“My first trip abroad was to Auschwitz.”
That’s what my client told me when we were driving from Kaunas to Klaipeda in Lithuania. It’s a long way, and we filled the time with a light conversation on the scenery and the country. After a while, we fell into a restless silence. Not many people can keep silence, it makes them a bit uncomfortable. I am one of these people. Looking to break the tension, I found myself asking more about my guest’s life. My curiosity eventually revealed that he had quite a story of his own.
Conversations on the Road
When we first spoke on the phone, Mr. Al had mentioned that he’d survived Auschwitz. He wanted to know how WWII went in the Baltic States, and so Jerulita organized a private tour just for him. Three Baltic States in 9 days.
A one-on-one private tour is an interesting experience, to say the least. You either become friends or enemies. Fortunately, Mr. Al and I became friends and had many close conversations. He spoke mostly about his past. He told me that for years after the war, he wasn’t even interested in thinking about the Holocaust. It was not a time to remember. However, around 30 years ago, he suddenly, somehow, began to change. Though he lives in Germany today, he even started to detest Germans.
One Survivor’s Story
When WWII broke out, Mr. Al lived in Romania. He was deported to Auschwitz in 1944, passing 3 months there before being sent to a different camp. He suffered through death marches and terrible living conditions. In one of the camps, Al was fortunate enough to be reunited with his father – a real miracle in the reality of 1944-45.
“What was the best day of your life?” I asked Mr. Al once.
His hesitation was not more than a second: “When I came from Auschwitz to that second camp. No doubt. There was a soup and a towel given, and the food was much better.”
Such an answer makes you stop. Makes you rethink your own values in life, your own scale of preferences. Makes you think, What was the best day of my life?
I have learned so much from Mr. Al, that handsome person with a number under his shirt on his arm. Such a story stays with you for a long time. I find myself remembering his stories often, and rethinking the reality of the time.