Walter knows how to focus on a better tomorrow. He doesn’t mince words. Never did really. Especially not at the mention of the Nazis. In August 1944, these German henchmen herded Walter’s family along with nearly one hundred fifty other Polish Jews into a suffocating hot railcar.
For five days—in a space designed for only forty humans—the adults and children remained trapped with little food and no water. Roughly thirty of the prisoners died in that traveling oven.
But the worst was yet to come: the horrors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Upon the train’s arrival, Walter’s mom was forced directly to the gas chamber.
Recently, our world commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Soviet army liberating the survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. The Nazis killed an estimated 1.1 million people here. Millions of others murdered in the Holocaust, including some forty of Walter’s extended family, have no graves.
Ready for Change . . . Now
How did Walter, barely into his teens, survive Auschwitz and eight other concentration/work camps? He credits his father’s coaching to not give in to the Nazis’ cruelty. Despite inhumane atrocities, Walter kept his focus on getting out, not on his present circumstances. Assuredly, he envisioned freedom. Walter refused to let anyone rob him of victory. He looked ahead to a better tomorrow.
I know many of us are ready for a better tomorrow . . . starting today. We want to move on from the COVID-19 safer-at-home orders. When will we be free of wearing facemasks? We want to escape the lockdown on our lives. Others of us are tired of bodies that resist our wishes and jobs that drain our vitality. Some of us keep praying for loved ones to make better choices. It’s always something, isn’t it?
Perhaps Walter can point us to some encouraging news. Remarkably, after living through the unspeakable, the now ninety-year-old prefers to be called a Holocaust victor and not a Holocaust survivor.
Walter is featured in chapter one of my new Bend book coming out this summer. Walter still bends his way around, over, and through obstacles seven decades after World War II. He compares his concentration camp experiences to the stresses of today. “I never had a bad day after that,” he wisely reflects.
Well said, Walter. In the end, no matter how tough life gets, our bad days are relative. Every new day comes with an invitation to look ahead to a better tomorrow.
Beth, Please tell Walter I needed to hear his victorious story.
Oh, Sandra. I will. I hope to see him again this summer and hand him a copy of Bend.
Six years ago, we left Walter in the late afternoon.
In the front foyer, with tears streaming, I hugged our brave new spitfire friend “farewell”.
I hope that Walter recalls my heartfelt parting words…
And I hope we can meet with him this summer and give him a signed copy of the book. There is still more to this story….
Looking forward to your book coming out, Beth. I just saw an interview this past week on TV (don’t remember what channel) with a man who survived Auschwitz-Birkenau by lying about his age (he told the soldiers 17 instead of 14 (or 15), so the soldiers would put him to work rather than send him to the gas chamber where the elderly and children were sent). He survived many more hardships, of course. He is now in his 90s. In the interview, they were “touring” the old Birkenau prison. Talk about bringing back memories for him!
Wow, Terry. I would love to find that interview. Actually, visiting some of the Holocaust camps is on my bucket list. Bravo for the man you mention who refused to give up and kept bending and coming back under such horrific conditions. Thank you for sharing about him.
I can’t wait to read all the “bend” stories. Such a blessing for those who have “bent” to have you take the time to listen and then share. Thank you Beth for writing…
Thank you so much, Angie. I am deeply honored to be a part in sharing these remarkable stories of resilience and bravery through the Bend book. Can’t wait for everyone to meet these valiant men and women through the chapters. Thank YOU for being a part of Gwen and Wayne’s story.
Thank you Beth for this inspiring true account of a real life survivor! Sadly everyone today needs to hear from these truths to put things into perspective. This fellow is a true hero with great real life outlooks we all need!
It is a great honor and a heart wrenching truth to recognize this strong soul – Walter ????
You are welcome, Cindy. Walter is a true hero indeed. I am beyond honored to share his story. I also feature a child survivor of the Holocaust in my book. Ilana grew up in Lithuania and was smuggled out of the Jewish ghetto to live in a Catholic orphanage. Another incredible story of resiliency and refusing to quit. My life is richer because of these two brave sojourners.
Having heard about Walter from you I’m happy to see his photo. Yes, he gives us much less to grumble about!
Nancy, thank you for remembering Walter. He sure does give us fewer reasons to grumble.
What a sobering story. I especially loved his statement: “I never had a bad day after that,”
Can’t wait for that book to come out. Another inspiring blog. Thank you Beth!
Thank you so much, Daria. Walter’s words about never having a bad day after that sure are a reality check for many of us. I can’t wait for the book to be in our hands too!
I am finally catching up on emails and this was so touching. How can we endure life’s trials like Walter did? I really feel convicted to look more closely at my trials as they are minimal compared to what Walter endured. Thank you for writing and can’t wait to read your new upcoming book!! So proud of you!
Thank you so much, Terry. I too am reminded that Walter endured unbelievable trials and his perseverance is an encouragement to us all to keep going. I can’t wait for the Bend book either. Just a few more weeks!