It was in Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp in southern Poland, where I met astonishment and anger, all at once. There, I learned the meaning of being available—to God—and He would help me to be available to others.
Auschwitz is a place where one’s own spiritual wonder would meet Maksymilian Kolbe, a priest who gave his life in place of a fellow prisoner. At the end of July 1941, three prisoners disappeared from the camp. Ten men were picked to be starved to death in an underground bunker to deter further escape attempts. When one of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, “My wife! My children,” Kolbe volunteered to take his place.
For nearly two decades, I refused to go to Auschwitz, but a time came in the mid-70s when I was asked to assist the Adventist World Church leader and translate for him as he laid a wreath at the wall of death. It was a solitary walk just within the perimeter of the camp where I spotted a piece of barbed wire—a leftover piece lying on the path. I kept it as a reminder of those tragic days when hatred for those who were different had a winning run.
It was at this sacred place, consecrated by the blood of the innocents, where my uncle Anszel’s first wife and two small children perished. My personal wonder was fortified out of that context through a conversation I had with him while sitting in his hospitable home, having the best of home-cooked Jewish cuisine, and trying to unlock his thoughts. He said, “I have forgiven the Nazis. One cannot forget the past completely, but it’s not me who should judge them. I don’t want to talk about it.”
At that moment, for me, the concept of forgiveness became a child of what it means to love. It was God forgiving me that put me on the road to following Him, no questions asked. And my Christian attitude is to be wherever my fellow sojourners in this world are. Many of them are strangers to you and me. They look different yet are still seeking and wondering, ‘Who is this Jesus?’
Will they see you and me as people who are always ready to give all we have to save them?
–Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director; photo supplied