For the many, many readers whose Three Weeks—and the rest of the year—have been uplifted by Rabbi Dovid Hoffman’s popular Heroes of Spirit, here’s a second helping of a great thing: Heroes of Faith, a brand new book offering another 100 inspirational stories that took place during the Holocaust and under Russian rule. In this stirring volume, you will meet many great Jews—both famous rabbinic figures and so-called “pashute” Yidden—whose faith during these black eras of our history carried them and our Nation above the unspeakable tragedies they endured.
For all those looking for a dose of chizuk during the Bein Hametzarim or any time!
Click here to purchase online.
Keep reading for an incredible story from this volume:
Arugas Habosem: A Grandfather’s Promise
Duvid’l was a young Hungarian Jew who shared the fate of his brethren. He, too, was deported to the kingdom of death camps. In the winter of 1945 he was slaving for the German war industry in Gusen, Austria. An epidemic of typhus broke out there and Duvid’l was one of its victims. For some time, his friends were able to shield him from the searching eyes of the kapo and the S.S. men and save him from the certain doom awaiting the sick and dying. Every morning they dragged him out from the barracks to the appell and propped him up against a board, its base anchored into the ground and its top concealed under Duvid’l’s striped jacket, thus creating the impression that Duvid’l was well and standing on his own two feet. At work his friends placed him near his machine and worked alternately on their own machines and on Duvid’l’s, thereby completing his daily quota in addition to theirs. When the German overseer passed by, Duvid’l moved his hands to give the impression that he was working at full speed.
But Duvid’l’s body could not take the strain; his fingers became numb and his feet could not move. One morning, as his friends were about to drag him to work, they discovered that his body was cold. He did not respond to any of their attempts to revive him. They begged forgiveness for being unable to save his life, though they had tried to the best of their abilities. They walked out to the zeilappell without Duvid’l, and from there they marched to their daily jobs at the ammunition factory.
At night, when they returned to their barracks, Duvid’l’s body was gone. It had been taken away with all the other corpses and placed in the death shack where the bodies were collected for disposal.
That night, Duvid’l’s closest friend, who had shared the top of the three-tiered bunk bed with him and others, had a dream. In his dream, he saw a man with a long beard. The man told him, “You are Duvid’l’s friend. Go to the death chamber and wish him a full and speedy recovery.”
The friend woke up. Although the dream made a strong impression upon him, he did not consider it anything more than a dream and he fell asleep again. Once more, he dreamed the identical dream. He woke immediately, as before, but this time he was very frightened.
The dream was in fact a command to go to the death shack, which was located at the other side of the camp. To go there at this hour meant risking his own life, for to leave the barracks at night was a violation that carried the death penalty. The fear for his life was stronger than the dream and Duvid’l’s friend decided not to leave for fear of being shot by the German guards. Once more he fell asleep.
He dreamed again. This time the old man with the flowing beard said, “I am the Arugas Habosem, Duvid’l’s grandfather. Go and tell Duvid’l that I say that he will have a speedy and complete recovery. To you no evil will happen and your merit will be very great.”
This time, Duvid’l’s friend jumped out of his bunk in great fear and without thinking, ran in the direction of the death shack. Miraculously, there were no German guards around and no one noticed him.
The death shack was filled with corpses stacked together like logs of dry wood. It took many minutes before he was able to locate his friend Duvid’l’s corpse. Once he was sure he had found his friend, he placed the stiff and cold body on the floor, stood next to it, and announced as he had been commanded in his dream: “Your grandfather, the Arugas Habosem, wants you know that you, Duvid’l, will have a complete and speedy recovery.”
The shack was quiet; not a sound or movement was heard. Suddenly, Duvid’l lifted his hand, grabbed the hand of his friend, and said, “Repeat what you just said.”
Terror and panic filled the man but he still managed to force the words out of his mouth. “Your grandfather, the Arugas Habosem, lets you know that you will have a speedy and complete recovery!” The friend wanted to run away from the death shack, but Duvid’l would not let him. His frozen fingers were intertwined with his friend’s and his grip was like that of an iron vise.
“Tell me once more!” Duvid’l commanded his frightened and nearly hysterical friend. The friend repeated the same sentence about twenty times. Finally, Duvid’l eased his grip and released his friend’s hand. Frightened to death, the friend ran back to his barracks with as much strength and speed as he could muster.
In the morning, the German in charge of the death shack arrived to find an unusual sight. Duvid’l, shivering with cold, was sitting up amidst the corpses. A spark of humanity flickered in the Nazi’s heart. He took Duvid’l to the camp’s hospital where he was treated and nursed back to health. Duvid’l recovered fully and was liberated by the American army in the spring of 1945. He remained a pious Chassidic Jew and moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where he raised a family and ended up living just a few doors away from his friend who had literally brought him back to life.