Tag Archives: Holocaust

We must always take sides, By Andrea Doray

Andrea_final--2 (2)You can’t write about character and the human condition and be apolitical … that’s not the kind of world we’ve ever lived in.” — Sam Hamill, in a 2006 Poetry Foundation interview.

The world lost a powerful voice last year when Sam Hamill died. Hamill served as an advisor to the international organization, Writing for Peace, founded Poets Against the War, and spoke for people who otherwise could not. We need more Sam Hamills. We must always take sides.

Some people have told me that sometimes this column is too political. Some others have asked me to take a stronger stance. Some people have called me unpleasant names and some have supported my perspectives.

We live in widely diverse society where, ostensibly, we are all free to disagree in this way. And so we celebrate the birth of our country, and the freedoms that are supposed to allow us to speak without fear of government reprisal, to worship without fear of governmental oppression, to benefit from a free and open press.

It’s worth noting not only this vision of our founders, but also the courage of those who have fought for their ideals. My parents were among these. Both enlisted in the Army to serve in World War II. Both left their homes to help protect people they didn’t know. Both risked their lives for a cause greater than themselves.

I write at this time each year to honor Eva Levine, born on July 6, 1916. Eva was rounded up and transported from Poland, her homeland, to Bergen-Belsen, for no other reason than that she was Jewish. She lost her health, her husband and the rest of her family in the brutality of the Nazi death camps.

According to United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. – where I received Eva’s information on ID card #2633 – after she was liberated by the British in 1945, Eva emigrated to the U.S. in 1950 and nothing more is known of her.

Yet I will continue to commemorate her, and the millions who suffered with her. I will also continue to stand up for victims who suffer today … because of their faith, their heritage, their gender, because of where they were born, how they were born, or who they love.

In these times of polarized, normalized and codified hatred, at home and abroad, I believe it’s more important than ever to recognize the men and women (Abigail Adams, anyone?) whose struggles birthed our nation. It’s more important than ever to recognize the sacrifices of the men and women who keep, and have kept, these ideals alive. It’s more important than ever to recognize that we each, each, have a role in the future that faces us—not just for ourselves, but for others who may be suffering. The lessons of the Holocaust have taught us this.

We have also learned that to be silent is to become complicit … Albert Einstein, Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel and countless others have warned that when we are neutral in situations of injustice, we have, in essence, chosen the side of the oppressor.

If this means, then, that we are not apolitical, so be it. Perhaps, as Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Andrea Doray is a writer who believes in the words of Elie Wiesel: “We must always take sides … the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” Contact Andrea at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

Previously published by Arvada Press. Reprinted by permission of the author.

The Night of Shattered Myth, by Swatilekha Roy

Swatilekha Roy is a 2016 Young Writers Contest Notable Finalist who writes from Durgapur, West Bengal, India. Swatilekha’s story caught the attention of our judges with its courage and hope. As one of our judges commented, “Swatilekha reaches for empathy in the darkest places of humanity and imagines not only what could cause a man’s extreme loss of compassion, but also where he might possibly find it again.”

In her words:

For me, the most deadly weapon yet discovered by mankind is a pen. ‘A pen is mightier than the sword.’ In today’s world, we have everything except peace and as they say, everything comes with a price. The biggest price yet has to be paid by those who fight for peace, physically and verbally. Writing has the power to bring about revolution. It is that gentle tremor that can shake the world. It is writing and writing alone that can change the face of the world for the better and make it a more peaceful place to dwell in. I would like to congratulate Writing for Peace on their outstanding feat of spreading the aura of peace through mere words.
~Swatilekha Roy

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The Night of Shattered Myth

By Swatilekha Roy

 

9th November, 1938

Just as our truck neared the corner of the Heidereuter Alley, the moon retired behind the clouds. Shards of glass littered the pavement. The night was filled with desperate shrieks, breaking glass, gunshots, and pleas for mercy.

Our orders: to ship these savage fools with yellow stars to extermination camps.

Our duty: to follow without question.

Our job: to kill.

The coal-black swastika on the rear of the truck showed a ghastly grin. Peace is a fool’s concept. War is the imperial truth. The synagogues heaved desperately, and thousands of Jews prayed for escape.

The orders were precise, “Execute as many children as you wish. They eat, yet can’t work.” Men and women would be sent to separate extermination-camps to be starved or tortured until death arrived as a welcome release.

As I was loading the emaciated Jewish children into the truck, I felt something tug at my shirt sleeve. Disgusted, I turned to find a bony child with hollow eyes. My duty was to kill, but something about him was familiar. And then it dawned on me. “Abbott?”

The child nodded. “I am Issao, Abbott’s son. They killed my father.” Tears welled in his eyes.

I suddenly remembered the pool we had loved as children, Abbott and I playing our reeds at the lake’s edge. Our different religions never came between us until Herr Hitler began his crazy rampage. When I was taught about the Jewish scourge, I hadn’t wanted to think about my friend. And now, looking into his son’s eyes, I was no longer a soldier. I was just a human being, an indebted friend.

I knew I was making a terrible mistake. I could almost hear the Führèr screaming, “Treason! Death!” But, the one speck of humanity that still blotted my soul rebelled. Acting on instinct, I checked to make sure the children were seated safely in back and bolted the latch. I turned the key and the truck’s engine rumbled to life. The swastika glared at me. Treachery? Death! As I sped off with the truckload of gaunt children, the moon abandoned its hideout and lit my way. Children were crying from hunger and fear and I was in disbelief. How could anyone justify the murder of innocent children?

Near the heavily guarded Berlin border, my heart began racing faster. There was no way I could pass through without getting shot. I prayed for a miracle.

As I neared the gates, the guard stopped me. “Your pass?”

“I, well…the orders were last moment. I’m shipping this scum out of Berlin. Here’s my badge.” He eyed me suspiciously. I flipped him a couple of Reichsmarks. “For bier!”

The guard saluted and, with a cry of “Heil Hitler,” opened the gates.

Driving away from Berlin, I racked my brain for connections I could use for the children’s safety, but most of the people or places I knew were far too risky. And then I remembered Paul, my childhood teacher and the kindest man I had ever known. He was my only hope. I made my way toward the familiar village from my youth.

As I reached the outskirts of town, I was comforted by the familiar sights. I drove through the village, past the solitary willow tree and my old church, and turned onto a dirt road marked by a rusty signboard advertising cheeses and fresh milk. I pulled to a stop in front of the farmhouse, got out, and knocked on the door, but when I asked for Paul, the woman shook her head.

“Please, Paul was my friend and teacher when I was a boy.”

She hesitated, wiping her sturdy hands on her apron. “Follow me,” she said, and stepped outside to lead me around the house toward the barn where a man with gray hair and rimmed glasses sat on a bench, reading. He looked up at my uniform in alarm.

“Paul,” I whispered. “Is that really you?”

“Have we met?”

“It’s Alfred. I’ve come for a refresher on formulas,” I said.

Paul flashed me a cautious smile and said, “Come sit, my friend. I had one particular formula that has stayed with me all these years.”

I sat beside him, laughing in relief as he gave my head the same sturdy knuckling I remembered from my childhood. He introduced me to his wife and began filling me in on the goings on at the farm, the cows, and children. It was if we had never been apart. But could I trust him with the children’s lives? With my life? Was it fair to ask him to risk his own life? His family and farm?

Before I could ask these questions, his wife was coming back around the house with two of the children. “There’s more, Paul.” She held their little hands tenderly, but her face reflected the horror of our situation.

Paul looked surprised as I broke into tears. “I, we, need your help. I’m sorry to ask, but they’re just children. Innocent children.”

Paul’s kindness and moral integrity was unchanged. He immediately agreed to help the children with this risky endeavor. Two of his farmhands emerged from the barn to help unload the children and get them into the house.  Some were barely alive. As the children were carried inside, I again felt a tug. “Did you know my father?” asked the boy.

I lifted the bony, weightless thing into my arms and kissed his dirty forehead. “Don’t worry. They’ll take good care of you.” I couldn’t answer his question, admit what a selfish, bloodthirsty cut-throat his father had once befriended.

“It’s time you leave,” Paul said. “Your truck will attract attention.”

I nodded, as Paul’s wife took Issao’s hand.

“May God bless you! We’ll take care of them,” my friend promised.

As I hoisted myself into the truck, the sky was illuminated with a brilliant orange hue. Even if I died today, I had no regrets. For once, I had been my own Führèr.

 

Meet Swatilekha Roy, 2016 Notable Finalist

Swatelikha Roy, finalistSwatilekha Roy is a seventeen years old amateur writer. The day to day fancies of nature leave her flabbergasted. Swatilekha’s favourite pastimes include sitting alone and listening to hardcore music, painting, reading novels and, of course, writing and editing. She loves critical study in literature. She is a diehard fan of fantasy and science fiction. Moreover, traveling intrigues her. Swatilekha writes to ventilate her feelings and to give in to the indomitable spirit of her fountain-pen. Writing gives her great joy. It’s her dream to become a writer and train amateurs like herself. This is the second time Swatilekha has participated in the Writing for Peace contest and the fact that she is a finalist delighted her. Earlier, she had also been selected as one of the best entrants in national level Campfire Young Writer of the Year Contest. Swatilekha would like to use this platform to extend her heartfelt gratitude towards everyone who stood by her: parents, family (especially, her uncle who is unfortunately no more) and friends.

 

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2017 Young Writers Contest

2013 Writing for Peace Young Writers ContestOur annual young writers contest will begin as scheduled on on September 1st, 2016. Watch for details and announcements on this blog soon.

The Peace Correspondent: Call for Submissions

Information is beginning to go up on the website about our new online periodical, The Peace Correspondent, a tri-annual solution-based publication. The first issue will be published on October 31st. Submission deadlines are September 15th. Guidelines are posted here.

DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts: Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceGuidelines are posted for the 2017 Edition. DoveTales is an extension of our mission to promote writing that explores the many aspects of peace.  Our purpose is to expose young writers to a diverse collection of thoughtful works by established and emerging writers, as well as our advisers. The journal will also feature works by the winners of our annual Young Writer Competition. The journal will be released on May 1st, 2017. There is no fee for submission, but please read our guidelines carefully.

Theme: The theme of our 2017 issue of DoveTales is Refugees and the Displaced. As in our earlier issues, we encourage contributors to take a broad view of the definitions within the context of peace.

  • The reading period begins July 1st, 2016 and ends January 15th, 2017, and the journal will be released on May 1st, 2016.

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Copyright © 2016 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

Bearing Witness, by Andrea W. Doray

Bearing Witness, On The Birthday of Eva Levine

Andrea Doray, Writing for Peace Board Memberby Andrea W. Doray

Last week, July 6, was Eva Levine’s birthday…July 6, 1916, to be exact, and I am writing here to commemorate this day. She was the second daughter of five children born to Jewish parents in Lodz, Poland. Her father dealt in real estate, and the family owned the building in which they lived. Eva finished high school and studied history at a local university.

I know this because I was given Eva’s Identification Card when I recently visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Actually, I selected Eva’s card at random from a bin of such ID cards for females – women and children – who were victims of the ghettos, deportations, concentration camps, and, for so many, the mass murders in the killing fields and gas chambers of the Holocaust.

I too am a student of history, and I’ve read extensively about the World War II theatres in Europe where my father served, and those in the Pacific where my mother was stationed. And – as painful as it is – I want to know as much about the Holocaust as possible. Because such a thing must never happen again.

Eva was 2½ years old when my mother was born in Chicago, a first-generation American whose parents emigrated to the U.S. from Romania around the turn of the century. Just 20-some years later, my Romanian-American mother would serve with the Allies to help liberate families such as Eva’s who had become trapped in their homelands.

In Poland, Ava married her boyfriend Herman in 1939; then the Germans invaded. One day the Gestapo banged on their door and slapped Eva’s father-in-law around. They demanded the family’s valuables, which had already been looted, and Eva herself confronted the officers.

In 1941, Eva and Herman were tossed into the ghetto of Piotrkow Trybunalski after they arrived there looking for food. Eva’s family was deported there as well, and she worked with her mother and sisters for three years in the ghetto. In 1944 all the women were deported to Ravensbreuk, a concentration camp in Germany.

Eva’s health deteriorated, and the by the time she was evacuated with the other prisoners to Bergen-Belsen ahead of the Allied advance, she had lost most of the tissue in her spine. Eva’s mother, Machla Spicehandler Braun, became so weakened by starvation and disease that she lay dying in Bergen-Belsen on the floor of her filthy barrack.

Two days before the British liberated the camp in April 1945, Machla died at Bergen-Belsen. Eva’s father, Yakob, had been deported to Buchenwald in 1944 and then to Bergen-Belsen, where he died without ever making contact his family. Eva was liberated by the British and she moved to the United States in 1950. The Holocaust Museum has no record of what happened to Herman Levine, and I know nothing more of Eva.

Eva’s story lives on with me, however, because I received her ID card #2633. This July 6 was the first of her birthdays that I will commemorate by bearing witness for both the dead and the living, and – as a member of the human race – working to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Because such a thing must never happen again.

This piece appears in Colorado Community Newspapers and is reprinted here with permission.

Andrea W. Doray is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and humanist living in Arvada, CO. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in communication from the University of Northern Colorado. Andrea has authored several children’s books and is currently assembling her children’s poems for a collection that incorporates principles of lifelong literacy. A former Peace Corps trainee, Andrea is a national speaker who advocates for education, literacy, and opportunity for the unserved, the underserved, the marginalized, the at-risk, and the family-next-door populations. Andrea believes that wherever we are in the world, wherever we are in life, we have an obligation to offer our voices when others have none. Visit her page and read her other Writing for Peace blog posts here.

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  • Erica Chenoweth Joins Writing for Peace

Erica Chenoweth smallI am joining Writing for Peace because of the ability of written expression to deepen empathy for one another. Because empathy is crucial for resolving violent conflict, I believe the young artists of the world have unmatched potential to tap into sources of empathy, creativity, and understanding to create new solutions to today’s conflicts. ~Erica Chenoweth

Erica Chenoweth, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and an Associate Senior Researcher at the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO). An internationally recognized authority on political violence and its alternatives, Foreign Policy magazine ranked her among the Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2013 for her efforts to promote the empirical study of civil resistance. Chenoweth received the 2014 Karl Deutsch Award, which the International Studies Association gives annually to the scholar under the age of 40 who has made the greatest impact on the field of international politics or peace research. Visit Erica’s page here to learn more about her work.

  • Release Date Set for 2014 DoveTales

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts “Contrast” edition is set to release on July 30th. With the change in printer, our primary concern was to maintain the quality our young writers and contributors have rightly come to expect. With that in mind, the book will be published by McNaughton & Gunn, Inc., a printer recommended by Writing for Peace Adviser Richard Krawiec.

Watch the website for contributor information and new art reflecting the book’s beautiful black and white photography by our Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz.

 

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