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Of course you've heard about Auschwitz.  The complex was the largest of its kind established by the Nazi regime, which included three main camps. There, 1.1 million people were murdered.  But it's rare to meet a survivor.   Raise a salute to one Fritzie Fritzshall.

Just 13 years old when she arrived at Auschwitz - Birkenau, her train car was so overcrowded, half its occupants were dead on arrival—including her own grandfather.  

“A Jewish man in a striped uniform was forced to clear out the train car as quickly as possible,” Fritzie remembers.  “He asked me how old I was and when I told him I was 13, he told me, 'You will tell them you are 15.'”   His kind advice saved her life, as Fritzie was separated from her two younger brothers who had survived the train ride, but were later killed.

“They immediately shaved off our hair,” Fritzie told me. “When you are 13, your hair is very important to you.  I remember standing there, tears rolling down my face, bits of hair stuck to my cheeks as I stroked my head.” 

Not knowing her mother's fate, Fritzie inquired when she would be able to see her again.  Authorities merely pointed to the column of white smoke belching from the furnace chimneys. 

Yet even in this ocean of cruelty, she found an island of kindness in a gaunt stranger so emaciated Fritzie failed to recognize her as her own aunt.  “At night, she would stroke my face and say, 'Well, we made it through this day.  Maybe tomorrow will be better.  Let's get through one more day.”

It was encouragement Fritzie seized like a life preserver.  Indeed, she credits her survival to her aunt's positive outlook, though her aunt was eventually killed by the Nazis.

More than seven decades later, Fritzie has nightmares.  With the rise of ISIS and its extreme hate for Jews and Christians, in concert with a global slide toward anti-Semitism, I shudder to think those nightmares could be as much about the future as they are the past. 

“Woe to those who scheme iniquity....”  (Micah 2:1)


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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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