaust survivor and grandfather to one of our students, spoke to a group of 40 students and had their spellbound attention.  He was accompanied by his wife who spoke for him when his emotions, even after 66 years, choked his voice.  The students freely questioned Mr. Fellner and he candidly answered.  I took notes and recorded the presentation with my smartpen, (in order to remember the details for this post), but it was completely unnecessary as I will not soon forget his stories.

One student asked about making friends in the concentration camp at Birkenau (Auschwitz).  It was an innocent question from a teenage mind incapable of grasping the enormity of the suffering and cruelty that Mr. Fellner had lived.  He answer stunned me  because I had never considered its obvious truth; no one lived long enough to make friends.    
Fellners
Mr. Fellner and his family
He spoke of the dark horrors he had witnessed and of suffering we can not begin to fathom.  He recalled the inhumanity, animal-like conditions and the imaginative brutality of their captors.   But he also spoke of light and faith.  The day the camp was liberated by the Americans, his emaciated 54 pound body (he entered the camps at 14 years of age weighing 173 pounds one year earlier) had been 'discarded' atop the heaps of the dead.  American physicians, under orders to 'take anyone with a pulse' miraculously found Mr. Fellner and immediately transported him to a hospital, where a doctor sat vigil by his bed until he regained some semblance of health.

I asked Mr. Fellner what he thought about the sentiment sometimes expressed that G-d should be put on trial for what happened to the Jews in the Holocaust.  His answer was one I will not soon forget.  "I can't answer you that.  How can I answer?"  And then, he touched his chest and said, "I suffered for my faith.  I will never lose it."

Suffering confers a priceless value to our lessons learned.  Mr. Fellner learned about the dark face of humanity and 66 years later, he taught the young teens the generation of his granddaughter about the light that is also a part of our human face.


dab
Christmas lights in front
 Christ Church
downtown Montréal
On this fifth night of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve,  people all over the world celebrate the light that we believe is also a part of the human experience.  Mr. Fellner's story of incredible survival against the odds ended with his affirmation of the light.  His unshakeable faith is a light for our students, and to me.  Thank you Mr. Fellner for sharing your stories.  Thank you for reminding me, us, about the light that comes from faith.  Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to all.   May your story be a light to someone as his were to us.


1 comment:

  1. Daryl, thank you for sharing this story with us. It was easy to feel your voice in the words written - very clear that Mr Fellner's story impacted you, along with your students. Hearing it first hand must have been both incredibly powerful and hard.
    By sharing this story, Mr. Fellner will help us never forget such terrible events. It helps us to remember to make better choices.

    Zoe

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