Saturday, February 1, 2020

Comb For A Kiss

Gertraud Lindenberg was born December 29, 1923 to Erna and Rudolph Lindenberg.
I had the honor and  privilege to meet Gertraud  in her small assisted living apartment along with her daughter, my dear friend Victoria. Gertraud's stature may have been small but her personality was not. I had to pay close attention as she spoke, her German accent still strong, as she allowed me to journey with her into her past.  This jewel is dedicated to Gertraud as a tribute to her valiant life.
Erana Jordan met Rudolph Lindenberg in 1919 while working for a private telephone company. Rudolph was trying to reach his mother who was ill. There were no public phone companies at the time and through a friend he was put in touch with Erana. 
Rudolph arrived at the telephone company with flowers for Erana, whom he had not yet met, to celebrate his own birthday which was September 19, 1890.
What an entrance that must have been.  In my romantic mind I can see it all vividly, handsome man arriving with a beautiful bouquet of flowers, woman smitten from the get go and the rest is history.....

Apparently the grand gesture worked  they were married in November 1920.  
Rudolph’s mother was not happy her son married a Gentile, even if she was the one who made it possible for her son to reach her when she desperately needed to hear from him.
In fact Erana had little to no contact wit her husband’s family because of it. As you can see mother-in-law issues have been around for centuries, but a Jew and Gentile relationship had it’s own level of difficulties. Rudolph and Erana had 2 daughters, Helga born in 1921 and Gertraud in 1923.

Gertraud’s life began like most children's, she went to private school and had many friends. She was very bright even from a young age and received good grades. 
Sadly as time went on she was told by a handful of female classmates they could no longer speak with her because she was a Jew, the year was 1929.
Gertraud had been a good friend to these girls and had no idea why her being Jewish had anything to do with their relationship. It was the beginning of a very cruel world a young innocent girl would be thrown into.
Her Papa, as she lovingly referred to him,  owned a private communications company that made and installed intercom systems.  As a child her loving home had an intercom in each room. As you can imagine this was quite progressive for this era. I could see the pride in her eyes as she spoke of her dear Papa.
Unfortunately because of the war her father’s business was taken from him along with their home and  all their money . Helga got to stay in private school because she was older but because of the cost, Gertraud  would have to go to public school . 
During this time Gertraud contracted scarlet fever and spent 3 months in the hospital. It was upon her release from the hospital that she learned she’d be going to public school. She had no idea the impact this decision would have on her life and the discrimination that awaited her at the tender age of 11.
In 1939 her father was taken by SS officers, his crime, being Jewish.
(from google: the SS (Schutzstaffel, or Protection Squads) was originally established as Adolf Hitler’s personal bodyguard unit. It would later become both the elite guard of the Nazi Reich and Hitler’s executive force prepared to carry out all security-related duties, without regard for legal restraint.)
He was eventually released  but not before being injected with some sort of infectious disease which caused him to lose three fingers on one hand. When he finally returned home he was deathly ill with diphtheria. As they had no heat Gertraud’s mother had her boil water to wash her husband but she too became very ill.  Both of her parents were hospitalized but not in the same hospital.  Gertraud’s dad was in the Jewish hospital and her mother in the Christian one.
At this point her family was living in a small apartment and both Gertraud and her sister Helga  had to work.  It wasn’t long before they found themselves homeless once again as the apartment manager threw all the Jews out of the building.
Rudolph moved to the Jewish side of town after being released from the hospital but they didn’t see him often.  Helga went on her lunch hour to see their father as often as she could.  They would meet at the train station where it was safer.  Rudolph was able to use the public bathroom and Helga would take his dirty set of clothes and trade them for clean ones.  She would bring him food and trade the dirty plate for a clean one. The small amount of valuables they were able to hide away when their home was confiscated were now sold to make money to survive.
In spite of all this Gertraud  graduated at the age of 14, she and her sister constantly had to work to provide for the family as her parents were unemployable; her dad because he was Jewish. 
Her father’s  “friend” owned a bakery and agreed to hire Gertraud. At first it seemed an answer to prayer, a chance to help feed her family. They were so grateful to this man for his kindness in their desperate situation but that idea was quickly diminished. They worked young Gertraud from 8 AM to 9 PM everyday doing many difficult manual labor tasks. After 3 months she was physically unable to walk because of being on her legs that many hours a day. Gertraud’s family did not let her return to the bakery and  an attorney her father knew was able to sue the company for taking advantage of a minor, but it did not benefit her family in any way financially.
Later she worked for an exporting food company and at the age of  19 she managed her own department handling grocery rations. 

(Google: Germans were issued rationing cards every 2 months. These covered basic foods like bread, cheese, fats (butter, margarine and oil), eggs, jam, meat, and sugar as well as canned goods. Coffee and tobacco were other hard to get items because of the Royal Navy blockade.)

This was quite an achievement for such a young woman who in the face of constant adversity refused to give up. I could see the pride in her eyes, she even sat up a bit straighter as she shared this accomplishment with me.  I think we both realized I couldn’t truly comprehend the impact of that feat.
During the Russian occupation people were starving to death, Gertraud recalled a time when a train that was bringing food was bombed by the Russians and the food left to rot. Many people truly did die of starvation. The only families that were allotted small portions of food were the ones building train cars that carried corpses.
On August 9, 1944 Gertraud’s job was once again taken from her.
At 20 years of age she and her sister had to report to SS (Schutzstaffel or Protection Squad)
Not knowing how long they would be gone their mother gave the only suitcase they owned to Helga and sewed together a blanket as a makeshift suitcase for Gertraud.
Upon arrival at the Protection Squad 150 girls and boys were sent to a labor camp for ½ Jews, Gertraud and Helga were part of that number.

This camp is where Gertraud would meet Hanns.
Hanns was living in France before the war doing well in the military. He was a hot shot rising in the ranks until he was betrayed by a friend who reveled he was ½ Jewish.  He was sent to two other labor camps before arriving in Germany where he would eventually meet Gertraud.
In the camp they were given an axe to cut branches in the woods, that also served as the bathroom,. They would then dig graves that their very own people would be thrown into. The branches they gathered were held together by twine to make crosses then placed inside the graves along the walls to keep the dirt from collapsing. 
It couldn't help but notice that as Gertraud shared this part of her life it was very matter of fact, how the job was done, no real feeling attached to it. I guess that's how we survive some areas in our lives. We have to detach in order to get through it and later move on.
The season was winter and like most prisoners in the camp they had no warm clothing.   These people were not recognized as citizens, there were no bathrooms no outhouses, barley any food and what food they had would not be fit to feed most family pets.
Gems as I sat listening to Gertraud reliving these parts of her very real life I thought of all the emotions she might be feeling, anger, fear, resentment but she didn’t seem to posses any of them.  At times she even grinned when a certain memory came to her. In the midst of all this she spoke of a loving God….
Gertraud was still a young woman and like most women cared about how she looked, she had one small comb she brought from home and treasured but in the midst of all the daily workloads she lost it. 
This Gems is where Hanns comes into our story.
He had seen her around the camp and then saw her green bloomers
in the woods, bathroom and privacy was not a luxury!  She laughed, a bit embarrassed, as she shared this memory.  Hanns introduced himself and she noticed his hand was infected.  
Seems the boys played throw the ax up and catch it to pass the time. Guess he wasn't lucky on one of the tosses she said with a grin. 
As you can also see for centuries guys have done weird things.  
She told him to meet her in the “wash area” and she would clean his hand up.  She used the clay soap they had to daily wash to try and cleanse the wound. 
Hanns, from his experience in the military, was very resourceful and able to get certain things through the black market. I didn’t dare ask how that worked.
Gertraud let Hanns know she desperately needed a comb, as she recalls the story a coy almost shy smile came across her face “I asked him if he could get me a comb and he said he would trade me a comb for a kiss.”  My own heart melted a bit as I knew this would be the title of this special jewel.
They "dated" from then on, and on New Years Eve 1944 Hanns made a tent using his barrack bunk bed for them. For a few brief moments they would shut out the world and imagine normal life as a young couple in love. Gems romance can bud in the worst of circumstances. I’m sure that tent was just as sweet to Gertraud as the flowers were to her mother many years before. 
Eventually Russians invaded bombing the area including the labor camp. Most everyone, including her sister Helga fled. Helga was able to get on the last train out before the tracks were blown up.
Hanns insisted Gertraud stay there in what was left of the camp with him. Ten people including the two of them stayed behind with the last remaining guard .  Again Hanns knowledge of the Military would pay off. He knew as long as  prisoners were still there the guard would have to look after them and at least give them a small ration of food. 
Finally the last 10 were able to leave, they found refuge at a farm house. The farmer had one last pig that he slaughtered to feed them. Everyone of them got sick because it was the first real food they had had in months and they had to stay there for a few days because of the vomiting and diarrhea.
When they were finally able to travel again they both knew it was too dangerous to travel together so Hanns gave Gertraud the name and address of family that would take her in until he could find her. Reluctantly and with much fear they separated and she began yet another journey on her own. 
Hanns on the other hand was picked up by the SS Patrol and thrown into another labor camp.
Gertraud travelled for 2 days cold, hungry, tired and scared for her life and the life of her family. She wondered where Hanns was, would he be able to meet her? Would either of them ever make it back to their families?  Were their families still alive?
To her horror when she finally reached the town she was originally from it was nothing more than rubble and flames. This was the only time in my conversation with Gertraud I could see signs of  sorrow in her face. Her frail voice seem to drift into the air as she paused herself to reflect on the image in her mind.
After walking 15 miles each day for 2 more days she collapsed under a tree due to exhaustion. 
She was walking in snow and ice, again not with winter clothing, when she heard a horse and carriage come up behind her. The man driving the cart realized she was just a young girl and told her to get in the carriage that he would take her to his house. Of course she was scared but was so desperate for help she decided to trust him.  
His family asked her to stay for the evening meal and offered for her to stay the night to which she gladly accepted.  They allowed her to sleep in the bed with the man’s oldest daughter as her husband was away.  After climbing in the feather bed the kind woman began talking non stop to Gertraud, being happy to have another young female in the house, but it had been so long since she was in a bed that she fell into a deep sleep until morning. As she told me this her eyes opened widely as she exclaimed “it was a feather bed!!”
In the morning she would continue her journey, each town she entered she had to register with the local police fearful of being arrested again.  After another days walk she arrived in the city of Hann’s family. 
She said in an exasperated tone, “Just as I arrived at the door there was an air raid!”
Gertraud was able to help her new family, young and old, into a cellar to stay alive. They were so thankful for the timing of her arrival as they knew they would not have gotten the whole family in the cellar safely without her help.
In the mean time Hanns was released from the camp and eventually able to reunite with her . I asked her how Hanns was able to follow her trail and she explained that refugees were good to each other. They helped each other with whatever provisions they had and assisted in finding missing family members. 
Oh that communities today would extend the same compassion to one another.

Hanns and Gertraud were married in Oct of 1945.
They eventually found the remains of a small apartment in an abandoned building, sleeping under a table as if this would protect them from a bomb. 
I guess this thought process went back to how kids learned in school to hide under the desk during air raid drills.
One night as they lay “safely” under their table they heard the sound of footsteps. They quickly stood up as men holding machine guns approached them.  As they entered the room Gertraud stepped behind Hanns, she did not speak English and he spoke very little.  Hanns asked in the most stern voice he could muster “who are you?” to which the soldiers replied United States Army.  Gertraud let go a mischievous smirk as she quoted what Haans said next, “What took you so long??!” 
They later rented a small apartment because landlords got paid for taking in refugees.  It was extremely crowded because the more people you rented to the more money you made. Sadly greed is a timeless selfish desire.
Many months later, with the help of the Red Cross, they were able to find Gertraud’s mother.  
Helga made her way to the United States through a Jewish organization;  2 months ago she was interviewed by Holocaust Survivors in Washington ~  Helga Lindenberg Schuessler
Gertraud,  Hanns and their 4 year old daughter Gabriele immigrated to New York December 1950.
They were sponsored by Mr. Bulova of Bulova Watch; Gertraud’s aunt Greten was Mr. Bulova’s personal secretary and she arranged for the sponsorship. 
Gertraud is 96 and living in the Tampa area. She is beautiful, witty and has a faith in God despite all she has endured. She and Hanns have 2 beautiful daughters Gabriele and Victoria. Haans was born June 1923 and died June 2004. Jewish tradition believes great men die the same day they were born. Coincidence Hanns began and ended in June? I think not 😉
“And Moses spoke to Israel saying, ‘I am one hundred and twenty years old today.” (Deut. 31:1-2) Based on the Sages, Rashi paraphrases Moses’ intention to mean: Today my days and years were fulfilled; on this day I was born, and on this day I shall die. This teaches us that God fulfills the years of the righteous to the day and to the month, as it is written: “I shall fulfill the number of your days.” (Ex. 23:26) From here we see the significance of the birthday of a person who utilizes his life for good.
(Sources: A Jewish Perspective on Birthdays, Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz)

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Scene of The Savior

This is a Nativity set my mother gave me many years ago. It was in my home growing up so it's pretty old. It's one of the few things I have of my mother's, besides her bible which is one of my treasured possessions. My mom kept it safe, she packed it, ever so carefully, away each year for the next Christmas season. I however move a lot and packing can be a bit lax.

If you look at it quickly or from a distance it looks just like it did when she gave it to me.

However, if you get a closer look you will see, it is not.

My daughter came over the other night and glanced at my proud display on the counter and began to laugh as she asked why my nativity people were missing body parts. I'm sure normal people would have retired this set but I feel it gives them more character.

To make matters worse my poor shepherd boy lost his head at the last family get together. My grandson, who was eating at the scene of the crime announced, "Nana, the little boys head just rolled off his body."
Ahhhh another memory for the next family gathering.
This of course got me thinking Gems about how we come to the scene of the Savior.
I don't know about you but I have definitely arrived feeling like my head just rolled off my body.
There are times I arrive feeling broken or less than. Feeling like I'm not good enough or worse  yet not whole as a person.   Hoping He, or others won't notice what's obviously missing from my life.

But isn't that one of the most beautiful things about our Lord, that He accepts us just where we are yet loves us enough not to leave us in that condition.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls". 
When was the last time you felt weary and burdened?

Many times our wounds aren't so obvious, like missing a head, sometimes they are soul wounds. We have become really creative in appearing whole. My little shepherd boy there now has his head glued on but if you look closely you will see the crack line around his neck.

Sometimes Gems you need to take the time to look or listen to the people around you to hear if they are in pain.

Psalm 34:18 "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

Look at my angel, she's missing an entire arm! She used to be carrying a sword.  And the wise men, well I don't know when they lost their hands. Aren't they supposed to be carrying frankincense and myrrh?  

Are there people we encounter that have a title or a position that carries a certain expectation with it? Do we allow them to be wounded? Do we point out there short comings in the role that's expected of them or do they feel safe to lay down their sword for a moment and embrace the love of the Savior?

Isaiah 57:15 The high and lofty one lives in eternity, the Holy One-says this: "I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble.  I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts."


"He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, nor beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief, One from whom people hide their faces. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our pains. Yet we esteemed Him stricken, struck by God, and afflicted." Isaiah

Who are they talking about here?

Is this the summarizing of my lowly shepherd with his missing appendages?

Could this possibly be the description of the Holy One of Israel, the sweet baby Jesus laying in the manger?

Jesus knows every feeling you have ever felt or ever will feel. 

Jesus knew temptation: “He was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan” (Mark 1:13).

Jesus knew poverty: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20).

Jesus knew frustration: “He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.… ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’” (John 2:15-16).

Jesus knew weariness: “Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well” (John 4:6).

Jesus knew disappointment: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks,…but you were not willing” (Luke 13:34).

Jesus knew rejection: “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66).

Jesus knew sorrow: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38).

Jesus knew ridicule: “Again and again they struck him…and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid [mocking] homage to him” (Mark 15:19).

Jesus knew loneliness: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
He knew everything we would experience and He came on the scene anyway...…
Gems let's make a point of allowing each other to come to the scene of the Savior in whatever condition we are in. Maybe even give a helping hand, pun intended.
What a gift it would be if when Jesus comes back you are carrying someone to The Scene.