Sunday, December 21, 2008

One Silent Night

Note: I photocopied this article several years ago. 'Think it appeared in my folks' December issue of Readers Digest? Unfortunately, I cannot locate the exact source --so to credit the author, an individual named "Shlomo" (I don't know if that's his first or last name).
Still, it's message so moved me.....and I hope it does you, as well.

Of the narrow escapes my sister, Judith, and I had from discovery during our year in the orphanage, one stands out particularly. It was Christmas of 1944 -- a white Christmas, with snow falling outside, but warmth within from extra coal and larger food portions. We even had meat -- meat! A Christmas tree stood in the corner, and we children were seated on both sides of a long table nicely arranged with plates. We were singing Christmas carols, their simple and pleasant melodies totally out of context of the savage war that had been raging for six consecutive Christmases.

The pleasant feeling of food in our stomachs loosened our tongues, and contrary to the usual silence enforced during meals we were permitted by the sisters to converse quietly. Boys and girls were separated as usual, but Judith and I could see and smile at each other.

Then suddenly, the door opens and Mother Superior enters, accompanied by a German officer. Judging by his uniform he must be at least a general.

"Children," Mother Superior says, "the commander of the German garrison in Zilina is a devout Catholic, and he asked to spend the evening with you. He also brought you a nice present."

The present turns out to be a large chocolate cake. It is delicious, but I cannot escape an oppressive feeling. Even on this night must the Germans intrude on the tiny and shaky island of peace I have tried to carve out for myself? I notice, too, the tension on Judith's face as she eats her cake silently, her apprehensive eyes on Herr Commandant.

Again we sing some carols -- one of them "Silent Night, Holy Night," itself so close to a prayer.

When we finish there is a pause, and the commandant whispers something to Mother Superior. After a moment's hesitation she asks: "Is there anyone here who can sing 'Silent Night' in German? It will make our distinguished guest very happy."

Both Judith and I know some German; actually we had learned the German version of this song before the Slovak one. But should I now stand up and sing it for our enemy?

As I hesitate I see Judith slowly rise from her chair and walk toward the commandant. The decision has been made for me, so I stand beside her and we join our voices: "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht ..." As we sing, the face above the medals becomes animated and involved in our performance -- the lips move together with our words.

Then suddenly Judith gasps and stops, terror in her eyes. She has suddenly realized what I, too, had feared: Why are we two the only children who know the German version? Where are the others? The answer is simple, and surely the German officer knows it. In this part of the land it is only Jews who understand German. The Commandant has trapped us -- he knows we are Jewish.

He motions to us to approach. It seems an eternity before he speaks. Then looking at us, he says softly: "Hab keine Angst, deine Mutter und Vater werden zuruck kommen" -- "Don't be afraid, your mother and father will come back."

For him, too, it was a silent night.


  1. Oh my goodness, I have goosebumps after reading that.

  2. What a moving story. Thank you for sharing it. You might want to go over to Spiritual Sundays and link this post there. More people would see it that way. The link is
    If you want to do this and need help there is a place right under the linky thing that you can click on. It says "You can learn more about Spiritual Sundays here".
    I wish I had some good advice for the question you posed in your comments on my blog. I know I would have done the same thing you did, and I would be wondering also if I should have had a different reaction. Certainly is was a good thing to pray for that person. If you can be of help perhaps God will provide the opportunity.

  3. Wonderful story. Very moving. Thank you for posting this. Have a wonderful Christmas.

  4. WOW~~~Thank-you for posting this story on Spiritual Sundays.

  5. Thank you for sharing this story. Very beautiful.

  6. Oh my, what an incredible story. What a wonderful Lord we have to protect those girls. Thank you for sharing.

    Christmas Blessings,
    Kathi :)

  7. Beautiful story. And I love all your pictures and other stories. Just found you on the Over 50 blogroll...and glad I did.

  8. Hi. Thanks for your comments on my "white" post. Yes I have been to that Black/White store but not in a long time. Pretty stuff there but too expensive for me. They just opened up a new one about 5 minutes from our house. I'll have to look in there sometime. Maybe they'll have a big sale someday.
    Have a blessed Christmas.

  9. Oh my....this is a tremendously poignant entry. Wow...just wow.

    I have the hair on my neck standing up...

    I want to send along a message of happiness and joy and peaceful serenity for you and yours on this upcoming holiday. Merry Christmas to you from me.


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