Chapter 44 – To Die For
To Die For
The things people will be willing to sacrifice their lives for are often the same as those they live for. At the top of that list, will most likely be protecting their loved ones, beliefs and ‘way of life’, but further down there’ll be a string of others too, including quite a few, which on reflection may seem rather undeserving. After all, getting killed in order to look tough or brave in front of our peers, or to spite someone who hurt us is probably a little over the top, but then what matters to us at any particular moment may vary considerably depending on our mood and for some, their level of psychosis. However, even allowing for mood swings and tantrums, when push comes to shove, there’s often a correlation between how protective we’ll be of others and our emotional and physical proximity to them, and therefore, given enough distance, we may be very quick to turn a blind eye when such wrongdoings occur, especially if they result in our quality of life being improved. As with most human emotions, what and who we’ll die for may be far more changeable in reality, compared to what we imagine.
Similarly, as Yuri B mentioned in an earlier chapter, most of us, along with many great scientists in the past, won’t hesitate to back down when defending what we know is true, especially when faced with execution or torture. Yet, when it comes to our ideological or religious beliefs, many of which we accept to be matters of faith, we along with millions of others who’ve already sacrificed their lives, will fight to the last to defend these principles. Partly, the reason beliefs tend to move us more than the truth is due to most ideological systems intertwining family structures within their organisations. Hence the use of ‘mother’, ‘father’, ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ figures, along with mother and fatherlands. As a result, by tapping into our deep-rooted protective familial instincts, not only does this bolster protection from outside threats, but the thought of betraying the ideological family will curb dissent from sceptics within the group too.
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Blumer’s Story – Part 1
From fighting against collaborators in the ghettos and concentration camps, (including the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, revolts of Treblinka, and Sobibor), to Multiple units forming in the forests of Eastern Europe, as well as many other underground movements throughout Western Europe, the Jews did not, as many believe, do nothing to help themselves, and perhaps history’s reticence to recognise this may well stem from some of those same resentments that allowed the Nazis to rise in the first place. My father’s brother, Eliezer, married a woman called Blumer a few years after the end of World War 2. Before they’d met, she’d been a resistance fighter against the Nazis in Poland.
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Living to Tell
Filip Muller was a Czech-born Jew who ended up in Auschwitz where in order to live he was forced to move the bodies from the gas chambers to the crematoria. Eventually, unable to bear the hell he was a part of he decided to end his life. Quietly he joined the queue to the gas chamber, and once in went to the back so the guards wouldn’t recognise him and pull him out. Many of those around him though battered and bleeding, comforted each other as they wept, knowing what was coming next. He looked around at some of the children searching for their parents and then, as he tried to calm a few near him he was confronted by a group of girls who just stood in front of him staring and shaking their heads in disbelief. After a few seconds, one of them said, “We understand you have chosen to die with us of your own free will, but we have come to tell you we think your decision pointless, it helps no one. We must die, but you still have a chance to save your life. You have to return to the camp and tell everybody about our last hours, you have to explain to them that they must free themselves from any illusions. They ought to fight, that’s better than dying here helplessly. It’ll be easier for them since they have no children. As for you, perhaps you’ll survive this terrible tragedy and then you must tell everybody what happened to you. And one more thing, you can do me one last favour: this gold chain around my neck: when I’m dead, take it off and give it to my boyfriend Sasha. He works in the bakery. Remember me to him. Say ‘love from Yana.’ When it’s all over, you’ll find me here.”
Before he had time to respond, the girls dragged him back to the main doors where they flung him at the feet of the guards. Recognising him straight away, they beat him, shouting, “We decide how long you stay alive and when you die. Not you! Now piss off back to the ovens.” And with that one of the guards punched him in the face.
Near the end of the war, Filip was forced to join a death march from the camp into Germany and was later liberated from Mauthausen in May 1945. His testimonies were not only used to incriminate those involved straight after the war but were also included in the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials several decades later in 1964, as well as in several books. He went on to live until aged 91, he died in 2013.
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Blumer’s Story – Part 2
At my father’s funeral, I spoke to Blumer and asked her about her time in the resistance. She said, initially she’d taken part in information gathering by fraternising with the German officers stationed close by. Before meeting up with them she and her friends would eat butter in order to inhibit the effects of alcohol so they could pretend to be drunk as their victims became increasingly inebriated. Later, she joined partisan units stationed in the nearby forests where she took part in armed attacks but was eventually caught and while initially held as a Polish prisoner of war, she demanded to be recognised as a Jew and was subsequently taken to Auschwitz. “If they were going to kill me I wanted to show them I was proud of being a Jew.”
By the end of the war, both of Boris’ sisters and one of his brothers were missing. It didn’t take long to locate Batia who was now back in Riga, but when it came to Bettie there was no news and with no official record of what had transpired the family was left to presume the Nazis had killed her.
As for Eliezer, Boris got wind of him being in Israel, but had no idea he’d married Blumer, and it wouldn’t be until 1948 when walking through a field that he’d see someone in the distance who looked like his brother. He called out, and as they both looked at each other they shouted and waved their arms in joy, and as Blumer put it, her eyes still sparkling some 62 years later, “Just like a scene in a film they ran into each other’s arms”.
While Boris may have been unruly and unappreciative of his siblings as a child, the legacy of the loss of his mother and sister left him with the knowledge that to him, his family were the most important people in the world.
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