There have been many known heroes throughout the history of mankind, and we rightly celebrate their lives. There have been many heroes that history will never be fortunate enough to know, except for those who lives were eye witnesses to their glory. Men and women who beyond the limits of courage and sacrifice, have paid the ultimate price. Men and women who fought and cared for people they didn’t even know. And sadly, for many who would never fight or care for them. They did it just because it was the right thing to do. They did it because they had hearts that ached at man’s inhumanity to man. My name is Ira Cohen, and I am an eye witness to such a man.
It grieves me now that I don’t even know his real name. We only knew him by his nickname, Christian. Everyone called him that because that is what he was, a Christian. We were mostly Jews. Jews that were very leery of Christians. It was a very terrifying time. I am ashamed that in my own struggle for survival I have at times forgotten him. In the back of my mind I always thought that someday, someone would tell his story. But who is left to tell it? I know now that it is meant for me to be the one.
The year was 1939, and Germany had just invaded Poland. All those of Jewish descent were rounded up and put into “Ghettos”. My family and I were force into the Krakow Ghetto, I was twelve years old. This is where I first met Christian. I first I thought he was Jewish, as he lived among us in the Jewish Ghetto, but I soon learned differently. He was Protestant, from the southern district of Poland, and why he was in the Ghetto no one knew. That is why so many Jews didn’t trust him. They believed him to be an informer working for the Germans.
“Why would the Germans use a Christian to spy on us? Wouldn’t they use another Jew, wouldn’t that make more sense!?” My Father reasoned.
“Where does he get all that food he gives us? You don’t think there is something suspicious with that? Why does he want to help us?” My Uncle Peter would argue back.
But help us he did. We stopped caring about where the food came from. We were just happy that it came. With each day I learned a little more about Christian. He was a missionary who was a teacher at an orphanage. When the war began he helped Jews hide from the German Army. When they discovered what he was doing, they arrested him and sent him to the Ghetto for punishment . In hindsight, that was better than what they would usually do. Murder someone. The only thing worse than being a Jew back then, was helping one. My family and I became very close to Christian, and my Father would tell me he was different from the others.
“Papa, if he is different, can’t there be others who are different too?”
“Yes, Son. You are right. I’m sure that there are many who are different.”
The only thing my Father didn’t like about Christian is that he would always tell us about Jesus. We would all laugh years later as it became the thing we loved the most about him. My family and I would all accept Jesus into our lives in 1952. We all knew God used Christian to soften our hearts.
The Lord had a plan for us because miraculously my family and I survived the war. And the pain. When we were transferred to Auschwitz we lost contact with Christian and never saw him again. Once, we met someone who said he had escaped. Another said he had been killed at Belzec. One day a new transfer came in from the Krakow Ghetto known as crazy Tommy. A poor soul who lost his mind in the craziness of the cruelty. He insisted that as he was speaking to Christian one day, that Christian suddenly vanished. I don’t know what happened to Christian. I doubt if I ever will. But I will always be thankful to God for him….And who knows, maybe crazy Tommy wasn’t so crazy after all.