Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Searching for Solace

Devoirelle Halberstam

“I came here today, to Auschwitz, to fulfill a request. The last request of a man I knew. He wrote a letter.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I trudge through the mud, drenched by the rain. Drenched by my tears. My shoulders are hunched against the cold, as I gaze at the ground unseeingly. Slowly, heavily, I walk past the barracks toward the crematorium. I feel the finality, knowing that for so many, this was the end. This was where millions of my people perished. This was Auschwitz.

And then we reach the gas chambers. My eyes are transfixed. It’s a mess, a ruin of brick and rubble. Only the occasional twisted metal remains of a pipe testify to the horror of the past. To what was committed against those once living, breathing, happy souls, whose lives were snuffed out by evil.

I see the other members of my group struggling to grasp the enormity of the tragedy. Our heads are bent.

And then I notice her.

She stands slightly further apart, her shoulders shaking. Her hair is covered in a scarf, legs clad in jeans beneath her long raincoat. She is trembling, exuding an air of fragility. I watch as she slowly approaches, her footsteps nervous and hesitant.

She walks over to our tour guide, and stands quiet for a moment, evidently mustering the courage to speak.

“Excuse me.” Her voice is low and slightly hoarse with evidence of a strong Israeli accent. “I couldn’t help noticing your group. I saw the way you were praying.”

“Yes,” our guide replies quietly. “So many lives ended here, so many bodies didn’t even merit a burial, a grave. We’re praying for them, the unknown dead, who will never have a relative pray at their tombstone.”

The woman is quiet for a moment. Her hands are twisting uneasily and I notice a piece of paper clutched tightly in her fist.

She struggles to speak. “I came here today, to Auschwitz, to fulfill a request. The last request of a man I knew. Ovadia ben Malka.” Her voice breaks.


To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

What’s in a Name?
Shoshana Friedman “What does Writer X have to say this week?”
Atonement — Fake and Real
Yonoson Rosenblum White confessionals and faux rituals
Four Walls Coming Full Circle
Eytan Kobre All the while, there’s been a relationship in the offing...
And Yet We Smile
Yisroel Besser We are the nation that toils to be happy at all costs
Out of This World
Rabbi Henoch Plotnick Dirshu Hashem b’himatzo — we are in Hashem’s company now...
Steven and Jonathan Litton
Rachel Bachrach The co-owners of Litton Sukkah, based in Lawrence, NY
Tali Messing
Moe Mernick Tali Messing, engineering manager at Facebook Tel Aviv
Sick Note
Jacob L. Freedman “Of course, Dr. Freedman. Machul, machul, machul”
Avoiding Health Columns Can Be Good for You
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Only one reliable guide for good health: our Torah
Endnote: Side Notes
Riki Goldstein Most Jewish music industry entertainers have side profes...
Me, Myself, and Why
Faigy Peritzman Where there’s no heart and no love, there’s no point
Can’t Do It Without You
Sarah Chana Radcliffe When you step up to the plate, you build your home team
Eternal Joy
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz The joy of Succos is the fruit of spiritual victory
The Appraiser: Part III
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer Make sure your child knows his strengths
Hidden Special Needs
Rena Shechter You won’t see his special needs, but don’t deny them
Dear Wealthy Friend
Anonymous There’s no need for guilt. I am truly happy for you