The Chief Rabbi of Israel recounts a harrowing journey from child prisoner in Buchenwald to champion of Holocaust survivors.
The son of successive generations of rabbis from Poland, Lau was just five years old when he and his family were separated during the Nazi roundups of Jews in of 1942. His father was sent to Treblinka, never to be heard from again; the author and his mother and oldest brother, Nephtali (who had already escaped from Auschwitz and returned) were first interned in a Polish ghetto, then sent by train in 1944 to Buchenwald. On a split-second decision by his mother during the selections, Lau was cast toward his brother in the men’s cars, as if she had understood that the women and the children were killed first. A baffling presence to the Nazis, the child was sheltered and protected by various prisoners—may of whom Lau later tried to find. His relegation to “block number eight” seemed to have saved him, and he was checked on by his brother, who was remarkably resilient and persevering. American troops liberated Buchenwald in April 1945; Nephtali and Lau, despite battling postwar illnesses such as typhoid fever and measles, finally made their way to Israel, where an uncle welcomed them and Lau began his long, rewarding journey to becoming educated and ordained as a rabbi. Alternating his Holocaust memories with more recent events such as visits back to the camps with dignitaries and heads of state, Lau inserts poignant details, such as first learning about the fate of their mother, while administering wedding services in the 1970s, by a woman who had known her in Ravensbrück. Lau addresses frankly the postwar silence about the Holocaust and the issue of Jewish submission. His deep knowledge of biblical scripture informs every page of this finely tuned work.
Uplifting story of peace, reconciliation and an incredible life’s journey.