| Andrea’s parents’ (Eva and Alex) wedding.
Several of the others in the photo died in the Holocaust.
Editor’s note: Those who have endured the horrors of the Holocaust and have lived to tell the story … sometimes choose not to. As John Menszer, project director of the Holocaust Survivors website explains, “You are entering into a part of people’s lives where there is a reservoir of pain, and they are often reluctant to go there.”[ 1 ] Some will only share their account with their family. And it is common for survivors to shield their children from the brutal details of what they experienced. In some extreme cases, Holocaust survivors have not even told their children they are Jewish. This can be due to the fear that the persecution they experienced may repeat itself in their children’s lives. The following story is a case in point.
Growing up as a young girl in Philadelphia, I attended a private Quaker school and a Presbyterian church. The way some things were taught in my Presbyterian Sunday school class didn’t quite make sense to me. My thinking seemed to be different. The Father, Son and Holy Ghost being “three in one” sounded like a magic show – whiz, bang, pop – three became one! But I loved reading the Bible stories. And I was able to relate to a movie re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus. I was very emotionally moved and somehow understood that the emotional pain of bearing the sins of the world was even harder than the physical torture.
I wanted to ask Jesus into my life. Being a well-read child, I learned in the New Testament that the conversion of Saul [the Apostle Paul] on the road to Damascus was accompanied by a blinding light. The basement of our house would allow the much-needed light in through the windows. My pet bunny, Nutmeg, was hopping around when I asked Jesus into my life. Nothing happened.
Not long after, on a beautiful, sunny day in downtown Philadelphia, I was crossing the street when there appeared before me, suspended in the sky, Jesus. I instantly knew who it was; it could be no one else. I could not see his features clearly because the light that emanated from him was so bright. I could tell his arms were open for me. Madly looking around, I wanted to find someone else who saw what I did, but it was obvious from the lack of reaction that no one else did. It was not the kind of thing you could see and casually keep going. The memory is vivid to this day.
|Andrea’s mother, Eva|
Then one Christmas, when I was nine or ten, my mom, Eva, was crying, emotionally falling apart. I heard her sobbing about her father, Albert Brichta, whom she loved dearly. She was also crying about an Uncle Julius, whom she especially adored. My mom revealed that both died in Auschwitz. As shock wore off and surprise settled in, the thought gradually entered my mind: I guess I must be Jewish!
I learned that my mother and grandmother survived in Hungary’s Jewish ghetto, sometimes having to eat dead horse meat that my grandma snuck in. I discovered that my father, too, was Jewish. He saw his father, Armin Krausz, shot in the head and killed by a Nazi. Every year my grandfather Krausz had performed two free violin concerts – one for Jewish orphans and one for gentile orphans.
| Painting of Andrea’s grandfather, Armin Krausz (1916).
Andrea’s father saw his father, Armin, shot in the head and killed by a Nazi.
I remember asking my mom why she and my father never told me my whole family was Jewish. She said it was not deliberate, but that being Jewish meant having your family killed. I was so surprised to hear that, and yet today I understand. When my cousin and I look at old family photos, he points to this relative and that one and says, “Auschwitz.” This is my family. They are not large groups of people to celebrate Thanksgiving with. They are pictures. They are tombstones. They are a people I long for yet have never met. If I am asked about my heritage, my reply is that I am the child of Holocaust survivors.
Not long after the revelation of my Jewish identity, I started reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – heavy reading for a young girl. My identity always goes back to the Holocaust. I spent my school and university years reading, questioning and searching for Truth. What else is a nice Jewish girl to do?
In my late twenties I worked in Montreal. A business associate had recently been “born again” and asked me to come to a home Bible study group. So I did. If I wasn’t confused before, this was it. In their honest desire to see me “saved,” they used language that I could not understand, like, “You are coming from the Law” and, in their prayers, “the blood of Jesus.” I would remember the movie I saw as a child about the crucifixion and cringe.
I read a book entitled Who Am I? by Norman Grubb, which filled in the gaps in my understanding from when I was a child until adulthood. My concern was, If I ask Yeshua (Jesus) into my life, will I be a traitor to my Jewish people? History provides plenty of proof that Jewish people did not fare well at the hands of Christians. I kept searching the Scriptures and came to see Yeshua as my atonement for sins, my elder Jewish brother. One more time I asked him to come into my life. With all the questions no longer twirling in my brain, I experienced the loudest quiet ever.
The Holocaust still casts a shadow over my life. But there are bright spots. My grandchildren are signs of a new generation growing up. They are completely North American, different than my European family. But one thing I pray we will have in common – the peace and joy of knowing Yeshua.