My mother-in-law once belonged to a large, happy and prosperous family. She'd been an attorney, married to her first husband, a hospital administrator. They had a baby daughter whom they adored. Her parents disappeared first. They were arrested walking down the street, imprisoned and executed. Her husband was killed next, followed by her brother.
Eventually she and the baby were captured and placed in a labor camp. She returned from work one day to find that all the children had been exterminated. She'd hidden a cyanide capsule so she had the ability to choose her own time of demise. She cried herself to sleep that night and her mother spoke to her in a dream, insisting that she hadn't accomplished everything she was meant to do. She chose to live, surviving three concentration camps, including Auschwitz, where she was in line for the gas chamber seven times.
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The Holocaust teaches us invaluable lessons. Extensive documentation provided excruciating details about a network of 42,500 facilities in 35 countries used by the Nazis to concentrate, confine and kill over 20 million Jewish and Gentile victims. It brings up complex moral questions regarding justice, loss, forgiveness and the ultimate humanity of us all. Survivors did not let the numbers tattooed on their arms continue to define them. They defeated the Third Reich by letting go of their wretched past and moving on with their lives.
My mother-in-law married, emigrated to the U.S. and had a child. Her child is now the father of four and grandfather of six. Before she died, her story was filmed and incorporated into the Shoah Project, as were those of thousands of other survivors. These stories empower us to find meaning in our lives, even in the most terrible circumstances, and illustrate the strength of the human spirit.