By Rabbi Kenneth L. Cohen
This is a story I heard Rabbi Hugo Gryn tell at an interfaith meeting held in the Jerusalem Chamber at Westminister Abbey:
When I was a young boy my family was sent to Auschwitz. For a while my father and I shared a barracks. In spite of the unspeakable horror, oppress ion and hardship, many Jews held onto what scraps of Jewish religious observance as they were able. One midwinter evening one of the inmates reminded us that tonight was the first night of Hanukkah, the festival of dedication, the Feast of Lights. My father constructed a little Hanukkah menorah out of scrap metal. For a wick, he took some threads from his prison uniform. For oil, he used some butter that he somehow procured from a guard.
Such observances were strictly "verboten," but we were used to taking risks. Rather, I protested at the "waste" of precious calories. Would it not be better to share the butter on a crust of bread than to burn it?
"Hugo," said my father, "both you and I know that a person can live a very long time without food. But Hugo, I tell you, a person cannot live a single day without hope. This is the fire of hope. Never let it go out. Not here. Not anywhere. Remember that, Hugo."
barracks : a large building or group of buildings for soldiers to live in
oppress (v) to make sb only able to think about sad or worrying things
scraps : food left after a meal
inmate :one of the people living in an institution such as a prison or a mental hospital
dedication: a ceremony that is held to show that a church or other building, or an object, has a special purpose or is special to the memory of a particular person
Feast: a large or special meal, especially for a lot of people and to celebrate sth
menorah: a traditional Jewish object to hold seven or nine candles
wick: the piece of string in the centre of a candle which you light so that the candle burns
guard: people who protect
take risks: to do sth even though you know that sth bad could happen as a result
crust: the hard outer surface of bread