|Bernard Hellreich Ingram and Irena Ingram|
Unfinished Symphony by Bernard Hellreich Ingram
This is a story of Holocaust survivor, Bernard Hellreich Ingram, and his wife Irena, "Kichka" and friend Marian Golebiowski. They risked their lives to save his.
"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out."
Author and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi said "Survivors of traumatic events are divided into two well-defined groups: those who repress their past en bloc, and those whose memory of the offense persists, as though carved in stone, prevailing over all previous or subsequent experiences. Now, not by choice but by nature, I belong to the second group." Mr. Ingram also belongs to the second group, telling his story with pain and honesty.
Bernard Hellreich, who added the last name Ingram upon arrival in Australia after WWII, was a recently graduated Jewish medical student in Poland when the Russians and then the Germans invaded his country. With the help of his Christian girlfriend, soon to be wife, nicknamed "Kichka", and many friends, he was able to assume the identity of a Catholic Pole, hiding in plain sight by masquerading as a Christian, enabling him to survive WWII. He avoided the fate of millions of Jews who did not survive the Holocaust, living to tell the tale. After his escape from a concentration camp ("euphemistically called Arbeits Lager- work camp"), he was able to hide in plain sight, with the help of Irena and a few courageous friends.
Bernard's father, a WWI veteran, correctly predicted the outcome off WWII for himself, saying "I survived a tough World War One, but I don't think I have a chance this time." He didn't.
Bernard tells his own storyt in a matter-of-fact manner of bewilderment and amazement; amazement at how he survived the war at all and bewilderment at the many strokes of luck and acts of kindness that spared his life, while so many others like him died. At the hands of the Germans and their enthusiastic partners, the Ukranians, massacres on a huge scale (5,000 jews at a time in some cases) were perpetrated upon the Polish Jews. Anti-Semitism was already present, taking only a bit of stoking to prod the coals into flames.
Having read books by Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel and been lucky enough to hear Mr. Wiesel speak at the College of Charleston, I continue to be impressed by the peace and kindness exhibited by these survivors of the Holocaust. They make you want to reach out, touch their hands and say thank you for sharing their very painful experiences. The Germans and their WWII allies did not break the spirit of those they tormented and killed. Love, strength and determination remain in the hearts of the survivors, passed on to all who listen to their stories. We must not forget.