Freed! Finally …

Freed! Finally …


Heidelberg

"And whoever gives just a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple - I assure you: He will never lose his reward! " (Matt 10:42, HCSB)

World War II was over. The concentration camps were opened, and anyone was allowed to leave.

The "leaving" part was harder than you might think, however…

Some of the Jews were so emaciated and ill that they could hardly even walk, and once they were on the outside, most had no idea what to do. After having been slaves to the Nazis for so long, it was difficult for them to realize that they could now make their own choices. Some though were stronger than others.

Most left the camps with the ambition of finding their spouses and families. With most of Europe having been destroyed by the war, however, would they be able to find any of their family members alive?

They had to find out, and without even knowing if they still had a home to return to, they began the long, slow trek to their home towns.

These former concentration camp inmates would meet up with one problem after another. The first was the physical road blocks. With many of the Nazi soldiers disguising themselves as poor people, the Allies could allow no one to travel without identification papers. As a result, multiple road blocks were set up, and all travelers were required to show their identification papers before they would be allowed to continue.

Unfortunately, those from the concentration camps had no identification papers, for in the eyes of the Nazis, they weren't supposed to have survived, and their papers had long ago been burned. Without identification papers, the Allies had no way of knowing if they were disguised Nazi soldiers or Jews or anyone else, and without those all-important papers, they wouldn't be allowed to pass through the road blocks, and the only way to continue was to avoid the road blocks by going around them. This, in itself, was a dangerous adventure, for there was the ever-present danger of hidden landmines left behind by the war effort.

There were also multiple "road blocks" of other kinds as well. These poor people had to find food, fresh water and shelter along the way, none of which was easy in war-torn Europe. Still they continued on, for they had a goal: To find their families.

The few who actually managed to arrive in their hometowns usually found that their families were gone and their former homes had been destroyed. This didn't necessarily mean their loved ones were dead, but the released prisoners had no way of knowing where their families were or if they were even alive.

Although most cities in Germany had been completely destroyed, Heidelberg was an exception; and when the returned Jews from Heidelberg arrived in their hometown, they were fortunate enough to find their former homes still standing. Nonetheless, they would face yet another layer of problems: These homes were now inhabited by German families, and it would take years to sort out what home belonged to who!

As a result, even when the returned prisoners were back in their hometowns, they would continue to find themselves in need of shelter and food. The lack of identification papers caused problems with this as well, and the only way around this for most was to have a "friend" in "high places". If you were known by the Mayor of the town, for example, there was the possibility of finding shelter in a spare room of a German's home.

Despite the fact that most cities had to be rebuilt, there were no jobs to be had. Freed Jews had to be ingenious in order to find ways to make money. Because cigarettes was quite popular among the US and Russian armies, some survived by making them.

There are many more examples of the hardships faced by these freed Jews, but it is safe to say that in the end, though freed from the concentration camps, they were still prisoners of their circumstances.

As time went by, many found jobs, and eventually, found homes. Some had to leave Germany to do so, but in the end, many ended up finding happiness once again. Though their former lives were eventually replaced with real freedom, however, they would never forget the hardships they had endured or so many years.

Even today there those who wander around in warzones. Suffering still prevails, even in our own towns. In such circumstances, I wonder what Jesus would do? "This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you." (John 15:12, MSG)


Rob Chaffart

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