Keeping Hope Alive in the Time of Lies
My birthday, June 6th, is a tumultuous day in history....
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And on Anchor HERE
Here’s the first of my “inspirational essays” that I said I would start writing once a month. I barely got it in there, right at the end of May! Phew!
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My birthday is coming up on June 6th. It’s a pretty tumultuous day in history.
The 6 Day War started on my birthday. My family was living in Switzerland at that time and just happened to be traveling in Egypt only days before the war broke out. The highlight was supposed to be visiting Israel but that proved impossible. Just asking about how to get there at the Cairo tourist agency subjected my dad to abusive screams.
Israel does not exist!
Dad stubbornly answered back, yes it does.
Again, they screamed, more forcefully than before, that it didn’t.
Dad repeated what he knew to be true. It did.
The rest of our family held our breath as we always did when things like this happened, hoping that this wasn’t going to be the time when we would at last be carted off to prison or killed on the spot. Fortunately, it wasn’t.
Dad had no choice but to admit defeat and we took a ferry to Lebanon, staying at a Beirut seaside resort that was ominously empty except for us.
Anxious days past as my parents tried to find a way out of the escalating conflict. Finally, we decided to try our luck at the border of Syria and Turkey. Traveling on winding mountainous roads, through villages brimming with angry men carrying guns, we made it into Turkey just hours before the borders were closed.
I celebrated my 11th birthday in Ankara as we received word that war had broken out. Years later, my parents finally made it to Israel. I did, too, at the age of 26. It was one of the most memorable times of my life.
My husband and I stayed with friends in Tel Aviv. The father was Jewish, from Poland, and the mother was Filipino. We traveled with their two sons, both of whom were a bit younger than me, to Jerusalem. There, we spent a memorable night with Arab friends who owned a shop in the Arab quarter. We ate a delicious meal amongst much fun and laugher and were given striped jellabiyas. We all laid out in a row on the floor to sleep. Early the next morning we hopped on the bus for Masada and the Dead Sea.
We’re coming up to one of the most inspiring days in American history. June 6th, 1944. D-Day.
I wasn’t alive then—I’m not that old—but as a child of ten and then of seventeen, my family did visit the beaches of Normandy and my mom, a history teacher, told us the story of what happened there.
The Normandy Invasion consisted of “5,333 Allied ships and landing craft embarking nearly 175,000 men. The British and Canadians put 75,215 troops ashore, and the Americans 57,500, for a total of 132,715, of whom about 3,400 were killed or missing.”
We can read accounts of some of those men, such as this one by Sergeant Richard W. Herklotz, US 29th Division
As we got closer to the beach we saw that casualties were floating in the water just like refuse in a harbour. There was this and that equipment floating, soldiers, sailors – it was very disheartening. For hours off the coast we watched the tide bring out the debris and the bodies of those who had died.
The landing at Omaha was going terribly. Hundreds of the initial assault waves lay dead. Indeed, by the end of the day, over 2,000 Allied men had been killed on the beach. And yet sheer weight of numbers and a steely determination meant that soldiers eventually began making inroads up the hill towards the German bunkers…
And Anne Frank’s diary entry:
“‘This is D-Day,’ the BBC announced at twelve. ‘The invasion has begun’...Is this really the beginning of the long-awaited liberation? The liberation we’ve all talked so much about, which still seems too good, too much of a fairy tale ever to come true? Will this year, 1944, bring us victory? We don’t know yet. But where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.”
Tragically, victory came too late for Anne Frank. But for so many others, those men in uniform showing up to liberate them were like angels from heaven.
In his 1945 report, Colonel William Wilson Quinn of the Office of Strategic Services, U.S. Seventh Army, wrote that, “Dachau, 1933-1945, will stand for all time as one of history’s most gruesome symbols of inhumanity. There our troops found sights, sounds and stenches beyond belief, cruelties so enormous as to be incomprehensible to the normal mind.”
As a child of ten, I walked through the Dachau gates proclaiming “Arbeit Macht Frei” or “Work Makes One Free,” Mom gathered us close and said, “Imagine it’s the end of the 1930s and you are children torn from your parents, lost, confused, scared, not understanding why you are here or what is happening, and you enter these gates.”
What I saw that day, through her words and with my own eyes, will forever be seared in my mind. All my worst nightmares came true; the gas chambers, the barracks, seeing photos of the horrific experiments, looking at haunted faces and soulless eyes. That was the worst, the eyes, for it is by looking into each other’s eyes that we connect with one another. I saw how the soul can be sucked right out of people, their eyes becoming empty shells.
That was what happened when all hope was gone. I never wanted that to happen to me.
In one of the barracks, we encountered a woman shaking her head and saying over and over in German, “It was never as nice as this. Never as nice as this.”
Mom spoke German so she understood. “She must’ve been a prisoner here,” she whispered to us. I looked at the bunks, the room, everything bare and clean. What must it have looked like when it was filled with starving women awaiting death? The woman talking to herself in front of us was old now, her shoulders bowed, her face twisted with the pain of remembrance. How was it possible to survive the hell she must have gone through and ever feel one moment of happiness again, ever laugh, or tell a joke or listen to one, even ever be sane?
And yet, amazingly, so many did survive and went on to live fulfilling lives, bearing children to whom they passed on their stories. Each generation has their own, unique stories of honor and courage and strength of the human spirit.
We must never stop sharing our stories.
That is why I write. To make a record of what is happening now with the prayer that it will last beyond the horrors of the moment and give us hope through the dark days ahead.
Each of our stories is just a little bit, but together they create a powerful whole.
For myself, the past two and a half years have led me to question everything our government tells us about our history and current events. “Truths” that I took for granted years ago—even when I first started writing these essays—like the efficacy of vaccines, have been turned upside down in my mind.
I’m not even sure we landed on the moon anymore.
Are our elected officials really even elected? Is everything rigged to deceive us?
Is the official story of D-Day one hundred percent accurate? Probably not. Just the name, Operation “Overlord,” takes on a whole new meaning for us today. I’ve used the term “overlord” in a few of my essays and it hasn’t been complimentary. We look at what our governments have done in Iraq under Bush, for example, and now under Biden in Afghanistan and Ukraine, and we are appalled that this is our country. I’ve heard many who once were proud to be Americans say they don’t feel that way anymore.
We want to believe in our leaders, that they aren’t scheming, weak, greedy shills, beholden to their overlords. But in all good conscience, we can no longer believe that.
It’s a harsh awakening, but it’s also wonderful and ironically freeing in an odd kind of way, even as tyranny is closing in.
Would any of us wish to go back to the way we were before Covid upended our lives?
No matter what might have been in the minds of our leaders at the end of World War II, no matter the backdoor deals leaders of nations ended up making amongst themselves, just as they are doing now, those men who stormed the beaches of Normandy will forever be my inspiration. As will the soldiers who fought against a tidal wave of hatred that wished to annihilate them during the 6 Day War.
And despite how scared I was at the time, I’m proud of my dad for insisting that “Israel does exist,” even as Nasar’s voice blared from loudspeakers in the streets that he would destroy Israel and the United States. And there we were, one very noticeable American family in the midst of it all.
Now more than ever it’s important to speak out against the falsehoods being told by the “overlords.” It will always be the individual stories of eyewitnesses that keep hope alive. Passing them on from generation to generation will ensure they live forever.
Thank you for reading and listening. Have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend. Please share and comment and subscribe.
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