Vol. 12


The Darkest Times

c. 1943; Starachowice labor camp, Starachowice, Poland

Just imagine how you would feel to be my great-grandfather Yossel, who was taken away from his parents and was put into a slave labor camp during World War II in Poland. As most people know, the Nazis were very cruel, and every morning the terrible Nazis gave work to the Jews.

The Jews were sitting around waiting for the Nazis to come. All of a sudden, a Jew in the back remembered that it was Simchas Torah.1 They started to celebrate and sing a beautiful song.

Then suddenly a Nazi burst into the room, red in the face. Everyone stopped singing and dancing. Everyone was terrified of this horrible person. The Nazi screamed, “Tell me — what do you think you are doing, singing and dancing without permission?!”

Everybody was silent except for Yossel. He said in a calm voice, “We are celebrating our holiday.”

The Nazi was silent. Then he commanded, “Yossel, translate this song that you were singing.”

Yossel was terrified, but he finally said, “There is no one as mighty as G-d.2 There is no one as blessed as the son of Amram. There is nothing as great as the Torah. And there is no inheritor like Israel.”

The Nazi was silent. Then he said mockingly, “Do you believe this song? Your G-d has left you! You are now prisoners!”

The room was quiet. Suddenly a fourteen-year-old boy in the back said, “Ich glaube.”3 I believe.

One by one, every Jew in the room said, “Ich glaube.”

The Nazi was shocked. He was about to turn back, and then he said, “Not even Hitler will be able to destroy your nation.”

My great-grandfather Yossel was a brave man. He did not go away from Judaism, even at the darkest times. This story is special to me because it teaches me never to go away from Judaism, even at the darkest times.

Gita Davidowitz; New York, USA


1. Simchas Torah is a Jewish holiday that celebrates and marks the end of the yearly public reading of the Torah, and the beginning of the next cycle.

2. This incomplete spelling is a show of respect.

3. “Ich glaube” is pronounced ik GLOU-beh (ou as in “out”).



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