Someone pointed out a few weeks back – the survivors of the Holocaust, like our own WWII generation, are dying off. Most of the remaining Holocaust survivors were teenagers or children at the time – and even they are getting on.
So I’m grateful to Saint Cloud State’s public radio outlet, KVSC, for broad/podcasting Dr. Henry Oertelt’s ten-part testimony, “An Unbroken Chain” – the story of his life, survival, and rescue.
Oertelt, a Berlin-born Jew, links his survival to the “unbroken chain” in the title; to eighteen different events (his being selected for one camp rather than another), lucky breaks (his youth and health), happenstances (an unexplained act of an SS officer that could have been expedience, or could have been…human kindness? To this day, Oertelt is not sure), or personalities (from his brother to General Patton, whose 90th Infantry Division rescued him in the midst of a death march days before the end of the war), without any one of which he’d not have survived.
By eighteen links – each fragile as glass and, in the end, utterly inseparable – Oertelt clung to life. For each of them, he’s profoundly, audibly grateful.
Go download and listen to the series. It’s a small story – the story of a man and his brother, really – told in a small way.
Which, in the end, is the only way to explain what may have been the biggest story of the last 100 years, one that is still affecting us today, even as the event’s survivors slip away.