It was during those difficult and dark years in Auschwitz that the Nazis ym”s gathered together a group of girls and women and transported them in cattle cars to the hills to construct a dam. Stopping at the bottom of the hill, the women disembarked and began making the long trek all the way to the top. It was an exhausting walk of many kilometers, and yet it was only the beginning of their day’s work. Exerting themselves for hours on end, at the end of the day, they had to retrace their steps back down the hill.
On one occasion, one sixteen-year-old girl could no longer take it. Emaciated and weak, she told her friend that she would not be returning with her down the hill. Although she was well aware that such a decision would be endangering her life, she remained undeterred. “I cannot do it,” she said; “let them take my life if they so desire.” But her friend would not hear of such a thing. “I am not leaving you here. You need to live and you are going to live!” “I can’t!” the girl persisted. “Okay, I will help you,” said her friend. Without delay, the sixteen-year-old girl was flung over her friend’s shoulders, herself tired and frail, and carried kilometers back to the cattle cars.
Fast forward forty years later… Mazel Tov! Mazel Tov! My daughter had become a kallah. Amid the feelings of joy pervading our home, in walked my mother, the bubby of the kallah. With a smile on her face, she stood still, holding her walker and looking on at the many people who had gathered together for her granddaughter’s vort. From the other side of the room, the grandmother of the chassan entered. She too was elated to participate in the joyous occasion of her grandson’s vort. And then their eyes met. The grandmother of the chassan looked at my mother, the grandmother of the kallah. It was a familiar face. Quite familiar… from forty years before. “Mrs. Schachter,” called out the grandmother of the chassan, “throw away your walker. I will carry you.”
The grandmother of the chassan was none other than the friend who had carried my mother in Auschwitz and saved her life. The woman who had reinvigorated my mother and reminded her never to give up on life, no matter how difficult and dark it may seem, was later privileged to see the fruits of her encouraging words and tireless efforts. Reuniting together where they could share mutual nachas, they both realized that from the bitterest of moments, the happiest of moments had grown forth. Never give up on life, even when it is your last breath, for you never know where that last breath may take you. ~ Rabbi Fischel Schachter