Friday, 25 January 2019

An Angel This Way Came - Remembering the Holocaust

On Sunday we'll spend a few sombre moments remembering the millions who perished in the Holocaust. At my local cinema there is a special showing of Schindler's List. I won't go to see it as I've recently watched it at home and, for me, some features are so moving, so dreadful, I prefer to be in my own company when viewing.

It's not the obvious scenes of terror, humiliation and cruelty that always have the greatest effect. Just as when a loved one dies an emotion can come from nowhere. A certain smell, or a memory or a voice. And it can be hard not to cry. In Schindler's List one of the most remarkable scenes is momentary, simple but dignified.

In the film, after Polish Jews are forced from their homes to occupy what becomes the dangerously overpopulated, underfed Krakow ghetto, we see a formerly well-to-do couple in a run-down room.
                           'It could have been worse,' says the wife.
                           'Tell me, how could it possibly have been worse?' shrieks the exasperated husband. He was used to a fine apartment, a comfortable bedroom, heavy carved furniture, china, silver, mirrors and all the trappings of a middle-class life. Now he’s reduced to owning a suitcase and only part of a room with a blanket, hanging as a curtain, between him and others sharing the same space.
As its the last day, March 13, for Jews to enter the ghetto more crowd in to the room. But a family, who look less well-to-do, walk through the door and quietly bow and, one after the other, say 'Good day.' It is the simplicity of these people, who don't want to be in the ghetto any more than their wealthier neighbours, that seems so moving. Quietly and politely they bid 'Hello' to people with whom they are crammed together.They aren't outwardly angry but try to get on with others in horrendous circumstances as best they can. Why should such well-brought up people be so persecuted?

On a seemingly unrelated matter we have had to contend with things breaking in our house and garden. This week we had a rotten piece of garden fence collapse, one door handle's got stuck and a kitchen cuboard hinge came away leaving the door dangling, uselessly above the kitchen floor. What to do? We can't even use a drill properly let alone fix hinges, fences and handles! Richard and I are truly incompetent at DIY.

It was then that an angel came to our rescue. A kindly man in our neighbour-nextdoor scheme had just the right hinge in his kit box and came, promptly, at 10:30 am this morning to fix it. He was a qualified, but now-retired, engineer and was also able to replace the spring in a door handle for us. Another workman came to replace our fence. But the engineer wanted no money, merely a donation to his charity. We were more than happy to give a money to his cause as he shared common interests with ourselves ie helping in Sierra Leone and, in his case, Burundi and Zimbabwe. Again, a quiet dignity... and he got the job done. We felt blessed by an angel (and our fence-man knocked £50 off his estimate.)

It's a good feeling when people aren't greedy and simply want to help others and provide a service. It's also an effective way to promote a charity where, in his case, he tries to help people in war-torn or desperate situations. He helps communities grow crops more efficiently and to give back some self respect to others in straitened or degraded circumstances.

I felt that today we were blessed. It's an antidote to the cruelty of the Holocaust. And so refreshing after months of politicians arguing and the poor being downtrodden and scapegoated rather than helped. A rare occurence to find a good man who wanted to help without making a charge. Prices are rising and, in some quarters, so is a grasping mentality.

But, for today, an angel this way came.

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