Thursday, March 1, 2007

A Survivor's Story

As I've already posted below, I was mistaken about how my friend Michel escaped the ovens of Europe as a child.

However he managed it, I thank G-d that he did.

Here's a bit more of Michel's story.

It was originally published in a book called The Triumphant Spirit: Portraits & Stories of Holocaust Survivors Their Messages of Hope & Compassion.

He's updated it a little since its original publication:



Michel Margosis remembers the sweetness of life before the war, strolling through fairs, attending movies and Yiddish theater. Life as a child in Belgium seemed easy.

Michel was born in September 1928. Eleven years later, World War II began: Belgium was attacked in May 1940. "We heard the sirens shrieking and the sound of explosions throughout the city, and we saw heavy black smoke," Michel wrote.

Michel's father had already fled persecution during the Russian Revolution likely because of his teacher Menachim Bialik. He was interned in Siberia in the 1920's, but he escaped and journeyed by foot to Palestine. He later settled in Belgium as a journalist. He eventually owned and edited two weekly newspapers, one in Yiddish and the other in French. Very outspoken against dictatorships, Michel's father became alarmed by the events leading to the war. So, when Brussels was attacked, the Margosis family did not wait; they fled.

"We began our saga as we kept one pace ahead of the Nazis. We headed toward the overcrowded railroad station, missed one train connecting to a ship that was subsequently sunk in the Channel on the way to England, but got onto another train to the bombed out city of Mons." They spent seven days and seven nights traveling, bombed and strafed on the way, until they arrived in Southern France. Michel's father was forced by the events to flee to Portugal. Michel went hiding in a farm and in Marseilles for many months with his mother and siblings. They were hoping to rejoin his father.

When the Nazis seized the rest of France, the family headed for Spain. En route by train, they discovered that were traveling with German troops. "My mother with her thick Eastern European accent became mute instantaneously and promptly 'learned' sign language, while my brother, sister and I were audibly indistinguishable from other French natives." The next day they hired two gendarmes as guides, who for a sizable fee led them over the 11,000 foot Pyrenees mountains to the safety of Spain. They were arrested two days later by the Spanish carabiñeros and incarcerated separately. Later on, they were released and subsidized to live in a forced residence and then in Barcelona.

Michel was enlisted in an American program for children and made it to the United States in June 1943. His siblings went to Palestine, and his mother smuggled herself into Portugal to finally rejoin her husband.

Michel's parents came to America in 1946, but it took ten years until the entire family was reunited. In the meantime, Michel attended high school and college in Brooklyn, and enlisted in the US Army. He served as a medic in France during the Korean War. After returning to the States, he worked in pharmaceutical and research laboratories and as a senior research chemist for the US Food & Drug Administration. He became a world-renowned expert in the analysis of antibiotics and retired in 1990. He has been widowed for nearly four years, father of two children, and grandfather to two boys, nearly two and four and an almost eight year old girl.

Michel now spends his time as a volunteer for a variety of organizations including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, the National Parkinson Foundation, Public Broadcasting System, and as a Commissioner of the Fairfax Human Rights Commission. His memories, he says are his legacy. "As I have borne witness to the Holocaust," he says, "it is up to you to ensure that it will be remembered".

(Revised 12 October 2004, MM)

Please focus, after you've taken in the breadth of the drama presented above, on these sentences:

He became a world-renowned expert in the analysis of antibiotics and retired in 1990. He has been widowed for nearly four years, father of two children, and grandfather to two boys, nearly two and four, and an almost eight year old girl.

For every victim of genocide, there is the potential that they could have become an expert in some area that could save the world.

For every victim of genocide, there is no life-long, loving marriage like Michel's.

For every victim of genocide, there are no succeeding generations of two children and three grandchildren.

The genocide in Darfur must be stopped.

Never Again, Goddammit.

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