Now it is absolutely quiet in the room. We hardly breathe because we feel that now the direct gaze into the abyss is opened.
So often read in our history books, in the literature, so often heard at school – yes, it was part of the learning material. But what was all “material to be learned”, all reading and hearing from the far distance of later generations – the newly built house Germany, with a lot of courage, a constitution, a solid legal form and solid basement – what was it in front of this one sentence “What have they done with us… “.
We sit opposite Yosef, 70 years after the Holocaust, in a small Jerusalem apartment, looking at mountains, hearing the sounds of children playing on a playground outside.
We are listening, trembling, holding back our tears. His fingers give him stbility, his back is pressed upright, the big sofa offers him a lot of seating, but he sits only on the outermost edge.
Yosef talks, quietly, in good German, concentrated, internally focused, about the pain of the torture.
After nearly starving to death, in the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen as a 7 or 8 year old boy he once picked up a raw potato from the field and put it quickly into his mouth. “This potato is not yours. This potato belongs to the German people!”
A German SS man grabs him the potato out of his hand.
And he has already a severe punishment ready for the boy: the German SS men tear out all of Yosef´s toenails.
“Look, I just visited the doctor again. There is nothing to do.” Yosef pulling out one foot from under the table, showing it to us – testimony of barbaric treatment, 70 years later.
In the years to come, in the darkness of a windowless room he was raped, daily, up to unconsciousness. Yosef is without consciousness, when the camp of Bergen-Belsen is liberated.
His memory slowly returns only two years later in a Swiss nursing home and rehabilitation center. All the other children in his barrack did not survive this hell.
His mother was gassed with 8 brothers and sisters in Auschwitz. Only two siblings escaped the German gas chambers with him. They too were in Bergen-Belsen. Upon arrival there, he lost them and did not see them again. Gradually he forgot that he ever had siblings. Now, in Switzerland slowly his memory returns.
The three siblings meet again. But to this day they can not tell each other about the horrors that they had experienced.
70 years after Bergen-Belsen, after the abandonment that followed the abandonment in a concentration camp. The abandonment in Europe, the abandonment in the postwar period, in which he must not go to school, but is abused in the kitchen in Palestine, the abandonment in the homeless living in the park of Jerusalem, because there is no integration of children and young people from Europe in Israel.
Then it is too late for Yosef. As a young teenager, he has not learned to read and write. Actually a losing battle. Abandoned and forgotten.
If not the miracle had happened that an old Jew, fled from Nazi Germany brought him from the homeless bank into a café, where a job as a waiter is offered. He would have loved to disappear in the ground, says Yosef. He prays in great despair.
A voice, Yeshua, answers him: I am here. From this very moment Yosef can read, write, calculate and speak hebrew! He works in his profession as a waiter with great passion, for decades.
Yosef, why do you like to live in Jerusalem?
It’s – you know – like I was wrapped in cotton wool. It is THE place. It is MY city.
Yosef (middle) with his brother and sister in Switzerland, about two years after the war.
Yosef´s mother with his siblings. They all did not survive the war.