Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"I Found A Silver Lining"

      Today -- Jan. 27 -- is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This is the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in southern Poland.
Rose and Louis Van Thyn
(The Shreveport Times photo)
      My father, Louis Van Thyn, was among the Jewish Holocaust survivors liberated from there. My mother, Rose, had been imprisoned in Auschwitz until a few weeks earlier; she was among those who trudged the cold of the western Europe winter on a "Death March" and was one of the survivors freed from another concentration camp.
      Both lost all their immediate family and their first spouses -- among the 6 million Jewish people exterminated by Nazi Germany.
      Rose and Louis met after World War II ended, back in their hometown (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) and married in October 1946.
      Mom wrote this in January 1991. It is entitled "I Found A Silver Lining."
      Once upon a time, in my younger years, before the world was set ablaze, I lived the good life. I had no fears, no worries, a loving family, lots of friends, laughter, dancing and singing. What a joy life was. Everybody had a name, everybody had a face.
       For me the sun was always shining bright, the fragrance of blooming flowers everywhere, the birds sang their melodies in tune. If the sky had dark clouds, I did not see them; if it was cold and wet outside, it did not bother me; I felt warm and secure.
       In my blindness or innocence, it never crossed my mind that everything could change so drastically. Sometimes when I cried, for what must have been an unimportant reason, my sweet, dear and oh-so-wise mother would so, "Dry your eyes, my darling, and save your tears for when you really need them." I thought, what a strange thing to say. I later wondered if she had a premonition, had she known something I was not aware of.
      Then, as in ancient times, a tyrant came to power. All that had been good and decent vanished; hate and evil triumphed. This demagogue and his consorts wanted all the Jews murdered. They were gathered, thrown into cattle cars, tortured, used as human guinea pigs, robbed of their dignity, their spirit, in a most atrocious way.
      They were brought to one of the most lugubrious and desolate places in the world. There they were disposed of in a worse way than animals. They were pushed into big, black ovens, hundreds of them at the same time -- men, women and children. The poor, poor children -- 1 1/2 million of them, they had not even a chance to live yet.
      Big red flames spew their choking odors of burned flesh and poisonous gas high into the air, ashes were spread all around. Nobody seemed to hear the sorrowful cries for help. Would anybody ever comprehend the depth of this enormous tragedy. It went on for years.
     When it was all over there was this scary deadly silence, a great big emptiness. They called this most tragic event ever, a Holocaust; definition, total destruction of human life, by fire. Few people came out of this hell. I am one of them.
      Experts came up with a statistic, a number -- 6 million. They had no names nor faces; they were only shadows now.
       To me, they were not a statistic or a number; they were the souls of my brethren. I knew and felt that their souls would forever be entwined with mine. I cried and cried till I had no more tears. I then understood what my dear mother had meant. I felt so sad, not even for my suffering but for 6 million humans whose only  crime had been that they were Jews.
      I had so many questions. How could the so-called civilized world have tolerated this unbelievable cruel injustice? How could I go on living? How come I was still alive? Where and when was I to start anew?
      One thing I was sure of, that this was not only a loss for us as Jews, but a loss to mankind.
      But God gave me strength and courage. Slowly I learned to start living and to cope. I got married again to a sweet, caring man, Louis Van Thyn. He understood; he had lived through the same horrendous experience.
     We have two children, one of each -- a boy and a girl. We are fortunate to have come to this country and Shreveport with the help of some wonderful people, the Gilbert family, and the Shreveport Jewish Federation. We will never forget that.
      ... We have a family again. They make life worth living. I thank God every day for all the blessings.
      People tell me I was lucky. That is really not the word. Lucky is when you win a lottery. I did not win anything. I was given something, the most precious gift, a second chance at life.
      I will forever grieve in my heart for 11 million people who perished lonely and forsaken. I realize now that I have an obligation to them, to tell of their suffering to anybody who wants to hear and learn of the Holocaust.
      Although the sun does not shine as bright as before, the fragrance of blooming flowers has dwindled somewhat, the birds sing out of tune now and then, and I can see clouds in the sky now, I am very blessed. God has been good to me.




  1. Thank you Nico for sharing ! She was remarkable and managed to write what our parents felt.

  2. This should be read by every living person today.

  3. From Roger S. Braniff Sr.: Phyllis and I watched three hours last night on AHC -- Alternate History Channel, until midnight, documentaries about the Auschwitz camps. How ironic that you post the info from your Mother and Dad, and it being the 71st anniversary. (Not sure anniversary is the right choice of words. I associate that word with something of joy, not). Just unbelievable to us. And I must admit, I was never aware all the years we attended school together that your family was victim of this evil monstrous act of pure HATE.
    I remember several years back the remembrance was held at our church, Summer Grove. We attended that when your mother was there giving her testimony. I remember how amazed our then Pastor Rod Masteller was with her!
    When I opened your blog and showed it to Phyllis, I asked her to read it aloud. She almost could not finish reading it, she broke into tears of heartfelt sorrow, that someone that we knew could have been a part of such in their life. Thanks for sharing, and I am sure that there is a whole lot more that we can learn from this. God bless you, my friend.

  4. From Steve Ferguson: Having led a dozen pilgrimages to Israel over the years, I never fail to visit Yad Vashem -- and remember! Shalom, My Brother, and thanks for sharing an incredibly touching story.

  5. From Marcia Landers Wiseman: FYI, Larry's ancestors were Jewish and from Germany. The name was originally Weismann. They relocated to London before the Night of Terror, changed their spelling of their name to Wiseman, and the children converted to Methodist. His family never talks about it, but his Aunt Janelle, the sole girl in her generation, told me the story to share with [daughter] Dyan. Larry was always pro-Jewish and remembered his heritage. We would celebrate the first night of Hanukkah and Passover in our home with a menorah and the plate of Passover foods. Did he ever tell you this story?

  6. From Jon Stephenson: Reading your Mom's blog reminds us that we really don't have anything to complain about.

  7. From Tommy Youngblood: Your parents' recollections are always stunning. We can never forget.

  8. From Kitty van der Woude: Your parents were so amazing. How is it possible that in some Middle East countries they work with schoolbooks with the text: All Jews should be annihilated. Official books, in official schools ...

  9. From Reina Spier: Kitty sent me your mother’s story.
    Today here in Amsterdam we had the Auschwitz remembrance day. Cold, grey, wet and gloomy, as it should be.
    The survivors have nearly vanished now (although some good friends, some family partly in the States and partly in Israel and partly here among whom is my husband), but we’ll go on keeping their memories and telling their gruesome stories.

  10. From Marilyn Meyer Kaplan: This incredibly poignant piece is especially important I think when there is so much fanaticism and demagoguery in the world.

  11. From Dee Bustillo: This brought tears to my eyes. I have always read everything printed about your mother. She was a wonderful person. I told the buyer of her home all about her. I told the buyer that her new home had a great history.

  12. From Jim Pruett: Unreal reality. Beautiful, gut-wrenching words. Try as we might, we who live in privilege have no framework deep enough for truly understanding the Rose/Louis experience. Thanks for sharing.

  13. From Lonnie Dunn: This blog is so touching and profound. It is so relevant to our world situation right now! Everyone who cherishes life and freedom must read your mom's comments and hear her soul. I hope you approve my sharing with FB friends that I pray will share it on and on. I loved your parents. We cannot let the world ever forget!

  14. From David Oliver: I was spellbound reading your mother's words -- beautiful, poignant with a not-so-veiled warning to which we should pay close attention. Thank you for sharing.

  15. From Dru Mason: Oh my! What a moving piece. It brought tears to my eyes. Man's inhumanity to man. How can this have happened and is it happening again? I have to share.

  16. From Greg Pederson: Extremely powerful and moving words by your mother. Thanks very much for sharing them.

  17. From Rod Chandler: She was a gift to all of us who had the honor of hearing her share her story. The first time I heard her speak at Sunset Acres Elementary School I was captivated. I heard her speak at least a dozen times, and she always had the full attention of the audience.

  18. From Hl Ross: It truly was an honor to have known them well. Their memories will live on for many years.

  19. From Sarah Akin: This is such an amazing recollection of the Holocaust. It is history that must always be remembered.

  20. From Philip Kopuit: Thanks for sharing this. Amazing story by a very brave woman. So glad she was my aunt!

  21. From Frank Thaxton: Two awesome people that I will never forget. The older I get, the more I realize the impact these two wonderful people had on my life.

  22. From Cathy Cowan: Your mother continues to teach us the value of each person and the blessings of each day when you share her writings. Thank you.