I Refuse to Let My Grandfather Be Erased From History

This month, I am launching a search for anything and anyone related to my maternal grandfather, Michael Berl, who died in the Holocaust. What’s worse (if that’s even possible) is how little is known about him.

There is no photo of him. I’m not sure what he did for a living. There is not even a single known relative we’ve been able to identify. My mother last saw him when she was two-years-old. She has no memory of him. It’s as if he never existed.

That he did exist was verified by birth and marriage certificates retrieved from Polish records several years ago. Michael Berl was born in Brzesko, Poland on July 9, 1909. He married Eidel (Adele) Zollman in March 1937 and the young couple moved to her hometown in Bochnia, near Krakow. They give birth to my mother in January 1940 and named her Rose.

After the Nazis sealed Bochnia’s Jews in a ghetto, Michael and Adele placed their little girl into the care of a Polish (Catholic) family in a desperate attempt to save her. She stayed with them (raised as a Catholic though she knew she was Jewish) until she was twenty-one. Like Michael, Adele did not survive the war.

After my mother reconnected with her maternal relatives and left Poland, she made several unsuccessful attempts to locate information on her father before becoming absorbed with her own new life in America, including her marriage and my arrival.

From my earliest childhood memory, I’ve always had a special relationship with the grandfather I could never know. It is as if he lives within me. I’m told that he was a storyteller and certainly my own love of story and writing binds us closely. Yet my feelings for him seem to run much deeper than that, in ways I can’t even explain.

Strangely, during the eighteen years that my mother and I worked on The Rose Temple, a book about her life story (in which Michael Berl obviously appears, even if mostly for his absence), we made some inquiries about possible relatives, and even said kaddish in the place where we learned he likely died, but we never launched a sustained genealogical search.

For my mother, coming to terms with long repressed emotions (“Why did he give me away; why didn’t come back for me”) evolved over the course of our work. For me, since I already felt his spirit within me and believed I already did know everything I needed to know about him, there was no compelling reason to undertake such an effort. And, truth be told, I did not want to be disappointed by what I might find.

Then I ran across an article by journalist Jennifer Mendelsohn (her brother, Daniel, is the author of The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million) about her own family genealogical search. The article inspired me to take the steps I am taking now.

Yes, I still cling to the notion of my grandfather’s spirit living within me. And matters of spirit take center stage in the hearts of my mother, myself, and our work.

But our tradition has never discounted the value of human life on earth, struggling and seeking elevation within our material confines.

Michael Berl may be spirit now, but he was once a man— a loving husband, father, and soul whose life was inexplicably extinguished. That life deserves to be explored, to be remembered.

How Mother’s Day Can Change The World

This Mother’s Day, I am of course grateful for the life and nurturing my mother gave me.  And I am blessed that she is still with me.  Yet even in the annals of mother-son bonds, I dare say that our bond has been unusually strong given our eighteen-year collaboration on a book about her extraordinary life and vision for the future.  In the course of our writing, she once told me, not necessarily referring to herself, that “a mother’s love is the most powerful force in the universe.”  Most of us can agree that a mother’s love is a wonderful, even essential, part of life.   But the most powerful force in the universe?  How’s that?  Allow me to explain.

Unimaginable Choices of Courage and Sacrifice

My mother, a Jewish toddler during the Holocaust, was given away to a Polish Catholic woman and her husband in a desperate attempt to save her.  Both women faced unimaginable choices: Her birth mother’s parting with her only child and the risk her adoptive Catholic mother accepted by taking a Jewish child into her home at a time when that was punishable by death. Tragically, her birth parents did not survive and she was lovingly raised Catholic by her adoptive parents though as a Jew she was frequently taunted by some in her postwar hometown.

Healing and Hope 

My mother is a forward-looking woman. Publishing a book was the last thing she imagined doing.  Childhood vulnerabilities and fears still lingered and privacy was her natural impulse. But having embarked on a spiritual journey that sought meaning and purpose from her experience, she considered how there was light even then the world seemed to go dark.  Her adoptive mother not only saved her, she nurtured her, and, later, selflessly suggested that she reconnect with the Jewish community when her future in Poland looked bleak.

Sadly, the forces of intolerance still sully our world today. Is there hope it will ever change?

A Mother’s Love as the Most Powerful Force in the Universe

“Men have long written the script of world religion and history,” my mother says.  “It is time for the feminine voice to be heard, and a mother’s love may hold the key to healing and transforming our troubled world.”

The power of a mother’s love comes as no surprise to anyone who has witnessed a child cradled in her mother’s arms. A mother’s love is nurturing; it is compassionate; it is comforting.  It can even be, as was the case for my mother’s birth and adoptive mothers, sacrificing and life-saving.  Just imagine energy like a mother’s love coursing through all corners of the earth.

This Mother’s Day, consider how a mother’s love can not only affect her own children, it can change the world.

Mitchell Weitzman is the author, with his mother, of The Rose Temple: A Child Holocaust Survivor’s Vision of Faith, Hope, and Our Collective Future. Lucia Weitzman reflects on her birth and adoptive mothers here.

A Yom HaShoah Reflection: Lucia Weitzman Talks About Choices

Choices Have Both Personal and Universal Consequences

The Biblical story of Adam and Eve demonstrates how choices have both personal and universal consequences.   On Yom HaShoah, as we recall the enormity of the Holocaust, we should consider all the personal choices, from the seemingly trivial (such as a childhood taunt) to the significant (such the proclamation of crusades or pogroms) that, over the centuries, provided the hateful platform for what would become an unprecedented era of destruction.

Lucia Weitzman, a Jewish toddler during the Holocaust, reflects on the unimaginable choice her birth parents made to be separated from their little girl in order to save her. At the same time, she recalls the incredibly courageous choice of the Catholic couple, Franciszek and Genowefa Swiatek, who took her into their home despite the risk to their own lives for sheltering a Jew. They are honored in Yad Vashem’s Garden of the Righteous.

Choices of Unconceivable Evil or Unimaginable Good

If the evil perpetrated during the Holocaust was unconceivable, the Swiatek’s acts of kindness and love was unimaginable. Raising Lucia as a Catholic (Lucia was the only known Jew left in her hometown), Genowefa nurtured her and was the initiating force in Lucia’s eventual reconnection with the Jewish community.

Genowefa’s choices, both during and after the war, obviously had a personal effect—a life was saved and a heritage was preserved.  Could her choices also have a universal outcome? On some level, every choice does; whether for good or bad.

Choosing to Follow An Unconventional Path

In her video “The Power of Choice,” Lucia Weitzman talks about yet another choice she faced long after the Holocaust.  After leaving Poland in 1961, she married a Jewish man and raised a traditional family, locking away much of her past inside a “vault.”  Years later, deep in mourning following the loss of her husband at age 53, long-suppressed emotions rose to the surface and Lucia confronted God at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

So began a spiritual journey that on one level was personal, speaking to her search for her authentic self and life purpose when others had long labeled or defined her; and on another level contained a more universal message:  the need for a shifting global consciousness from a paradigm of divisiveness and intolerance to one of healing and connectedness.

Her journey has been intense, consuming, and largely solitary. Presented with many opportunities to remarry or resume her previous social activities, she instead chose to maintain her spiritual work, which in many ways was as challenging as her childhood had been.

“Some choices are made for you,” Lucia says, “but the choices you make can change you and change the world.”

In an age of escalating hatred and violence, Lucia testifies to the power of choice that lies within each of us, to transform and attempt to heal both ourselves and the troubled world we live in.

 

Find out more at TheRoseTemple.com

Why I Wrote the Rose Temple

Angry at The World: Asking Why and How Did The Holocaust Happen?

In my sheltered, comfortable suburban Detroit childhood, I shouldn’t have been so angry. Neighbors looked a lot like my family: White, Jewish, middle or upper middle class and striving for more.  Kids played catch on the quiet, tree-lined streets.  Whatever racial tension was taking place south of Eight Mile Road hardly affected me. I never heard a single anti-Semitic taunt.

The small Orthodox Jewish day school I attended should also have not been a source of anger. Yet one day, without any apparent incitement, I assailed a friend and classmate. “While your family was comfortable in America during the war,” I railed,  “mine was being wiped out in Poland.”

In those days, before children of Holocaust survivors formed groups and wrote books to explore the common threads that bind us, I asked the “why” and “how” questions many of us did.  Why did this happen? How could this have happened?

Putting the Past in a “Vault”

Curiously, I never recalled much if any embitterment from my mother, though she had every reason to be.   I speculated as to why this was so:  She was too busy as a homemaker; or too driven to adapt and succeed in her new homeland.  She would later tell me that she’d made a purposeful choice to put her past  “outside herself” and lock it in a “vault.” She only wanted to look forward.

Making A Choice About the Future

That vault cracked open when my father died. I’d long admired my mother’s steadfastness in her approach to life, knowing some but not all of her childhood struggles, but I could never have anticipated the courage and strength she would display in the years following his death.

Though she always had a strong spiritual center that sustained her, my mother lived her life as a pragmatist. Her transition back to Judaism from Christianity was borne of practicality, not theology.  So when she began experiencing strange mystical incidents, pragmatism dictated that she brush those aside and rebuild her life with a man who would love her and support her.

Instead she chose to confront the ghosts of her past, and to heed the calling that she believed was pulling her in a very different direction.   Pragmatism again dictated that she keep her calling private. She’d had enough scorn and mockery in her youth. What would people say about someone who has strange dreams and visions?

Transforming A Calling Into a Call for Action

My mother pursued her calling, which she believes to be a call to become a portal for Divine light and harmony to enter the world; to transform it into a better place than the one she was born into. Each of us plays an essential role in this calling, she believes.

Asking New Questions

I once asked why and how the Holocaust could have happened (and I still do).

If many asked and continue to ask: Where was God during the Holocaust and in the many tragedies that followed (as The Rose Temple does in its opening pages), there are other questions that must also be asked:

What can we do about the state of the world now?

What choices can each of us make to become part of the solution to our troubled world?

As I write in the Epilogue, ongoing global violence and conflict can test our belief in God’s presence, and make us with doubt that a shift in world consciousness will ever happen.  But my mother’s story affirms that such a shift must and will take place. For what other reason did the Divine create a human presence?

I wrote The Rose Temple as an admiring son. I wrote it to heal my own wounds and gain new understandings.  And I wrote it as part of my own calling, to affirm my role in inviting Divine light into this world.

 

 

Your Inspired Writing by Lucia Weitzman

The Rose Temple by Mitchell Weitzman is the compelling story of a woman, a Jewish child Holocaust survivor, raised Catholic, who unexpectedly receives Biblical messages in the course of an astonishing spiritual journey. She finds answers to questions about God’s presence in our world during times of evil and suffering. Reading her story will ignite the power that lies within you to heal and transform yourself and the world you live in.

 

The extraordinary life of Lucia Weitzman begins in a small town in Poland, where as a toddler she is trapped with her parents in a Nazi-imposed ghetto. In a desperate attempt to save their daughter, Lucia’s parents place her in the care of a Polish couple who risk their own lives by taking her in. After the war ends, at age five she discovers her Jewish origins but remains with her adoptive parents.

Growing up a practicing Catholic, yet often taunted or threatened for being born Jewish, Lucia struggles with questions of identity and faith while drawing on a deep well of inner strength that would take her years to acknowledge and explain.

Forced to flee Poland to avoid arrest, she leaves everyone and everything she knows behind. She marries a Jewish man and raises a traditional family in suburban Detroit. But at age fifty-three, orphaned again by the death of her husband, her life takes on another dramatic turn as she embarks on a worldwide spiritual quest.   

Vivid dreams and inspired writings lead to mystical experiences containing profound messages about how to overcome adversity, empower personal growth, and find your soul’s purpose.

Lucia Weitzman’s conviction that “we all walk in God’s light and that we can choose a path that connects us to each other and to God” will inspire readers of all faiths and backgrounds.

Available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

Your Inspired Writing by Lucia Weitzman  

www.TheRoseTemple.com

When God is Leading your Pen by Lucia Weitzman

The Rose Temple by Mitchell Weitzman is the compelling story of a woman, a Jewish child Holocaust survivor, raised Catholic, who unexpectedly receives Biblical messages in the course of an astonishing spiritual journey. She finds answers to questions about God’s presence in our world during times of evil and suffering. Reading her story will ignite the power that lies within you to heal and transform yourself and the world you live in.

The extraordinary life of Lucia Weitzman begins in a small town in Poland, where as a toddler she is trapped with her parents in a Nazi-imposed ghetto. In a desperate attempt to save their daughter, Lucia’s parents place her in the care of a Polish couple who risk their own lives by taking her in. After the war ends, at age five she discovers her Jewish origins but remains with her adoptive parents.

Growing up a practicing Catholic, yet often taunted or threatened for being born Jewish, Lucia struggles with questions of identity and faith while drawing on a deep well of inner strength that would take her years to acknowledge and explain.

Forced to flee Poland to avoid arrest, she leaves everyone and everything she knows behind. She marries a Jewish man and raises a traditional family in suburban Detroit. But at age fifty-three, orphaned again by the death of her husband, her life takes on another dramatic turn as she embarks on a worldwide spiritual quest.   

Vivid dreams and inspired writings lead to mystical experiences containing profound messages about how to overcome adversity, empower personal growth, and find your soul’s purpose.

Lucia Weitzman’s conviction that “we all walk in God’s light and that we can choose a path that connects us to each other and to God” will inspire readers of all faiths and backgrounds.

Available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

When God is Leading your Pen by Lucia Weitzmane

www.TheRoseTemple.com

What is Inspired Writing by Lucia Weitzman

The Rose Temple by Mitchell Weitzman is the compelling story of a woman, a Jewish child Holocaust survivor, raised Catholic, who unexpectedly receives Biblical messages in the course of an astonishing spiritual journey. She finds answers to questions about God’s presence in our world during times of evil and suffering. Reading her story will ignite the power that lies within you to heal and transform yourself and the world you live in.

The extraordinary life of Lucia Weitzman begins in a small town in Poland, where as a toddler she is trapped with her parents in a Nazi-imposed ghetto. In a desperate attempt to save their daughter, Lucia’s parents place her in the care of a Polish couple who risk their own lives by taking her in. After the war ends, at age five she discovers her Jewish origins but remains with her adoptive parents.

Growing up a practicing Catholic, yet often taunted or threatened for being born Jewish, Lucia struggles with questions of identity and faith while drawing on a deep well of inner strength that would take her years to acknowledge and explain.

Forced to flee Poland to avoid arrest, she leaves everyone and everything she knows behind. She marries a Jewish man and raises a traditional family in suburban Detroit. But at age fifty-three, orphaned again by the death of her husband, her life takes on another dramatic turn as she embarks on a worldwide spiritual quest.   

Vivid dreams and inspired writings lead to mystical experiences containing profound messages about how to overcome adversity, empower personal growth, and find your soul’s purpose.

Lucia Weitzman’s conviction that “we all walk in God’s light and that we can choose a path that connects us to each other and to God” will inspire readers of all faiths and backgrounds.

Available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

What is Inspired Writing by Lucia Weitzman

www.TheRoseTemple.com

A Mother’s Love by Lucia Weitzman

The Rose Temple by Mitchell Weitzman is the compelling story of a woman, a Jewish child Holocaust survivor, raised Catholic, who unexpectedly receives Biblical messages in the course of an astonishing spiritual journey. She finds answers to questions about God’s presence in our world during times of evil and suffering. Reading her story will ignite the power that lies within you to heal and transform yourself and the world you live in.

The extraordinary life of Lucia Weitzman begins in a small town in Poland, where as a toddler she is trapped with her parents in a Nazi-imposed ghetto. In a desperate attempt to save their daughter, Lucia’s parents place her in the care of a Polish couple who risk their own lives by taking her in. After the war ends, at age five she discovers her Jewish origins but remains with her adoptive parents.

Growing up a practicing Catholic, yet often taunted or threatened for being born Jewish, Lucia struggles with questions of identity and faith while drawing on a deep well of inner strength that would take her years to acknowledge and explain.

Forced to flee Poland to avoid arrest, she leaves everyone and everything she knows behind. She marries a Jewish man and raises a traditional family in suburban Detroit. But at age fifty-three, orphaned again by the death of her husband, her life takes on another dramatic turn as she embarks on a worldwide spiritual quest.   

Vivid dreams and inspired writings lead to mystical experiences containing profound messages about how to overcome adversity, empower personal growth, and find your soul’s purpose.

Lucia Weitzman’s conviction that “we all walk in God’s light and that we can choose a path that connects us to each other and to God” will inspire readers of all faiths and backgrounds.

Available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

A Mother’s Love by Lucia Weitzman

www.TheRoseTemple.com

God as Guiding Light by Lucia Weitzman

The Rose Temple by Mitchell Weitzman is the compelling story of a woman, a Jewish child Holocaust survivor, raised Catholic, who unexpectedly receives Biblical messages in the course of an astonishing spiritual journey. She finds answers to questions about God’s presence in our world during times of evil and suffering. Reading her story will ignite the power that lies within you to heal and transform yourself and the world you live in.

The extraordinary life of Lucia Weitzman begins in a small town in Poland, where as a toddler she is trapped with her parents in a Nazi-imposed ghetto. In a desperate attempt to save their daughter, Lucia’s parents place her in the care of a Polish couple who risk their own lives by taking her in. After the war ends, at age five she discovers her Jewish origins but remains with her adoptive parents.

Growing up a practicing Catholic, yet often taunted or threatened for being born Jewish, Lucia struggles with questions of identity and faith while drawing on a deep well of inner strength that would take her years to acknowledge and explain.

Forced to flee Poland to avoid arrest, she leaves everyone and everything she knows behind. She marries a Jewish man and raises a traditional family in suburban Detroit. But at age fifty-three, orphaned again by the death of her husband, her life takes on another dramatic turn as she embarks on a worldwide spiritual quest.   

Vivid dreams and inspired writings lead to mystical experiences containing profound messages about how to overcome adversity, empower personal growth, and find your soul’s purpose.

Lucia Weitzman’s conviction that “we all walk in God’s light and that we can choose a path that connects us to each other and to God” will inspire readers of all faiths and backgrounds.

Available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

God as Guiding Light by Lucia Weitzman

www.TheRoseTemple.com

Hidden Feelings by Lucia Weitzman

The Rose Temple by Mitchell Weitzman is the compelling story of a woman, a Jewish child Holocaust survivor, raised Catholic, who unexpectedly receives Biblical messages in the course of an astonishing spiritual journey. She finds answers to questions about God’s presence in our world during times of evil and suffering. Reading her story will ignite the power that lies within you to heal and transform yourself and the world you live in.

The extraordinary life of Lucia Weitzman begins in a small town in Poland, where as a toddler she is trapped with her parents in a Nazi-imposed ghetto. In a desperate attempt to save their daughter, Lucia’s parents place her in the care of a Polish couple who risk their own lives by taking her in. After the war ends, at age five she discovers her Jewish origins but remains with her adoptive parents.

Growing up a practicing Catholic, yet often taunted or threatened for being born Jewish, Lucia struggles with questions of identity and faith while drawing on a deep well of inner strength that would take her years to acknowledge and explain.

Forced to flee Poland to avoid arrest, she leaves everyone and everything she knows behind. She marries a Jewish man and raises a traditional family in suburban Detroit. But at age fifty-three, orphaned again by the death of her husband, her life takes on another dramatic turn as she embarks on a worldwide spiritual quest.   

Vivid dreams and inspired writings lead to mystical experiences containing profound messages about how to overcome adversity, empower personal growth, and find your soul’s purpose.

Lucia Weitzman’s conviction that “we all walk in God’s light and that we can choose a path that connects us to each other and to God” will inspire readers of all faiths and backgrounds.

Available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

Hidden Feelings by Lucia Weitzman

www.TheRoseTemple.com