(I use full names when I know folks well. I use initials when folks are simply acquaintances of mine).
Every once in a while I encounter A and R as they walk around the lake. They have been wed for 42 years. They hold hands as they walk. I like that so much. (I am a bit of a romantic!).
I hadn’t seen them for a while until Wednesday last. We chatted for a bit and they allowed that they had been visiting family members in Newburyport, MA. (That happens to be one of my favourite Towns in Massachusetts, and had I been a bit wealthier I would have been happy to retire there).
A and R told me that they had lived for many years in Natick, MA, and I told them of my sojourn in Cambridge, MA.
A asked if I had been a teacher (there are a couple of well known Universities in Cambridge!), and of course I let them know that I had served St. James’s Church there.
A responded with something which made me very sad: “We are Jewish”, he said, “and we hope that you will not hold that against us”.
My sadness arose from the very idea that as a Christian Priest I would “hold something against Jews”; and also from the knowledge that “historically and generally speaking” Christians have been extremely hostile to Jews.
We talked a bit about the evils of Antisemitism. That led A to tell me that as a young child in Belgium he had escaped probable transportation to a death camp because he and other Jewish children had been given shelter by Belgian Nuns in their convent.
A’s parents (of German and Polish backgrounds) refused to wear the yellow star, and continued to live in an apartment in Brussels. Their common language was German and they used it in their at home conversations.
The tenants who lived in the apartment below them overheard these conversations in German.
Immediately after liberation those downstairs tenants reported them to the restored Belgian Gendarmerie, stating that “there are German spies who live in the apartment above us”. The authorities very quickly discovered the real truth.
It is quite amazing that these two Jewish people in Brussels were never betrayed to the Gestapo, simply because their downstairs neighbours thought them to be German spies.
I’ll be having coffee soon with A and R to hear more of their story.
In the meantime, A sent me this remarkable video from England. It is entitled “Dancing under the Gallows”. It is all about the 106 year old woman who is the oldest living survivor of the concentration camps. She was in Theresienstadt.