Health and Wellness

Healing From Within

Sheryl Glick


Welcome to Healing From Within with host Sheryl Glick author of Life Is
No Coincidence: The Life and Afterlife Connection and The Living Spirit
Answers for Healing and Infinite Love which shares stories of spiritual
awakening and communication and ways to improve through intuition our
personal and collective life story guiding us to health happiness and
purposeful action even in the midst of terrible challenges. Sheryl is
delighted to welcome Jack Hersch author of Death March Escape a tale of
survival of body and spirit in a time of the Holocaust not that long
ago, during the second World War when insanity and terror ruled the
world and death was everywhere. Jack tells the story of his father David
Hersch remarkable man who twice escaped death by the Nazis at the end of
World War 11 due to an incredible confluence of luck fate faith and will
to survive that made him unique.

As listeners of “Healing From Within” are well aware my guests and I
seek to understand our dual nature as spiritual beings experiencing a
physical life and learning through history metaphysics science religion
and spirituality ways to understand human nature and how we may survive
many challenges or hardships through the energy and courage of the soul.

In today’s episode of “Healing From Within” Jack Hersch shares a truly
remarkable journey of his father who not once but twice survived death
as a teenager being taken from his hometown of Dej Hungary to
Mauthhausen Concentration camp, the harshest cruelest camp in the German
Reich. After his father’s death a photograph of his father surfaced on
the Mauthhausen website and sent Jack on a journey back in time to learn
of secrets his father had never shared with him.

Jack tells us of some of the characters and places in the story and
connections that helped them perhaps survive the trauma of those awful
crazy soulless times of hatred but still there was hope and love.

David the survivor of two escape attempts on a death march towards the
end of WW11 described his youth as happy and unremarkable He played
soccer in the local park, worked in his father’s soap factory, rode his
bicycle went to school where he spent half his day on secular
subjects—Romanian Hungarian history math and science and fluently spoke
five languages: Hungarian Romanian Yiddish Hebrew and German. In the
late 1930”s his families comfortable existence grew unstable.

“Official government-sponsored anti-Semitism was encoded in Hungarian
life. Two years earlier Hungary had established a series of anti-Jewish
laws which defined, among other things, who was a Jew, how many Jews
could be employed by a single company and how many Jews could
participate in certain professions It wasn’t a duplication of the German
Nuremberg Laws restricting Jewish Life in the Third Reich, but it was a
strong echo of worse to come..Hungary’s Jews were not yet being sent to
concentration camps unlike the Jews of every other country under Nazi
influence or control. Though Hungary’s Jews like David weren’t sent in
the early years of the war to the camps they were part of the first
Labor Service battalions performing city work.” His father never went
into the very difficult experiences of those days in the camp and always
maintained a positive upbeat sense of humor as Jack was growing up,
unlike many other Holocaust survivors who were quiet and always sad.

Jack his son tells of his father’s remarrying after his mother died and
the fact that his father developed a problem with his mitral valve as
had his mother. Odd it seems I was living with my family in California
and my Dad asked us to come to a Passover Seder in New York. It was
April 7th Dad was going in for surgery and he wanted to tell the story
of the camps again. Maybe he sensed he would be passing and needed to
share more of the truth of what really happened in the events in the
camp. He told Jack that In 1943 a regiment of German soldiers arrived in
Dej. My father noticed the soldiers were somewhat older had been on the
Russian front and had a deep weariness to them. Some of the soldiers
lived in our house and didn’t seem to mind living with Jews..not every
German was an anti-Semite. We had not even heard of Auschwitz the cattle
car transports gas chambers labor camps and The Final Solution. Even
Hungarian Jews who were warned of what soon would be happening to them
refused to believe the worst. Jews in other countries had not been able
to get the word of what was happening in those death camps out to the

After my father’s death I was made aware by a cousin in Israel that a
picture had surfaced on the website of the KZ Mauthausen Concentration
Camp of my father as a young man who had barely survived the war and
Jack embarked on a personal journey of discovery but then Jack was
already an adventuresome man who flew planes skied and live life in
pursuit of personal accomplishments.

Jack soon discovered that on April 19 1944 his saba or great grandfather
died of a heart attack knowing that they would all soon be taken to a
camp He had been gassed in WW 1 and his health had been delicate since
his return from a Russian prison camp. When Jack’s father talked about
the Ghetto they were put in, I imagined it was like the Warsaw Ghetto
where in 1940 400,000 Jews from Warsaw Poland were moved into a 1.3
square mile walled off section of the great city. I was always amazed
that in 1942 there was a great uprising by the more militant inhabitants
and it lasted a month before they were all killed.

But the ghetto my father and family were put in was a section of the
Bungur Forest –no buildings no homes no kitchens no bathrooms just a
field in the forest surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by the Royal
Hungarian Gendarmerie: Hungary’s national police force. It was
inconceivable that 20th century Europeans would be asked to leave their
homes and reestablish life in the forest. But what came next was even
more imaginable.

During Jack’s journey he found the Friedmann House where his father had
been hidden after his second escape from the death march. It was a
sturdy block like two story house that looked formidable and sage with
light brown stucco and a red tiled roof. My father had always said they
put him in the attic of the barn next to their house on a bed of hay and
straw. I could see on the picture that the roof had no windows so the
attic would have been dark The barn was certainly the safest place to
put him in even though it must have been dark and lonely with no one to

Jack meets with Angelika Schlackl a guide and historian at Mauthausen
Memorial his prime contact in Austria. Enns my father’s town of 11,000
people was seven miles from the Danube. Like most medieval towns Enns’
dominant feature is its central square and the 190 foot tall belfry, a
combination clock watch and bell tower built in the 1500’s.

My father told me that he remembered on the fifth day in the forest
ghetto, the German army came and said they needed a baker and my father
told them he knew a little about baking. So he was taken to live in town
and he avoided the worst of ghetto living in that forest. On May 28,
1944 the semblance of order and peacefulness the people had established
evaporated. All the Jews were ordered into trains for transport to
Birkenau. It took a total of three transports to empty Dej’s forest
ghetto of nearly 8, 000 Jews. Jack learned that most of Mauthausen’s
prisoners were non-Jewish communists socialists intellectuals
politicians resistance fighters gays gypsies common criminals prisoners
of war and others deemed unfit by the Nazi flag. They came from German
Austria and Czechoslavakia.

And now all these years later most of the people working for the
memorial: historians curators archivists interns etc were not Jewish. So
strictly for the horribleness and not to memorialize the attempted
genocide of the Jews, these Mauthausen Memorial employees had accepted
the mission of preventing the tragedy of the camps from disappearing
from history.

Even though Jews were not the main portion of the camps population
mostly Jews were on the death camp marches. The primary purpose of these
transports at the end of the war was to move Jews away from the Allied
armies rapidly closing in on central Germany. Their death toll was
appalling After surviving sometimes for years in concentration camps and
labor battalions and barely weeks away from the war’s end, half of the
20,000 Jew who left KZ Mauthausen in a series of death marches on April
1945 didn’t make it. At least 6,000 died on the road before reaching
their destination 30 miles away. Some died of a bullet to the back of
the neck when they dropped from exhaustion. And others were outright
murdered by Nazi guards. Over 4, 000 more died at their destination
where there was little food no water and inadequate shelter. The death
marches wee aptly named.

As we are living now in modern times, the age of social media and Smart
phones computers and advanced technology there seems to be once again a
return or resurgence of anti –Semitism, or perhaps it never really
changes. We might try to do more to help people curb hatred religious or
racial prejudice and begin to heal the world again.

Maybe learning that the Nazis didn’t coin the term concentration camp
but that it originated in the late 1800’s referring to refugee camps in
which people were concentrated during Spain’s Ten Year War with Cuba.
Though these concentration camps were overcrowded and unhealthy places,
the Nazis use of the same term for their infamous slave labor and death
camps gave it its sinister connotation.

Think of the slaves being packed into old fashioned ships brought from
Africa to many places of the world. Think of the Jewish people as slaves
in the Egyptian times. Think of the refugee camps for the Syrian people
and 500,000 citizens dying in a religious civil war and millions
migrating to other lands and think of African countries like Somalia
which are unhealthy places that stifle the mind heart and body of their
occupants, and even if they survive, they carry the scars of these
conditions physically emotionally all the days of their life. Trust and
love is often turned to hatred and fear of others. Sometimes they do to
others without realizing it, that it was done to them.

Although its stated mission was to provide slave labor for its granite
quarries and later for manufacturing plants, KZ Mauthausen’s true
purpose was to slowly murder its prisoners. They were worked to death,
starved to death, beaten to death, shot, drowned, exposed to freezing
cold and to sweltering heat. And always their possessions and wealth
were taken from them.

Jack found out more about the people at the Mauthausen website who had
gotten his father’s photo. He noticed the English caption underneath
which read, “In April 1945 Ignaz and Barbara Friedmann from Enns,
Kristein rescued the completely exhausted David Hersch from the death
march from Mauthausen and Gunskirchen and hid him until the end of the
war. Jack knew about the Friedmanns how they had found my father the day
after his second escape and had hidden him at great risk to themselves
until American soldiers liberated Ennis their town.

Many survivors had gone their entire lives without breathing a word of
what they had endured. Some had not cracked a smile or told a joke since
the day they were crammed aboard a cattle car bound for places like
Auschwitz and Treblinka. However Jack’s father David was nothing like
those survivors. He particularly loved to tell his survival story on
Passover. After all, the holiday commemorates the Jewish breakout in the
dead of night from Egyptian bondage under the command of Moses and
presumably with supernatural help. As readily as my father told his
tale, I sensed a hidden darkness within him, a pain he never shared with
me. The only hints he ever gave of it was when he’d tell me he hadn’t
slept well or had a nightmare about the camps.

Vivi my cousin asked me if I had the picture that was on that website
and I said, “NO.” Her mother remembered the picture taken by a local
photographer used as an advertisement for his studio. Then Vivi went on
to say that perhaps Jack’s father got it when he went back to that place
in 1977. He went there alone on his way to Israel. Vivis mother and the
two other surviving Hersch brothers all lived near each other in
Natanya. My father lived in Long Beach New York and visited his sisters
and brothers at least twice a year. Jack was curious to know why his
father had never told him of the return trip back to the camps.

Finally on the last Passover with his father he described his trip to
the camp Birkenau and the process that had unfolded there. My father’s
Haftlings –Personal Karte his Prisoners Personal Card which survived the
war is date stamped showing he was admitted to KZ Auschwitz Wednesday
June 7, 1944 pm. The train actually took him to KZ Birkenau two miles
away. Also know as Auschwitz 11 it was opened to alleviate crowding in
Auschwitz. More than ninety percent of those that arrived there were
killed within hours of arrival. By the time my father got there it had
turned into the penultimate Nazi killing factory.

The initial introduction to Birkenau was remarkably benign. Men and
women were separated. Children went with their mothers. Walking along
with the men were “kapos” Jewish guards to help with the Jewish
prisoners, who quickly said to David, Why didn’t you try to run Don’t
you know what this is? Astonishingly my father still assumed they were
entering a resettlement camp of some sort. The process involved my
father mother and his family standing in line waiting for the dreaded
selection, in German, the word is selection where incoming Jews were
sorted like wigets in a factory, from good from bad, functional from
defective, most to be killed immediately in gas chambers, the rest to be
worked to death in concentration camps. My father and his brother in law
were sent to the right. He noticed the elderly and nearly all women and
children were sent to the left. As my father went to the right, he saw
his mother and felt a pain in his heart. Men like him strong went to the
right, and women kids overweight men, much older men, to the other side.
The meek were not inheriting the earth: they were being slaughtered.

After the journey back to that place of so much suffering for his father
Jack began to feel and understand his father and himself in a more
complete way.

Jack wrote, “I study the field called Revier at Mauthausen built by
Russian prisoners after Hilter and Stalin were no longer working
together, which they then called Sanitatslager or the Sanitary Camp,
which was used for very sick prisoners. I study the field more closely.
My father had been somewhere on that turf for three months. Though it is
now barren, I easily picture row after row of German field grey barracks
filling the field when Dad was a KZler there. This is why I have come.
This is what I want to see. Places where my father existed, places where
he persevered, places where he beat the odds. Seeing the Wiener-Graben
mine and walking into the quarry, I think about how thousands of lives
were stolen there to produce the granite fascades and roadbed of
Hitler’s Germany. I tell Angelika my guide that I cannot imagine facing
this sinister mass every morning for years as some of Mauthausen KZlers

I have the unmistakable impression that I am experiencing the same
feeling he felt during his first days in the camps, when he lost track
of time. Psychologists would say we were dissociating. We were detaching
ourselves from our environments, severing ourselves from our realities
to cope with the extremes we were seeing and feeling. Obviously, my
father’s dissociating was very different than mine. He was on a real
world journey through hell.”

Sheryl says to Jack I believe yours was a journey through the memories
perhaps of the Jewish people who worked in the quarries of Egypt 4, 000
years ago, and what has been shared with us since childhood about the
struggles of the Jewish people then and in WW 11. For the most part the
Jewish people are a productive and loving people who honor their
families and the nations they live and work in. So it is hard for us to
understand why when things go bad economics political situation famines
wars in any part of the world, the Jewish people are targeted first
Right now in our own Congress there are those who are pushing an
anti-Semitic and Anti – Israel agenda as they work for their Muslim
brotherhood and interests. It seems to never end: one group. race
religion gender culture against another. We must hope and work towards a
universal understanding of the soul or energetic oneness of life and
conquer the differences that separate our need for compassion and love.

Perhaps what Jack saw written on the memorial the eastern wall of KZ
Mauthausen which contains 10 plaques identical except for the language
universally expressed in The English plague written in all capital
letter and without punctuation might be remembered:

FRP, 1940 TP 1945 MORE THAN

Jack wrote, “The words on the plague seem inadequate to Jack. Not nearly
enough to memorialize the 37,000 or more dead whose blood and sweat lay
under my feet. The best way to memorialize concentration camps, to
remember and honor those who were murdered in them, is to leave them
untouched, like Mauthausen Auschwitz and Birkenau flags to the world
reminding everyone of what can happen when prejudices and power are left
unchecked. Like the ground where the Twin Towers once stood is
rightfully considered hallowed never to be built upon so no one ever
forgets what happened. I’ve been there It’s powerful. It hits home.

Jack J. Hersch author of Death March Escape has shared the authentic
story of his father’s spiritually guided survival of the Holocaust and
the descriptions of the death camps Auschwitz and Birkenau as well as
Mauthausen where he finally made the death march at the end of the war,
when the Germans knew the Allies would soon be there. Miraculously, he
escaped and was taken in by a family who hid him.

In summarizing today’s episode of “Healing From Within” with a
discussion with Jack the son of a Holocaust survivor who carried the
partial hurt and pain all his life, knowing that many in his father’s
family and friends had not survived a war. All wars seek to claim take
or annex territory and people’s prized possessions and impose their way
of life, but a war by a world out of control, who sought to eliminate
those who they simply deemed unworthy to live due to their religious and
cultural standards is unconscionable and inhuman. To think that people
can be so devoid of emotion and moral codes and can even entertain such
murderous ideas and actions is painful to consider but human nature and
the need to survive, often trumps the grander need of the soul to evolve
into greater compassion and love, It has been throughout human history,
a challenge for good leaders to have their people follow the heart
instincts, and not the ego based “dog eat dog” mentality of physical
reality, which often tricks us into believing we are in mortal danger
and must fight for prosperity health and success.

Right now in this moment in a technologically advanced world there are
Anti-Semitic and Anti-Christian attacks here in America and in the
world. Forces are at work trying to reenact the hateful rhetoric and
destructive behaviors of the Holocaust. Righteous and decent people will
hopefully stem the tide of depravity hatred and ignorance and triumph
over evil.

Jack wrote, “In the camp it wasn’t just on Yom Kippur the day of
Atonement the holiest day in the Jewish Calendar but I prayed to God
every day in the camps, Every day….My father’s eyes welled up for a
second time that evening. Maybe he was thinking of his parents right
then. I knew he never doubted that his survival was not happenstance,
was not just luck, was not just the force of his upbeat personality and
monumental will power. In his view, he’d had help. His mother’s last
words to him that he would take a “luxury train ride one day” a
premonition was proof. My father had held on to the possibility of that
train trip and he held on to God making it a reality. And when he
survived he committed himself to saying those same few prayers he had
said each day in the camps, to saying thank you, every day for the rest
of his life.”

Jack and I would have you remember the same way his father’s faith saw
him through the most life threatening events each day for years we
believe God watches over us our family as well. We may not yet have
scientific proof but in our heart and soul we know life is not random
and each experience whether we see it as good or bad ultimately leads
our soul to refine and get closer to the divine force of life and
holding onto that faith is the key to eternal life.

Today’s Guest