"a portrait of love and courage at a time when those qualities were in short supply."
For over six decades a letter was tucked away from the world, it was sent as a desperate and final plea for help in a time when the unimaginable was taking place far from American shores.
You are surely informed about the situation of all jews in Central-Europe and this letter will not astonish you. By pure chance I got your address and as our names are the same I hope that we belong to the same family... we are seized with fright thinking of the moment when our children will leave us and we shall be left here alone. The only possibility to join our children, the dearest we have in this world, is the way to America and I beg you instantly to send us (for me and my wife) an affidavit... I beg you once more: help us follow our children, it is our last and only hope.
The recipients of this letter would, for reasons unknown, choose not to answer the letter, yet they refused to throw it away. When they passed away in the mid-1970s, it was found by their niece who felt it was too important to throw away. As she began to near the end of her life she felt someone needed to know about the letter and that is how it ended up in the hands of journalist, Faris Cassell, a woman who was driven by the question, "What happened to Alfred and Hedwig Berger?"
She would spend nearly twenty years searching for answers, travel across five countries, and talk with people who were complete strangers but would become good friends. The more Faris Cassell dug deeper into the lives of these ordinary people she uncovered an extraordinary story, one of courage, love, and deep faith.
I must confess that as soon as I read the back cover of this book I was fascinated. It completely grabbed my attention and curiosity. This couple was so desperate for help that they were willing to beg complete strangers. I will say that this book was a difficult read in many ways, there was so much sorrow and loss yet it was impossible not to be pulled into the world of this family who loved each other with such devotion. As the author begins to walk you through their life, how the couple met, their background, and the relentless effort they put forth to ensure the safety of their children, there was a quote that caught my attention.
"Sunlight over a dark landscape"
I read it over and over again, then I wrote it down though I wish I had noted the page number but the idea was that there were moments woven throughout the story when human courage and compassion shown like the sun in a dark landscape. My mind went to the verses in Matthew five:
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
We are meant to be a light not for ourselves or that others will see how great we are, but to point others to Christ. Our world is naturally a dark place, it began in darkness and only when God stepped on the scene did the darkness vanish. He who is Light pushed the darkness into the corner and only His presence eliminates it. We are called to be a light to the world, to be a reflection of God and in so doing we become a piece of sunlight over a dark landscape. Darkness is oppressive and when we spend extended periods of time under its shadow we can become a soul that is discouraged. Sunlight is the direct opposite, we delight to bathe in it's warmth and can instantly feel happier as it surrounds us. How can we make a difference in this world that seems to be nearly swallowed up by the darkness? We begin by going directly to the source of light, our God, and we do this by spending time in His Word because it is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. When we meditate on the Word of God its truths and principles will begin to penetrate our soul and influence our behavior. How can we be sunlight over a dark landscape? When we are kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, and speaking words of love. This is how we make a difference in this dark landscape, being the lights that shine forth, reminding people that kindness, mercy, and love still exist in the world because He is kind, merciful, and loving. As Christians, followers of Christ, we have a purpose and part of that includes being someone who shines the SONlight over a dark landscape.
One final thought that I took away from this book was a comment made by the author herself as she pondered how Alfred and his wife Hedwig could celebrate their religious holidays, particularly the one that required them to confess their sins to the Lord while enduring such suffering and loss. It was such a reminder to me on the lost's mentality, that they can't comprehend why anyone could ask for forgiveness for sin when the One they were confessing to was allowing such wrong to go unpunished. What they fail to see is the other side of the coin, that our life here on earth is temporary, it is not all there is, in fact, it is merely a drop in light of eternity. It was a great reminder to me, even though there is so much injustice and corruption going on in our world right now, but that does not mean I get a pass on making sinful choices or yielding to temptations. God is still just and worthy of all the honor and respect I can give Him. When I keep a correct view of eternity in mind, that this life is merely a vapor which will soon be past and a wondrous future awaits all those that call upon His name, I will seek to keep my heart pure through confession of sins. Also, confessing my sins should not be determined by my current circumstances but by the fact that it is needful for me in order to maintain a correct relationship with my Heavenly Father, the One who died to save me.
If you enjoy learning about history, you will enjoy this book. It is very real and you will find yourself pulling for this family that lived nearly ninety years ago, that held onto to hope to the very end.
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I am just an ordinary girl who is loved by an extraordinary God and I seek to love others the same way. I love to bake, read, do puzzles, watch Hallmark movies, and go shopping with my mom! This blog was created as a place where I could share some thoughts that the Lord has shown me and to be an encouragement to others who desire to know Him in a deeper way. My prayer is to learn to sit still and trust God with my future.