Today I had the privilege of listening to Bill Meyer tell his powerful story. He is a survivor of the Holocaust. He is the fourth Holocaust survivor I have heard speak in person. Although I have studied the Holocaust in depth, am widely read on the subject, and have passionately taught about the Holocaust, with the focus of standing up and making the world a better place . . . hours later I am still left with goosebumps.
Bill was a neighbor to Corrie ten Boom, and as the Nazi regime became more oppressive, he helped her protect Jews by delivering documents. He would ride on his bicycle (sans rubber tires) 50 miles in order to transport the needed documents.
Eventually he was caught. Then he endured nearly three years in concentration camps. He escaped from Birkenau . . . a remarkable feat, since he is the only person he knows of that was able to escape from Birkenau.
His entire family was taken to the camps because he was helping rescue and hide Jews. He had nineteen brothers and sisters. Only one, besides himself, survived. He lost both of his parents. He said, In my country I am not a hero, for I made my family perish because of my choice to help those in need.
He pleaded that we stand up against injustice in this world. Please, please, help others. Please help others. Please help others.
He promised that good always prevails over evil. Always.
He will be 80 next June and said he still can hardly bear to talk of the atrocities that happened 65 years ago. But he must tell the story, for those whose lips have been sealed. For those who didn’t have the chance. For those who should be remembered. He said he’ll continue to tell his story because it is the only way for other generations to understand the unbearable pain and humiliation and torture and starvation.
He stood before us and said, Governments, corporations, and systems do not make the world a better place. Ordinary people make the world a better place. Stand up for others who are not able to stand up for themselves. Make a difference. Today. Because, today is all you have.
I am so thankful for Bill Meyer and his willingness to share his story. I’m thankful for people who stand up for the right thing, no matter what the consequences. And I pray that I have the strength to do the same when I see injustice in the world.