Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Quality of Mercy

by Bianca Rothschild

Animals have always been part of my life. I love them with a passion. But one special "angel animal" will remain in my heart forever.

I am a lady in my mid-seventies who has an amazing story to tell. It's recorded in my testimony for Steven Spielberg's collection of Holocaust stories. He's recorded testimonies of survivors and liberators and righteous gentiles who, at great risk to themselves, helped people in need during those terrible times.

These stories come from all over the world and bear witness to man's inhumanity to man as well as the capacity for great courage and honor. Another collection of these stories can be found at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. which has exhibits, including a boat from Denmark used by Danes to smuggle people to Sweden from Poland and a cattle wagon like the one which transported me with fellow prisoners to Germany.

Born in Poland, I was a teenager when World War II began. My family always had pets. All of us loved them dearly. When the Nazis forced us to leave our home to be put into prison, we entrusted the animals to friends for safekeeping.

By 1945 I was separated from my family and imprisoned in the Ravensbruck, Germany concentration camp. Starving, dressed in only a flimsy uniform, I had to work in the bitter cold. Every day prisoners at the camp congregated in early morning and waited outside to be counted. One day exhaustion and cold overwhelmed me and I fainted. Although my two friends stood in the long row on either side, they couldn't help me.

When the Nazi soldiers saw me lying on the ground, they took one of their large German shepherd dogs off of his leash, removed the dog's muzzle, and commanded him to attack. As the dog ran toward me, the prisoners looked in horror, fully expecting the animal to rip me apart.

But something miraculous happened in that moment.

When the huge dog reached me, he stopped in his tracks. Then he smelled me. To everyone's amazement, the dog, instead of attacking me, licked my face until I revived.

Everyone in the line stood frozen with fear. The soldier who had sent the dog to kill me looked incredibly puzzled. After a minute, I staggered to my feet. Shocked that the dog had allowed me to live, the soldier called the vicious-looking animal back to him.

Those many years ago, an animal befriended me in an insane world of human hatred. I am alive today because a dog disobeyed the command to destroy me and instead showed compassion. Was it fate? Was he an angel? I will never know. But till today I have never forgotten the dog's act of mercy. For the rest of my life I have done whatever I could to save all living creatures.

Visit Allen and Linda's wonderful website, Angel Animal Network, for inspiring stories. Thanks to them for sharing this one!

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