Nate Leipciger sits across from me at my dining-room table. He is a young man of 91 years. He is a Holocaust Survivor. It is moments like this when I feel most alive, most real, as I am joined by someone who has vast awareness, who is highly inspiring.
Nate was eleven when his the hell called the Holocaust began. His personal road took him through ghettos, death camps and ultimately to Auschwitz. He was grabbed away from the safety he called home. He was stripped, de-loused and humiliated. All of this persecution happened right next to his father, Jacob, the person in his life who was his protector – a partner with God in his creation, in his life.
One day, early on in the Holocaust, young Nate heard a noise outside his barracks. He jumped up on a bed, stared out of a broken slat and saw a site, “I never wish I had seen”. Lines of Jewish woman walked by crying, screaming, knowing they were about “to go up the chimney”. Later Nate, a beautiful Jewish boy, determined his mother, Leah, and his sister, Blima were two of those women. The mother of this boy, and his only sibling were executed, murdered by the Nazis. And that was it. They were gone.
And it was Yom Kipper day. And today Yom Kipper is “intense” for Nate and he remembers Leah and Blima and he says the name of all his cousins who went up that same chimney.
The war continued and men able to abuse Nate, did so, sexually, mentally, physically and….and….and. But Nate made it. He told me in this interview, his father saved his life a number of times. I found it quite something Nate could never satisfy his father prior to the war. Blima was the apple of his eye. Yet a father is a father, is a father and while a son may not size up intellectually or otherwise at an early age, there is an on-button inside a dad, inside Jacob, that never failed to flip on when Nate, a precious Jewish kid, needed saving. Imagine, your father or your mother does that. What must you feel in your heart?
I asked Nate if there was kindness in the camps. He said kindness was everywhere. “Give me an example,” I asked Nate. “My father and I worked different shifts. Once I threw my father a piece of bread (while he worked). He missed it. Another prisoner picked it up and gave it to him. That is kindness.” Unlike Eli Wiesel who said his father was a burden to him, Jacob and Nate were intertwined and each survival, their breath, was dependent on the other.
Nate continued, “kindness was a nice word. Kindness was when I wasn’t pushed out of line even though I was little.”
“You have a choice of being kind or not being kind,” Nate said. He applied this belief to today, and always.
After all this, after the brutality levied against him; after the murder of his Leah and Blima, after he become emaciated and no longer was able to walk, Nate Leipciger still had hope. And he stated with confidence during our schmooze, “I believe in humanity. Man is basically good, yet there are influences that make us bad.”
Nate has that hope today despite his hardship, despite the fact a few short months ago, he and his beautiful wife Bernice, buried their daughter. Oy!
About the Jewish people, the man sitting across from me with that gleam in his eye said, “what did they do when they were liberated? They built synagogues. They said kaddish for those they had lost. And they got married and they had children.”
About hatred, Nate Leipciger said, “Hate has no influence on the people you hate. I feel the hatred in myself. It destroys the person hating.”
Nate Leipciger is an author. He has returned to Auschwitz with Prime Minister Trudeau where they cried together. He speaks regularly to students about his experiences. Nate is alive. Very alive. And he made me feel the same during our conversation on Hatradio!
God bless Nate Leipciger.
Today I ask humanity to embrace him warmly and safely, as he has done to us. Please listen to this interview. It’s important for your hope in humankind. Hatradio! The show that schmoozes.(Thank you to David Nefesh for the music, and Howard Pasternack for post-production)
Credit for music in commercial:
Slow Burn Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0