He Wasn't Bitter
My sophmore year of high school, we (the sophmores) were learning about the Holocaust. My school liked to coordinate the History and English classes so that what we read in English was related to what we were studying History. My English teacher wasn't the best at teaching English, in fact I don't remember any truely enriching discussion on Night by Elie Wiesel, but he was an excellent instigator of experiences.
After we read Night, he hunted down a Holocaust survivor to speak for our class. I remeber his class room was packed--he had all 40 of his students from both periods of his class plus what ever students managed to squeeze in. There were people piled on the couches he had, people on desks & counters, people on the floor, people standing along the walls & crowding in the open door, trying to see in. Looking back, maybe he should have arranged for the school to let him hold it in the theater. That's were that guy from the Little Rock Nine spoke. Anyway, my best friend and I were fortunante enought to get a front row seat.
His name was Paul Sauber, I think. He was this adorable old man with a cane, high waters & a jaunty cap. He told us about his experiences in Aushwitz, about how he was the only one in his immeadiate family to survive, and that was only because he had lied about his age. He told us snippets of his experiences, like how he had lost a few of his toes to frost bite, how he had been liberated by American forces and moved to America, where he had some surviving family members. He said, the first thing he did when he was free was eat until he was "as fat as a little elephant!"
As I listened, I was amazed at how he could throw in jokes as he told about what at happened to him. I was more amazed when the floor was opened up to dicussion. Someone asked how he felt about Germans, and he sincerely harbored no ill will. He was berhaps the least bitter man I've ever met, and yet had the most reason to be.
I got chilles when he showed us his tattoo. Someone asked what he would say to people who claim the Holocaust never happened. He simply said, "I'd show them this," and rolled p his sleeve so that we could see his tattoo. I got a really good look: thin, rushed lines--a faded blue with old ages, but still quite defined. The room was quite for a little while, as everone strained to look, and then he covered it again, smiling at all of us. Not a drop of bitterness.