A man who survived nine concentration camps and the death march from Buchenwald befriended the granddaughter of Nazis because "it was the right thing to do."
Based on these two individuals’ backgrounds, it might not seem likely that they’d become friends – much less roommates, but the extraordinary occurred when exactly that took place. The Washington Post reports that 95-year-old Howard Stern was fortunate to escape the clutch of Nazis during WWII in Poland. Now a resident who lives in Berkeley, California, he, interestingly enough, is roommates with 31-year-old Lea Heitfeld, who is a descendant of Nazis.
He opened up his home to the German resident, as she is studying to obtain her master’s degree in Jewish studies as part of the Graduate Theological Union. In an interview, Stern noted that it felt like “an act of justice.” He commented,
“It was the right thing to do. I’m doing the opposite of what they did.”
The pair gets along like crackers and cheese because Heitfeld seeks to atone for her ancestors’ sins and hopes to educate others on the importance of religious tolerance. Considering plenty of bloodshed continues to take place over religious differences and seemingly insignificant discrepancies, her contributions will likely be valuable.
The duo becoming roommates was beneficial for Stern for another reason, as his wife of over 70 years was recently checked into a nursing home for dementia. The student’s presence prevents him from becoming lonely. When the roommates spend time together, they often watch TV, eat dinner, and chat over crackers. They also use their time to talk about history and current events, and Stern never tires of telling Lea about his life as a boy in Poland.
Stern endured much as a teenager when Nazis took over the small Polish town he lived in. After surviving life in the Warsaw Ghetto, nine concentration camps (including Auschwitz), and the death march from Buchenwald, he later went looking for his family. Unfortunately, they all perished in the genocide. After meeting his wife, Helen, in a displaced prisoners camp, they eventually married and made their way to America. He had no education, no money, and could not speak English, but he was alive.
And now, after decades of being able to reflect on the incident which resulted in so much trauma, he embraced the final opportunity to forgive those who hurt him by befriending a granddaughter of Nazis. The beautiful act was not lost on Lea. She told The Washington Post:
“This act of his opening his home, I don’t know how to describe it, how forgiving or how big your heart must be to do that, and what that teaches me to be in the presence of someone who has been through that and is able to have me there and to love me. That he was able to open the door for someone who would remind him of all his pain.”
Their friendship is evidence that hate can dissolve, and that it is possible for positivity to manifest even from the most difficult of hardships. What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news!
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