By Dale Carroll-Coleman
Emanuel Ringelblum wrote a "Psychosis Of Fear" in relation to the Jew in Nazi Germany:
"It is the imaginary perils, [the] supposed observation by the neighbor, porter, manager, or passer-by in the street, that constitute the main danger, because the Jew ... gives himself away by looking around in every direction to see if anyone is watching him, by the nervous expression on his face, by the frightened look of a hunted animal, smelling danger of some kind everywhere."
This was the life of the Jew living through Hitler's war on Europe. Fear was the word on their lips, all day and the few desperate hours of restless sleep. Fear was the constant shadow of the Jew.
I went to hear a story of a wise sage. Beautiful, 90-year-old, Ellen, now bent spine, she lived through the Holocaust in Germany. Born to a Jewish mother from Poland, father, a German Christian. Highly educated, mother a professor of economics, papa, a lawyer and part of the Reichstag. During the war, removed from their work because one was a Jew.
Ellen had a presence about her. Her education, remarkable ... speaking multiple languages, having been an interpreter in Europe, before and after the war.
She had witnessed atrocities in her youth. Later, a baby lost, too young for this world. A husband lost, too young in years ... yet, there was a joy that could not be stripped of her soul. She called herself a Messianic Jew, a believer of Jesus as Messiah.
I was reading "The Zookeeper's Wife." The true story of a family living in Poland during Hitler's time of horror. I saw the same fear in these women.
As I read, I heard Ellen's voice. I saw her face in Antonina, the zookeeper's wife. The fear, the horror that caught like wildfire in those evil days. Lapping at you from every corner, not knowing when it would turn in your direction ... the inferno consuming you.
The Nazis used fear to separate, control, crush any who did not fit their chosen Aryan race.
After the war Ellen moved to the states with her American soldier husband. They had seven children, lost their next one, too early.
She struggled with faith. She saw no need. She told God, "Show yourself to me!" She was a proud woman.
Then, she remembered a day, during the war, walking down the street, half Jew, half Christian that she was. The Jew, hidden, so as not to betray her. A Jewish man, sweeping dirt, bright yellow star on his arm, showing his Jewishness to all. Like a leper. A loaf of bread under her arm. She knew the man was starving to death.
She thought of sharing her bread, but was afraid. Fear. Caught helping a Jew? You die.
She felt ashamed. In that moment of remembering, she felt God's presence. Her heart believed His Word. God sent His Son to die, for her. He loved her that much.
Then Rebecca was born and she knew fear again.
A fear she had always dreaded, "to have a child that was mentally retarded," were her words then. Words were harsh, denying the child of value. How hard to parent then, without support from community.
The Medical Encyclopedia described children with Down syndrome as Mongoloid and stated, "These little idiots are best put into an institution before you get attached to them."
Her husband read this, slammed the book shut, threw it across the room and later, into the trash. He said, "She is our little girl and we will keep her!"
Ellen struggled, with emotion, anger at God. Fear. She asked God to help her love, advocate for Rebecca.
She became an advocate, for all life, supporting the Right To Life Movement.
Another Holocaust, on the most innocent.
Life ending before a first breath is taken, because they are different, not what we consider perfect. Numbers for terminations of pregnancies with a diagnosis of Down syndrome are 67 percent in the U.S. Some reports as high as 92 percent worldwide. Many women choose not to test, knowing they will not terminate. My heart thanks these women, these couples. I do not judge them, as I only imagine the road they travel. I offer my heart and hands to serve them. I am humbled by their courage.
This story is not about a number. It is about life.
The life of Rebecca, with the joyful laugh. She engaged easily in conversation. She smiled as she talked of wanting chocolate chip cookies. She sat quietly during her mom's presentation. She said it was time to go home. She told me she was getting cranky and wanted a nap.
As we left, I watched Ellen and Rebecca hold hands. The bond, undeniable.
I asked Rebecca her age. She chirped, "42!" Ellen replied, "Rebecca, you just had a birthday, you are 43." Something triggered Rebecca to ask Ellen to pronounce the words, Down syndrome. Neither of us had voiced those words.
Rebecca's tongue and mouth moved to pronounce them exactly as Ellen did. Yet, instead of saying, "I have Down syndrome," she said, "I am Down syndrome."
Her mama took Rebecca's face gently in her hands saying, "Rebecca, you have Down syndrome, you are NOT Down syndrome."
I was undone. Fear had no hold on this woman. Rebecca and Ellen, a witness of love and transformation.
I saw a woman who understood the value of human life. A woman who walked where Hitler's army mopped the streets with the blood of those who were different. Because they were different, they would die. They had no value, considered weak, inferior, not normal.
The story I heard was complex, riddled with emotion, pain and love. God's perfect love. His masterpieces are all around us.
Dale Carroll-Coleman, a freelance writer who blogs at http://www.majorinthegraceofgod.blogspot.com, spent 16 years in Champaign with her husband, where they raised two children. They now reside in Wichita, Kan.