Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Throughout the rest of the years, Israel's fate was not know by his family. Hope is a hard fire to keep lit during such a violent storm.

After the war, when Sarah finally returned home, she saw Pilat's son-in-law walking the street. She looked down and recognized his shoes. She stopped him, first asking then demanding to know where he had gotten her beloved's shoes.  It was in that moment she realized her fire had been extinguished.

The night that he was taken, Israel sat in the tiny jail cell all night. Early in the morning the police chief came to the cell, opened the door and told him to go "for a walk". Israel left.

However, a half hour later he came back. The chief asked him if he was mad, didn't he understand the meaning, he should go find his family and run. Israel's response was very clear.  "I am not insane, I know exactly what I am doing. I am not going to allow my escape and running to be the excuse and reason that they kill even one man. I will stay and stand with my people and whatever fate awaits us."  You see, he had no idea, who would, that the end of the entire Jewish population of his village was at his doorstep.

That day the Germans rounded up all the Jews of Brzostek. They were put in trucks and taken out into the surrounding woods. Polish men, their neighbors, were taken with them. The Polish men were fed Vodka to make them more cooperative, and hopefully less cognizant. They were told to dig a large hole. Meanwhile, the Jews were told to strip naked and leave all their belongings in a pile. Then, almost 500 men, women and children, that had done nothing more than be Jewish, were told to enter the hole that would become their grave. The Polish men could only stand by and watch as their neighbors and friends were executed in front of their eyes.

After the massacre the Polish men were told that they could take what they wanted from the pile of clothing and belongings. Pilat's son-in-law was one of those men.  With tears in his eyes he told Sarah that Israel was not only one of the most honest people that he had ever known, but also always treated him with the up most respect. He only took from that pile Israel's shoes, because he wanted to honor and show respect back to this great man and wanted to feel as if he stayed close to him even though he knew he was gone.

Next time, Sarah, Manek and Zosia's story of survival begins within the walls of the Dembice ghetto.

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