I met a man today

This was posted by long_rifle in comments of a post from last year. I thought I’d bring it out of mothballs.

I met a person today that I NEVER thought I’d meet in person. I met him on June 22, 2011 at exactly 4:04pm eastern. I work in a gun store in MI and as I walked towards our wall of holsters I met him and asked if he needed help.

He was buying a holster for his gun and I tried to find something for him. His eyes were red, and his skin was mottled and aged. He spoke with a lite German accent and seemed the kindest person I’ve ever seen.

I met a man today… that did something no man should ever have to do. He watched his sisters die. He watched as 9 members of his family were led away to be killed. He watched thousands die. He watched en entire generation perish and can still SMILE.

I saw it on his left arm. A bold large series of numbers, with what looked like an upside down stretched triangle under it.

Immediately I touched it, I stopped thinking of personal space or being polite, I touched it. Then immediately apologized. He didn’t mind, even started to smile.

“No. I’m sorry that the world let that happen.” Then I looked at his face, I had tears in my eyes, honestly I have them now. “I’m sorry that the world is bent on letting it happen again. I’m sorry.” There was nothing else I could say. Then something you taught me came to mind. “Am Yisrael Chai”. He stopped a a few seconds and then asked me if I was Jewish and I told him no which seemed to catch him off guard a bit.

I met a man today that watched his world collapse in Auschwitz, then found redemption in General George Patten at another camp when he was liberated. Delirious with typhoid he was brought back from the brink.

And he can SMILE. I thought of my whining, and complaining. About how I wasn’t getting the pay I want. Or that I lost my house and have to live with family. I met a man that lost EVERYTHING. And he can still smile.

“I can’t forget it. I can’t ever forgive it. But I have to live my life.”…

66 years he told me. It’s been 66 years. I guessed when asked, that he was 84, he told me he was 82. I’ve met WWI vets, WWII vets, Vietnam vets. And two men whom earned the Congressional Metal of Honor. I’m felt awe, fear, shock, respect and sense of meeting someone that stood as something I could NEVER be.

I’ve never felt it all at once.

I met a man today that put my life in proper context. I met a man today that I feel I owe more then to my own family.

I’m not a Jew. But NEVER again. I told him that as we parted.

And I mean it. I’ve always meant it. But now… It’s something else something deeper.

I met a man today, and I’ll never forget him. I never asked his name. But I’ll never forget those numbers.

Deny the Holocaust in front of me, and it’ll be the last time you lie around your teeth.

Meryl I’m sorry. I know the world is coming full circle, and hating Jews is becoming the norm again. But I won’t let it happen here. I can’t afford to fly to Israel to protect it. But I’ll die before I allow it to spread here.

I may not be much. But I will not sit by as people are rounded up and branded. I’m sorry. As much a a member of humanity can be. Meryl. I might not be able to stop it.

But I’ll put up a hell of a fight. Not for me. For the man that was unarmed and watched as his family was murdered in front of him, and even now arms himself at 82 to make sure he doesn’t have to watch again.

Am Yisrael Chai.

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