As she talked, I became aware of a sense of personal shame because my paternal lineage is German. My grandparents were both born in the states so it was not that I knew anyone who was involved in the attempts to annihilate the Jewish people, but the idea of sharing a heritage with those who were involved made me squirm. However, Gerda was not there to make anyone squirm with misguided shame. She was not there to share what would be a very understandable personal hatred and blame. Her sole reason for sharing her story was to plead with all of us to remember her story and the stories of her friends and relatives who did not survive and to make sure it did not happen again, not just to Jewish people again but to any group of people. She talked of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, Kosovo, Darfur, Rwanda and most recently in Myanmar. What is it that leads one group not just to go to war with another group but to be intent on eliminating the other group? Why is it that the rest of the world can be aware of the atrocities and not put an end to them?
What was most amazing about Gerda was her lack of hatred and bitterness. I do not know what was in her heart for those who had persecuted her, her family and friends, but her talk could have gone in many different negative directions. Yet, Gerda has been an inspiration for many in relating her story and working tirelessly for tolerance and love among all peoples, the kind of love that Jesus teaches us about in today’s gospel, a love not just for those who are easy to love but for our enemies. This woman is an example for all of us when we find it difficult to forgive others as God would do.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook