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5. The Dialogue with Nojech

Without doubt Abraham’s message had had the effect of a bomb, so many were the details he gave me. When I finished reading the terrible report, in a loud voice so that all the others could hear, a deadly silence fell in the room. As night had not come yet we could only hear some rare sounds  which came from other parts of the camp.  
 
The first one to break our general muteness was my nephew. He may have done it because the scenes narrated by Abraham had impressed him more than us, because he had actually seen all that take place in Camp 2, when he had gone there looking for Bolender. 
 
He had completely lost control of his nerves, affected by our continuous strain and now torn to pieces before this confirmation that he had just had about the fate of his mother and his grand-parents. He was the youngest of us all, and nature had endowed him with more sensitivity thus making his emotions collapse before the tragedy which was developed in Sobibor. The impact had been stronger than his boyish capacity for resistance and he broke into hysterics. He thrashed and rolled on his bed, shouting for his mother. My brother and I did the best we could for hours together to make him come to his senses again, but to no use. It was only when my cousin Nojech intervened that we succeeded in somewhat calming him down.  Very tactfully he performed the miracle, by comforting and relieving the deranged spirit of the boy. 
 
Nojech, a clever , polite young man , was so serene that he was able to stand the strongest shocks with stoicism. He valued his own faith so highly and his religious fervour was so great that, to say the least, he belonged to the roll of those who accept everything as expiation imposed by God or as encouragement to his faith. Before the war, when we were still free, he could be considered a priest due to his peculiar habits. As a matter of fact he dressed in the traditional clothes of the Chasidin – the deeply religious Orthodox Jews.  After he had proved he could calm the pains in the boy’s soul by making him finally sleep, we started talking. Once in a while, our dialogue was interrupted by the sobs of my nephew who would wake up and start to cry, as if he had a terrible nightmare.
 
This was directed towards only one topic of capital importance importance to us- what would we do from now? Death was approaching us but Nojech with his adamant resignation, told me what he thought : 
 
“ We must thank God because everything he made is good – we should never rebel against him”. 
I turned angrily to Nojech and replied
 
–“God? Where is your God who lets my parents be eliminated in this way? "How is it possible that He, who is so kind, does nothing for them? Where is He who does not come to our rescue?  Why does He accept that Nazi oppression extinguishes thousands of innocent children who could not even babble the word “mother? Would you like me to pray to God and thank Him for the way my loved ones died?"  What about the others who have also died? " 
 
"No, Nojech, No.", I replied, "My only wish is to kill. To destroy these bandits and not to pray to your God who helped them". 
 
Little by little I was getting inflamed and I went on reminding him
 
–“Is it possible that you have forgotten the abuse that we, the Jews, suffered before the war, when we were still little boys? Is it possible that you have also forgotten the abuse that we, the Jews, suffered before the war, when we were still little boys? Is it possible that you have also forgotten the times when we went along the streets to the religious services and were the target of the derision of the Poles who would throw stones at us and spit, among laughter and insults? 
Do you not remember the constant fighting there was between the Poles  and us, triggered by the stones they threw at the synagogues? s your memory that weak, Nojech?"
 
You could at least remember how the Poles came to the extreme of lunging at the Chasidim to pluck for their pales long curly whiskers, You should also remember the crowds who shouted to our faces – Rzydzi do Palestina." (Jews go to Palestine). 
 
These were the kind words, Nojech , that the Poles reserved for us. However, they did not know that we had been born in the same country, in the same Poland which together, we had helped to build and develop. There we worked in the fields and the cities, in commerce and in the small industries but, even so, they wanted to expel us from our native country only because we were Jews.  “I remember the fights which took place in the streets when I was a boy, and the countless times when I got home full of bruises and scratches and all that to refute the offences they made to your God, Nojech”.  
 
It looks as if you have forgotten what the Germans did when they invaded Poland and started to persecute us. Then, the Judenrat was created, how useful was it to us? What was the worth of the prayers and the good faith of the Jews of the Judenrat?  What was their worth, unless it was to widen the rough road of humiliation and suffering, along which we went and to make us take everything with our heads bowed?  
 
No Nojech, a thousand times no! If your thoughts were different , if the philosophy you defend so bravely had undergone a radical change, perhaps we the Jews, would not have been so slighted and we might not have been swept out of Poland. If this were still to happen, at least we would resist and also kill, but we would never serve as pasture for the Nazi beasts. If it had not been for the peacefulness and temporization of the Judenrat, the Jews would not have resigned themselves to that chaos and they would have rebelled in unison. We would have died but we would have killed.  What use was there, Nojech, for the great minds we have given the world in all fields and at all times?  What was the use of our parent’s efforts to these great men?
 
They did not take any of this into consideration. We have always been treated the way cowards are treated, because men like you sat on the benches or stood at the pulpits of the synagogues to pray or to preach. You forgot that we had already produced men like Maccabees and the Bar- Kochwa who, although they were religious, made legendary their dauntlessness, and their boldness.  
Of one thing you may be sure, Nojech – if by any chance one of us survives, he will tell the whole Earth what happened in Sobibor. All the Jews in the world will no longer shelter under the utopia that with their prayers they will be saved. Then what will be seen is not the humble sheep of today, but many and many Maccabees of tomorrow, who will never harmonise with what we now accep
You yourself should notice how, even in the name of God, the Nazis commit  murder. Pay attention,Nojech to what is written on the henchmen’s belts –Got Mit Uns (God is with us). Answer me now – whom is God with?  Is He for or against us?
 
My dear Nojech there will only be peace in the world when there is union among men, when there is only one religion and only one God, when there is no racial prejudice of any kind and when there is love towards our neighbours and understanding between the peoples of the world. The hatred, iniquity and the persecutions which now prevail will have to disappear. Those who find themselves superior and who want to dominate others will have to be banished. It is necessary that humanity understands that we all came to Earth in the same way and that we are all brothers. All  with no exception. After I had said that to Nojech he still insisted, maybe to make me relax -We the Jews, are making amendments for our sins, and you are also sinning.
 
I asked him then – And these children who are being murdered now, have they already sinned too? Answer me, Nojech, who does not sin in this world? What sins were committed against God and should all the Jews pay for these sins?
 
Nojech kept silent for some moments. Although I was prepared for the worst, that night I only hungered for vengeance. I did no longer feel as a young fifteen year old boy, innocent and naïve, who believed in men. At that moment , I changed into a mature thirty-year old man, and divorced myself completely from my chronological age.
 
I lost all my feelings and all the love I had had, and became a callous man. I rebelled against everyone and everything and I ceased to believe in human kindness. To me, everyone was hypocritical and perverse. I thought only the strong would be worth anything and that everything was permissible to reach our desired goals. Now, I thoroughly believed that only wickedness could overcome what was inside the hearts of all the bad people. And all of them seemed monstrous.
 
In spite of that, Nojech still went on hammering –Pray , Pray – we must always pray
 
Without doubt he was a faithful and obstinate Jew. Although he did not listen to me he would at least be able to assimilate all that he had heard and to understand what had happened in the cursed Camp 3.
 
On the contrary he went on affirming, that we should respect the will of God. I could not stand him, any longer. A sudden fury erased my love for him, and I shouted
 
–"Stop do not insist on this. We must only think about what we are going to do tomorrow and not waste any time in invoking your God who will not do anything to save us."
 
And thus, at the break of dawn my dialogue with Nojech ended. Although my point of view was contrary to his, it finally prevailed,  and he stopped talking. There was a vital need for us to think of a way to help us maintain the present state of things and consequently, our lives.
 
We then decided he should calm my nephew’s revolt, by trying to convince him as best he could not to show he was afraid and not to cry in front of the Germans, so as not to raise their suspicions. As to us, we would go on pretending total ignorance of everything which was happening in Camp 3. Thus we would go on asking about our parents. We would start to use the same weapons as the Nazis – fraud and deceit. If we did not do so, we would show them we were afraid and suspicious about the reality of our situation and our end would come fast. Only prudence could save us. When we thought of salvation, we never did so in long terms. Everything was planned as if we would survive for only days, hours and even minutes, since we were on the brink of ruin. After we had agreed about everything, I made ready to answer the letter from my unfortunate friend Abraham.
 
Dawn was coming to an end the first light of day was already there. We had spent the night lamenting, arguing, digressing and planning. I sat at the table and started to write some words for an answer:
 
Dear Friend Abraham,
 
Your appalling words did not take me by surprise, since I already suspected everything which was happening there. Now that I know the truth, a force was born in me which I cannot explain. A sixth sense has developed in my spirit and it makes me feel that these tormentors will not kill me and that I shall live . If this actually happens , I will do my best to avenge, not all, since it would be impossible, but at least my family and my friends, as many as I possibly can.
I say this as if I were promising you too, on my parent’s ashes. I will take revenge, one way or the other.
 
Write to me only when it is absolutely necessary and do not run any risk only to answer me, since it would not be wise. Avoid any unnecessary risks and try to the best of your ability, to stay alive, even if it is only for a few more days or hours.
 
Who knows if luck will not help you and you will be able to escape this hell in which you now are?
 
It was already daytime when I finished this message. Soon afterwards Klatt came, as promptly as ever, to take it to Abraham. I gave him a lot of gold, which I did not need, and which I did not care about. The Ukrainian hurriedly left for the slaughterhouse in Camp 3.
 
After he had left I told Nojech that the Jews who survived the German yoke should not stay on in Poland , but try to build their own country in which they could live. While they were spread out all over the world, they would always be trodden upon and never respected, for they were human beings without a country. There would always come someone to say that “the houses are yours, but the streets are ours”.
 
Our synagogues would continue to be stoned and our activities persecuted and ransacked. We would always be defiled and treated as if we were different from the others. But we are not, definitely not, different. Billions of people, of all nationalities and all political and religious creeds, think so too. We made our land revive, our Nation. It was forged by men,  who thought they should work and fight in the land of their ancestors. In their land, not on somebody else’s land.