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Out of the Depths

The Story of a Child of Buchenwald Who Returned Home at Last

by Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau


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Out of the Depths
The Story of a Child of Buchenwald Who Returned Home at Last

by Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau

Review posted July 20, 2013.
Sterling, New York, 2011. 380 pages.
Starred Review

Israel Meir Lau was one of the youngest survivors of Buchenwald. His older brother was charged by their father to take care of him, and against all odds, he did.

The weight of history and the pride of his heritage rings through these pages. Here he talks about his brother:

Naphtali recalled his last conversation with Father, in which Father had counted thirty-seven generations of rabbis on both his and my mother's sides of the family. He did this in order to demonstrate the great responsibility of whoever would be saved from the horror to continue the chain of our heritage. Father read verses from Jeremiah: There is hope for your future, the word of God, and your children will return home. He emphasized that if we escaped this inferno safely, we would know how to find our home, which was not this home or any other on this enemy land. "Your home will be in Eretz Israel [the Land of Israel], even if you have to acquire it through suffering," he said, and Naphtali and Father cried on each other's necks. After embracing each other tightly, Naphtali returned to his job in the ghetto. Father's words echoed in his ears. Father had believed that I, the youngest son of the Lau family, would escape the inferno safely and pass along the heritage that the Nazis were attempting to destroy.

Israel ("Lulek") did indeed survive, though his parents did not. He was only eight years old at the end of the war, but his brother managed to keep him safe in the camps. He and his brother made it to the land of Israel, and Lulek went on to become Chief Rabbi of Israel.

This is his story, a story of God's protection and a story of great service back to God.

The beginning of the book, describing the war years, is the most gripping. After he gets to Israel, he doesn't organize the material in chronological order, so the book was a little harder to follow. But throughout the book, a powerful story is told of a man who clearly has the hand of God upon his life.