A great honour was bestowed on us this morning, as our little group of 30 had the privilege of being the audience of Yehuda Bacon. Yehuda is a child survivor of the Holocaust. He is the only person from his Orthodox Jewish family that made it out. Between the ages of 13 and 15, Yehuda saw his father marched into the gas chambers, and saw his mother and sister die a few weeks before the liberation. He miraculously survived Auschwitz, Mauthausen (a work camp that Ian visited two years ago, which was designed to work and starve to death the Jews within three months of arrival), and three death marches similarly designed to kill the captives through starvation, dehydration, and exposure to the elements. On May 5, 1945, at the age of 15, Yehuda was liberated by the U.S. Army.
Yehuda became a famous artist whose hopeful works hang triumphantly in the Holocaust Museum that we visited in the afternoon.
There was not one ounce of bitterness, hatred, or sadness in Yehuda’s message of love to us. He told us about how, after he recovered in a convent in Prague, an amazing man named Premysl Pitter (whom Yehuda still refers to as Mr. Pitter) took the surviving children of the Holocaust to reside in his palacial residence and helped them to truly live again.
In 1959, Yehuda went on to be a professor of graphics and design, after several study visits in Paris and London. His works hang in the most prestigious of places.
He is a tiny man, small in stature, who needs some help walking. He is 86 years old, and full of nonsense and joy, and he yearned for our questions. He talked for over an hour and strongly urged us to make a difference in the life of every human being we encounter each day.
He was asked how he kept his faith. He answered that he had learned The Torah as a little child, and he believed its words. He had just had his Bar Mitzvah before deportation from his childhood home. He knew that the Nazis may be able to kill his body, but that they could never destroy his spirit.
I got a beautiful hug and kiss on the cheek from this precious man – a man I will never forget.
“Beloved, let us love one another…”