…Warm tears begin to fall down my face, when I realize that in another time and a different place that could have been me. After all, my DNA results say that I am 100% Ashkenazi.
I stare into the air in disbelief, subconsciously holding my breath. Maybe it is just numbness to the reality of it all, as my wife’s words roll around in my head. Or maybe they are too close to home and hurt too deeply to even contemplate them.
“She was only six when they sent her to the camp,” she says in a somber tone.
I see the look of shock on my wife’s face. Only six, I hear myself repeat in my head. ONLY SIX! Then she shows me a grainy photograph of a little girl in happier times, in a dress with her hair neatly tied up by a bow.
Oh, how my mind wishes it had not seen that, or begun down the path of wondering what happened to all those Jewish children who were sent to concentration camps. It struggles to suppress some of the images it retrieves that are hung on the walls of Yad Vashem. It aches as it recalls the voices of those who deny that this ever happened. Or those who justify these atrocities. After all, they would say in calloused tones, “Didn’t they chant: Crucify, Crucify?” And yet as the truth dawns on me, warm tears begin to fall down my face, when I realize that in another time and a different place that could have been me. After all, my DNA results say that I am 100% Ashkenazi.
Her fate? By God’s grace she survived the hell she endured long enough to be liberated.
Was put on a boat and sent to far off shores. Lived a full life. Was happily married. Had children, grand-children and even great grand-children. But what of the other 1.5 million children sent to similar camps who weren’t as fortunate? I imagine that, from time to time, she looked at the numbers engraved on her arm and asked herself why she had survived when they hadn’t. Why had God allowed that? And then in my mind’s eye I see Him, radiant in white next to her. He bends ever so lovingly down to whisper softly into her ear and says: “No my child. Arbeit macht dich nicht frei. I have done what was needed. It is finished. Follow me and you will be free indeed”. Then hope fills my heart again. He is love and so should we be to all His image bearers. Then I slowly begin to breathe again.
 Above the entrance of concentration camps a sign would say in German: Arbeit macht frei meaning “Work sets you free”. In contrast, Arbeit macht dich nicht frei means “Work does not set you free”.
Shane Durbach is Associate Professor of Chemistry at TWU. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Shane lived in Johannesburg until moving to B.C., Canada four years ago. He currently resides in Abbotsford, B.C.