Words Are Not Enough

by Alice Lok Cahana


I want to tell you the miracles that happened in Auschwitz. And the people who despised the Nazis and how they turned around from despising.

Here is one story. I met a man in Israel who told me: I was fourteen years old when the Nazis came into my house, and we had prayer exactly at that moment, and my father said: Take the Torah and put it around your body and go out from the room. And the boy went and did exactly what his father said. And he arrived to Auschwitz. In Auschwitz, first they undress you, he went up to one of the Polish people and he said, I cannot undress, I am carrying a Torah, the Torah is the most sacred book we have. The Polish man got scared and he went around saying the boy has a Torah on him, we cannot let him into the crematorium. Soon everyone surrounded the young man. They said to him, you cannot undress; pretend that you are finding some work in the clothing. Because people undress, they left their clothes on the ground, and then into the crematorium they go. The young SS soldier who was waiting outside the crematorium, he said to them, you must tell me what you are hiding, because all of you will die anyhow. And the young SS soldier found out that this little boy was carrying a Torah, and he went to the boy and said: Listen, I know what you are doing. Listen, every morning you come to me I will help you get food and you don’t go to work. And guess what happened? This young man survived and the Torah survived, and it is in Jerusalem. The moment I heard that story I decided to create scrolls. I don’t know how to do it but I want to celebrate the scrolls. The sanctity has to go with us no matter where we are. And so I made scrolls, and each one has a name, and I made one with that boy’s name.

Here is another story. When I was in Auschwitz, I kept asking, why am I here, what did I do wrong? What did my grandfather do wrong? What did my father do wrong? And I decided I knew what we did wrong: We read the letters backwards, that was our mistake. The letters that always revived me! They killed us because we read the letters backwards! But after Auschwitz, when I read the Torah, the letters revive me again and again, so that could not be it. That could not be. And a young American man, he put me in the right knowledge. You didn’t do nothing wrong, he said, the world did something wrong, terribly wrong. This young man, he went to Budapest in the beginning of it all, and he saved Jews, he gave out passports of Sweden, and because the Hungarians didn’t know how to read Swedish, this was how my father was saved. And thousands of others too, with these pieces of paper. I am here to tell you that one man can make a difference, and that man can be you, any of you. Your task is to better the world.