I am pulling out of the car park after stopping somewhere on the way to work. The low key music on the radio playing a song I like. The song ends and the radio announcer says in Hebrew, in a moment we will hear the siren. I am driving along the road and coming to a traffic light when the siren starts. I put the car in park and along with many others I jump out of the car and stand to attention. Two minutes pass like this as we remember what happened to our ancestors during the Holocaust. It is an amazing sight. Nobody moves, everyone just stopping where they were, whatever they were doing. One car is stranded in the middle of the junction. I must say that living in Israel, where everyone is in a rush all the time, seeing this timeout is rare.
I have two minutes to think and meditate on the horrors of the past. It has always been difficult for me. My family were incredibly luckly to have left Lithuania and other parts of Europe in the early 1900s. My mum's grandparents settling in Scotland as well as the family on my father's father's side. Both my grandfathers served during the war. One in the RAF and one in the British army. But they never had to endure the horrors of the Holocaust. It makes it harder to relate. It wasn't until I met my wife's grandparents that I had a real relationship with any survivors. All three of the grandparents that I met survived the concentration camps in eastern Europe during World War II.
I often think about myself when I hear stories of survival, what they had to go through and what they had to do in order just to make it through the day makes me wonder if I could manage it. Add to that my diabetes, how would I survive? how could I survive? I think about being stranded on an island, or surviving some apocolypse. Where would I get insulin? How much could I get? And what would happen when it ran out? These are questions I hope I never have to answer.
So my thoughts came back to an article that was sent to me by my friend @NotThatSweet a fellow person with diabetes from the UK. The article was the story of Ernest Sterzer, an Austrian Jew who was diagnosed with diabetes aged 3. He lived through the Holocaust in one of the most amazing stories I have read on the period. His survival was not like any other, many survived in similar ways but getting through all that with diabetes is just incredible. His story is one of luck, ingenuity, random acts of kindness, risk, and the sheer will to carry on. Just avoiding detection as a "weak specimin" and hence being sent to die was difficult, but managing to get enough insulin to keep him from severe hyper glycemia is too much for my words to describe.
It is an inspiring story. Whether touched by the Holocaust or not, whether diabetic or not, Ernest Sterzer's story shows you what you can achive when faced with the worst hardship immaginable. It shows me that whatever complaints I have about my diabetes, or any other part of my life for that matter, I am lucky and I am blessed. I live in a modern world, in a comfortable way, I have great diabetic care and I should never have to know the attrocities of the Second World War in my lifetime.
If you do one thing today for Holocaust Rememberence Day read his story, share it with others, and know that whatever you want to do, it is achievable.
Live long and stay healthy.