In a room full of Airmen and Soldiers, an Army chaplain took a moment to talk about Jewish spirit and faith in God during a Holocaust Remembrance Breakfast here May 2, 2016. Army (Capt.) Joseph Messinger, the U.S. Army Garrison Humphrys rabbi,started his discussion with facts about the Holocaust and the resultingpersecution of Jews.
“Nazis ran more than 42,000 camps and ghettos during the war,” said Messinger. “Six million Jews were murdered; I say murdered and not killed because that is what happened, they were brutally murdered.”Messinger added that he wasn’t there to throw out numbers and scary statistics, but to inform people about the good that comes out of tragedy. “Yes, it was a horrible tragedy, but they had faith,” the rabbi said. “We trust in God; our spirit, the essence of what it means to be Jewish. Our faith in God, is unwavering. Faith is what keeps us alive.”
He explained the faith in stories about rabbis who, despite the harsh conditions and maltreatment, their faith never relented. One story was of Rabbi Yisroel Spira, whose wife and children were murdered during the Holocaust.
Spira descended from a line of rabbis, led congregations in several Polish towns and survived concentration camps during World War II. He lived to be 99 years old before passing in 1989.
Today, he has hundreds of living descendants. In the book, “Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust,” Spira and many other Jews were interviewed and explained what it was like at the concentration camps run by Nazis.
Throughout the book, Spira and other Jews stood fast in their faith, despite the adversity and persecution in the camps. He still lifted the spirits of his fellow Jews by secretly performing Jewish rituals and ceremonies, such
as lighting the menorah and getting matzah.
“We must never forget that dark and tragic time in history,” Messinger said. “Faith kept them alive to tell the tales of our people.”
Messinger spoke at length about his personal relationship with Rabbi Ernest Friedman, a concentration camp and Holocaust survivor. He said Friedman’s life serves as an example of simple, honest faith, humbleness, and sweetness and included that his life story was a lesson in faith and resilience. Freidman, like Messinger, was a Hungarian Jew. However, his wife and daughter were taken from him while enroute to a camp. Messinger quoted a passage from Freidman: “Faith is not like a pill. It is not easy. You gather it. And you have to make up in your own mind. Ask yourself, how did I get here. Who is giving you the ability to have life, to breathe?”
In addition to the breakfast, four book readings took place inside the Osan Community Center during the week, where participants discussed “Boy with the Stripped Pajamas,” “The Book Thief,” “Unbroken” and “A
Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.”