Elaine Durbach’s article about her friend’s discovery of her Jewish roots (“Role returns actress to her once-hidden roots,” Dec. 23), coming on the heels of the death of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, whose Jewish parents raised him as Christian, poignantly illustrates how many Jews were lost in the Holocaust.
We often use the figure of six million but this is an underestimate according to the findings of Father Patrick Desbois, the Catholic priest who has spent the last decade unearthing mass graves of Jews in Eastern Europe. Nor do we factor in all the Jews who were not registered as Jews in Europe. We do not add those who were aborted because Nazis considered Jewish women criminals. Prosecution for this capital “crime” was carried out against entire ghetto communities. Also, babies born in ghetto hospitals were immediately poisoned. In cases where babies and children found refuge with the local populace, either in homes or convents, these children were raised as Christians. Parents or other surviving family members who came to reclaim these children often endured protracted judicial proceedings.
In some cases, orphans chose to remain with those who had fostered them, the most famous of these, Aaron Lustiger, entered the priesthood and later became Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger. Nor do we know how many Jews married their Christian rescuers and raised children of these marriages in their new faith.
Many survivors were rendered incapable of bearing children. Many chose not to have children, and some who did have children chose to raise them as Christians and in some cases as Muslims. The fear of raising Jewish children in an anti-Semitic world plays itself out even today among Jews who deliberately choose to marry out and raise children as non-Jews. It is quite miraculous that most survivors chose to remain Jews and raise children with devotion to and love of Judaism.
Throughout our long history, Jews have been compelled to convert — often at the point of a sword — and enjoy the benefits of being part of the majority rather than the marginalized minority. More and more, those with Jewish ancestry are discovering their roots. This is especially true in Poland but it is also happening throughout Europe, South America, our own country, and, apparently, Africa. That these people are embracing Judaism is another miracle.
Holocaust Council of MetroWest