Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Real Santa Claus Lived in Poland During the Holocaust!

I do not believe in Santa Claus. However, there was a man during the Holocaust named Antoine Claus that gave my father a great gift that would put to shame Santa Claus.
Mr. Antoine Claus was a shoemaker. He did business with my Grandfather, buying leather from our family business. He lived in a one room shack a few miles from Radziejow. His shack served as living quarters and his workshop.
My father was on the run hiding from the Nazis and begging for food from the peasants. One evening he came upon Mr. Claus' shack. My father knocked on his door hoping for a bit of kindness. When Mr. Claus opened the door he was shocked to see my father. He was sure that all Jews were taken away. He recognized my father as the son of the pius Shimon Neuman.
Mr. Claus saw my father in his filthy clothes, long hair, and beard. On his own initiative the poor shoemaker shaved my father, gave him a haircut and clean clothes. He fed my father. He gave my father a bed in the one room shack.
The living quarters was separated from the workshop area by a thin curtain. My father was on one side of the curtain as Mr. Claus worked with customers on the other side. Nazi soldiers would come to the workshop to have their boots repaired. On occasion, my father would hear the Nazis brag about killing Jews. One would say he killed a hundred Jews. The next would brag that he killed many more. Mr. Claus did not react. His life was in danger. At any moment the Nazis could have opened the curtain. But they didn't.
After several days of being fed and sheltered my father felt guilty that he was putting Mr. Claus in danger. Mr. Claus never asked my father how long he was staying. My father, finally, reluctantly, volunteered to leave.
Mr. Claus is one of those few shining lights of kindness during the Holocaust. I am sure if there was such a person as Santa Claus, he would never reach the level of righteousness as Antoine Claus.

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