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Nazi Records

Day of Remembrance …

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The international Day of Remembrance has begun in Israel. The day that we remember the 6 million Jews, and many others that went to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps. Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

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big1402 KL Auschwitz Work makes free Arbeit macht frei Today

Nazi Records

These – Bad Arolson is where the millions upon millions of files for Nazi records have been kept and for years now been open to the public for research purposes.

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Yad Vashem. The Holocaust museum in Israel.

You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who does not know peace
Who fights for a scrap of bread
Who dies because of a yes and a no.
Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter

Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At Home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,

Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.

Primo Levi

Survival in Auschwitz


Scholars make finds in Nazi archive

By ARTHUR MAX, Associated Press Writer

BAD AROLSEN, Germany – From prison brothels to slave labor camps, 15 scholars concluded a two-week probe Thursday of an untapped repository of millions of Nazi records, and hailed it as a rich vein of raw material that will deepen the study of the Holocaust.

It was the first concentrated academic sweep of the long-private archive administered by the International Tracing Service since it opened its doors last November to Holocaust survivors, victims relatives and historical researchers.

German historian Christel Trouve said the nameless millions of forced laborers began to take shape as individual people as she studied small labor camps — which existed in astonishing numbers.

Among the striking revelations was the identification of the man who rescued an 8-year-old boy in Buchenwald, Israel Meir Lau, who later became Israel’s chief rabbi.

Lau had said his rescuer was a person called Fyodor from Rostow. Kenneth Waltzer of Michigan State University found it was Fyodor Michajlitschenko, 18, arrested by the Gestapo in 1943, who gave the small boy ear warmers and treated him like a father in Block 8 until the camp’s liberation.

“A lot of us found the collections here, approached in the appropriate way, really opened up new significant scholarly lines of inquiry,” said Waltzer, who is director of his university’s Jewish Studies department.

Jessica Anderson Hughes of Rutgers University discovered that prostitutes servicing other prisoners in concentration camp brothels often came from ordinary backgrounds — exploding the myth that most had been prostitutes before their arrest.

Hughes said the lists in Bad Arolsen allowed her to attach names to the prisoner-prostitutes at Buchenwald, one of the largest concentration camps which had one of eight known brothels for prisoners.

With the names she could look up incarceration records — and she found some women were married, some single, some were mothers. The records said many were arrested for petty theft or other minor crime.

“We always portrayed them as volunteers, but I wanted to know why they volunteered,” she said. She believed the prostitutes faced “a choiceless choice.”

The opening of the files to scholars followed pressure from survivors and from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The importance of the archive was highlighted in a series of stories by The Associated Press, which was the first news organization to be granted extensive access to the long-restricted papers.

The research project was organized jointly by the tracing service and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, which brought scholars from six countries to begin assessing the significance of the archive, the largest collection of Nazi documents.

The 50 million pages stored in this central German spa town since the mid-1950s previously had been used by Red Cross staff to respond to inquiries about missing persons or the fate of family members, and later to document compensation claims.

With the population of survivors quickly shrinking, the 11 countries that govern the archive agreed in 2006 to widen access to the files. It took another 18 months for all 11 to ratify the required treaty amendments before the archive could open.

Reto Meister, the archive’s director, said he still gets 1,000 inquires a month asking for personal information. Now, the archive is also getting dozens of academic inquiries or visitors every month, he said.

The gray metal shelves and cabinets contain 16 miles (25 kilometers) of transport lists, camp registries, medical records, forced labor files and death certificates of some 17.5 million people subjected to Nazi persecutions.

Taken together with written and oral testimonies and the transcripts of war crimes trials, the dry data at Bad Arolsen add texture to the known picture of the Holocaust, from the first concentration camps created within weeks of Hitler’s rise to power in January 1933 to the defeat of Nazism in May 1945.

“It was much more than I expected,” said Trouve.

“I’ve been working on concentration camps for 15 years. We know there was forced laborers in Germany — millions of them,” she said. “But then you go through these lists. You see the farmer employing so many people. You see the factory employing hundreds of people. Everything was blurred, but suddenly you have a clear image.”

Jean-Marc Dreyfus, of Manchester University in Britain, said the archive “won’t utterly change our view of the Holocaust, but it will be very precious for researchers to complement and pursue new research.”

___

Associated Press investigative researcher Randy Herschaft contributed to this article from Bad Arolsen


Berlin inaugurates memorial to Nazi’s gay victims

The memorial for homosexual victims of the Nazi regime, designed by Norwegian artist Ingar Dragset and Danish artist Michael Elmgreen, seen in Berlin on Monday, May 26, 2008. On Tuesday, May 27, 2008 the monument will be unveiled officially.

By GEIR MOULSON, Associated Press

BERLIN – Germany unveiled a memorial Tuesday to the Nazis’ long-ignored gay victims, a monument that also aims to address ongoing discrimination by confronting visitors with an image of a same-sex couple kissing.

The memorial — a sloping gray concrete slab on the edge of Berlin’s Tiergarten park — echoes the vast field of smaller slabs that make up Germany’s memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, opened three years ago just across the road.

The pavilion-sized slab includes a small window where visitors can view a video clip of two men kissing.

Berlin’s openly gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit, said the monument was a reminder of the ongoing struggles that still confront gays.

“This memorial is important from two points of view — to commemorate the victims, but also to make clear that even today, after we have achieved so much in terms of equal treatment, discrimination still exists daily,” Wowereit said as he inaugurated the memorial alongside Culture Minister Bernd Neumann.

Nazi Germany declared homosexuality a threat to the German race and convicted some 50,000 homosexuals as criminals. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 gay men were deported to concentration camps, where few survived.

“This is a story that many people don’t know about, and I think it’s fantastic … that the German state finally decided to make a memorial to honor these victims as well,” said Ingar Dragset, a Berlin-based Norwegian who designed the memorial along with Danish-born Michael Elmgreen.

The commemoration “unfortunately comes too late for those who were persecuted and survived in 1945,” said Guenter Dworek, of Germany‘s Lesbian and Gay Association. “That is very bitter.”

He said the last ex-prisoner that his group knows of died in 2005.

Wowereit echoed his regret over the time it took to honor the Nazis’ gay victims.

“That is symptomatic of a postwar society which simply kept quiet about a group of victims, which … contributed to these victims being discriminated against twice,” he said.

Few gays convicted by the Nazis came forward after World War II because of the stigma attached to homosexuality. The law used against them remained on the books in West Germany until 1969, and Dworek said there were 50,000 convictions under the legislation after the war.

Not until 2002 did the German parliament issue a formal pardon for homosexuals convicted under the Nazis. One reason it took so long was because the legislation had been linked to a blanket rehabilitation of 22,000 Wehrmacht deserters — a move many conservatives opposed.

The effort to get a memorial built started in 1992, and a 1999 parliament decision to build the memorial to the Holocaust‘s 6 million Jewish victims also called for “commemorating in a worthy fashion the other victims of the Nazis.” In 2001, Jewish and Gypsy leaders backed an appeal for a monument to the gay victims.

After lawmakers approved its construction, a jury picked the winning design in early 2006 out of 17 design proposals.

The federal government financed the $945,660 building costs, while Berlin’s city government provided the site.

The designers’ original plan to feature only a video of two men kissing ran into criticism that lesbians were left out. Last year, a compromise was reached to change the memorial’s video every two years, allowing lesbian couples to be shown in the future.

The first film — a repeating clip of two men kissing, shot at the site of the memorial before it was built — was done by photographer Robby Mueller and directed by Denmark’s Thomas Vinterberg.

“It was quite important to have a direct imagery of a love scene, a passionate scene … because that is the main problem in homophobia,” designer Elmgreen told AP Television News. “You can get acceptance on an abstract level, but they don’t want to look at us.”

Germany has allowed gay couples to seal their partnerships at registry offices since 2001, although the law stops short of offering formal marriage. Berlin has a large gay community, as do other major German cities, such as Cologne and Hamburg.

The memorial to the Nazis’ Jewish victims and the new monument will soon be joined by a third memorial honoring the Roma and Sinti, or Gypsy, victims. Some 220,000 to 500,000 Gypsies were killed during the Holocaust.

Work begins this year on that memorial, also in Tiergarten park.

“We stand stunned before the brutality with which the Nazis threatened, persecuted and destroyed all those who did not correspond to their inhuman ideology,” Neumann said.

“The experience of war and Holocaust, state terror and tyranny, puts on us Germans a special responsibility to protect freedom and human rights.”


Berlin inaugurates memorial to Nazi's gay victims

The memorial for homosexual victims of the Nazi regime, designed by Norwegian artist Ingar Dragset and Danish artist Michael Elmgreen, seen in Berlin on Monday, May 26, 2008. On Tuesday, May 27, 2008 the monument will be unveiled officially.

By GEIR MOULSON, Associated Press

BERLIN – Germany unveiled a memorial Tuesday to the Nazis’ long-ignored gay victims, a monument that also aims to address ongoing discrimination by confronting visitors with an image of a same-sex couple kissing.

The memorial — a sloping gray concrete slab on the edge of Berlin’s Tiergarten park — echoes the vast field of smaller slabs that make up Germany’s memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, opened three years ago just across the road.

The pavilion-sized slab includes a small window where visitors can view a video clip of two men kissing.

Berlin’s openly gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit, said the monument was a reminder of the ongoing struggles that still confront gays.

“This memorial is important from two points of view — to commemorate the victims, but also to make clear that even today, after we have achieved so much in terms of equal treatment, discrimination still exists daily,” Wowereit said as he inaugurated the memorial alongside Culture Minister Bernd Neumann.

Nazi Germany declared homosexuality a threat to the German race and convicted some 50,000 homosexuals as criminals. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 gay men were deported to concentration camps, where few survived.

“This is a story that many people don’t know about, and I think it’s fantastic … that the German state finally decided to make a memorial to honor these victims as well,” said Ingar Dragset, a Berlin-based Norwegian who designed the memorial along with Danish-born Michael Elmgreen.

The commemoration “unfortunately comes too late for those who were persecuted and survived in 1945,” said Guenter Dworek, of Germany‘s Lesbian and Gay Association. “That is very bitter.”

He said the last ex-prisoner that his group knows of died in 2005.

Wowereit echoed his regret over the time it took to honor the Nazis’ gay victims.

“That is symptomatic of a postwar society which simply kept quiet about a group of victims, which … contributed to these victims being discriminated against twice,” he said.

Few gays convicted by the Nazis came forward after World War II because of the stigma attached to homosexuality. The law used against them remained on the books in West Germany until 1969, and Dworek said there were 50,000 convictions under the legislation after the war.

Not until 2002 did the German parliament issue a formal pardon for homosexuals convicted under the Nazis. One reason it took so long was because the legislation had been linked to a blanket rehabilitation of 22,000 Wehrmacht deserters — a move many conservatives opposed.

The effort to get a memorial built started in 1992, and a 1999 parliament decision to build the memorial to the Holocaust‘s 6 million Jewish victims also called for “commemorating in a worthy fashion the other victims of the Nazis.” In 2001, Jewish and Gypsy leaders backed an appeal for a monument to the gay victims.

After lawmakers approved its construction, a jury picked the winning design in early 2006 out of 17 design proposals.

The federal government financed the $945,660 building costs, while Berlin’s city government provided the site.

The designers’ original plan to feature only a video of two men kissing ran into criticism that lesbians were left out. Last year, a compromise was reached to change the memorial’s video every two years, allowing lesbian couples to be shown in the future.

The first film — a repeating clip of two men kissing, shot at the site of the memorial before it was built — was done by photographer Robby Mueller and directed by Denmark’s Thomas Vinterberg.

“It was quite important to have a direct imagery of a love scene, a passionate scene … because that is the main problem in homophobia,” designer Elmgreen told AP Television News. “You can get acceptance on an abstract level, but they don’t want to look at us.”

Germany has allowed gay couples to seal their partnerships at registry offices since 2001, although the law stops short of offering formal marriage. Berlin has a large gay community, as do other major German cities, such as Cologne and Hamburg.

The memorial to the Nazis’ Jewish victims and the new monument will soon be joined by a third memorial honoring the Roma and Sinti, or Gypsy, victims. Some 220,000 to 500,000 Gypsies were killed during the Holocaust.

Work begins this year on that memorial, also in Tiergarten park.

“We stand stunned before the brutality with which the Nazis threatened, persecuted and destroyed all those who did not correspond to their inhuman ideology,” Neumann said.

“The experience of war and Holocaust, state terror and tyranny, puts on us Germans a special responsibility to protect freedom and human rights.”


Holocaust survivor learns father’s fate

 holocaust-files.jpg

By ARON HELLER, Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM – In 1942, 8-year-old Moshe Bar-Yuda walked hand-in-hand with his father to a collection point in his hometown in Slovakia and watched him being shipped off to a Nazi labor camp. The boy never saw him again, and for 66 years was left to wonder about his father’s fate.

Because of a newly opened Nazi archive, the mystery has been resolved.

Bar-Yuda, now 74, was one of the first to obtain Nazi documents now available to the public after they were stashed away for more than 60 years in a secret German archive. Up to now, only limited queries were answered.

The Bad Arolsen documents — transportation lists, Gestapo orders, camp registers, slave labor booklets, death books — contain references to about 17.5 million people, Jews and non-Jews. It is the largest registry of Holocaust victims ever.

The archive showed that Bar-Yuda’s father, Alfred Kastner, was killed in a Nazi gas chamber at the Majdanek death camp in Poland on Sept. 7, 1942, less than six months after his son watched him being taken away. Bar-Yuda said despite the tragic ending, he was grateful to finally have some closure and an exact date to recite Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.

“I don’t want to say I feel terrible, and I don’t want to say the word ‘happy,’ but I feel like this open wound has finally been closed,” he said. “It closed very sadly but at least it closed.”

About 6 million Jews were killed by German Nazis and their collaborators in the Holocaust of World War II.

In August, the International Tracing Service (ITS) of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which administers the archive, began transferring digital copies of its documents to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, to Yad Vashem, Israel‘s Holocaust memorial, and to the Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw, Poland.

The vast archive of war records in the small German town of Bad Arolsen opened its doors to the public in November, giving historians and Holocaust survivors access to concentration camp records detailing Nazi horrors.

The ITS has completed digitizing some 50 million index cards from shelves that would stretch 16 miles long and fill a half-dozen buildings in Bad Arolsen. The remainder of the records, relating to slave labor and displaced persons camps, will be transferred in installments between 2008 and 2010, the agency said.

Yad Vashem said it would begin responding to queries in February.

Bar-Yuda already has his answer. After reading about the opening of the archive, he turned to an old friend who worked at Yad Vashem and had been to Bad Arolsen, to find out if she could uncover any information about his father. Two weeks ago, he was handed the document that recorded his father’s execution.

Alfred Kastner, number 2802, was executed in Majdanek.

Bar-Yuda, a retired journalist and envoy for the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency, was hidden during the war with his mother and two siblings and later escaped to Palestine.

Other survivors said his father had perished, either in Majdanek or in the Auschwitz death camp. But there was nothing official and no records about him — beyond the one that showed he was deported from Bratislava on March 27, 1942.

“I’ve been trying to find out what happened to him. I didn’t know anything,” said Bar-Yuda, who recently wrote a book about his own Holocaust experience.

Bar-Yuda said knowing how his father’s life ended was a great comfort after years of devastating uncertainty.

“The question marks are gone,” he said. “Now I know how to deal better with the knowledge, and not with the confusion.”

Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said the Holocaust museum was speedily integrating the new material into its database in the hopes of providing more answers.

“This story illustrates how the millions of documents in Yad Vashem’s archives, including the recently received documents from the ITS, allow us to be able to uncover the missing pieces of information, so that survivors and others will be able to finally complete the picture as to what happened to their loved ones during the Holocaust,” he said.

Allied forces began collecting the documents even before the end of the war, and eventually entrusted them to the Red Cross. The archive has been governed since 1955 by a commission that ratified an accord in November that unsealed the archive.

Yad Vashem expects the next batch of material from Bad Arolsen to arrive later this year and to have the full copy of all the ITS records by 2010.

It recently uploaded a special online request form on its Web site, and encouraged survivors seeking material from the German registry to do so.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington said the museum will begin responding Thursday to requests for information from the archives made by Holocaust survivors and their families. The museum also will be open for members of the public to look at documents.


Holocaust survivor learns father's fate

 holocaust-files.jpg

By ARON HELLER, Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM – In 1942, 8-year-old Moshe Bar-Yuda walked hand-in-hand with his father to a collection point in his hometown in Slovakia and watched him being shipped off to a Nazi labor camp. The boy never saw him again, and for 66 years was left to wonder about his father’s fate.

Because of a newly opened Nazi archive, the mystery has been resolved.

Bar-Yuda, now 74, was one of the first to obtain Nazi documents now available to the public after they were stashed away for more than 60 years in a secret German archive. Up to now, only limited queries were answered.

The Bad Arolsen documents — transportation lists, Gestapo orders, camp registers, slave labor booklets, death books — contain references to about 17.5 million people, Jews and non-Jews. It is the largest registry of Holocaust victims ever.

The archive showed that Bar-Yuda’s father, Alfred Kastner, was killed in a Nazi gas chamber at the Majdanek death camp in Poland on Sept. 7, 1942, less than six months after his son watched him being taken away. Bar-Yuda said despite the tragic ending, he was grateful to finally have some closure and an exact date to recite Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.

“I don’t want to say I feel terrible, and I don’t want to say the word ‘happy,’ but I feel like this open wound has finally been closed,” he said. “It closed very sadly but at least it closed.”

About 6 million Jews were killed by German Nazis and their collaborators in the Holocaust of World War II.

In August, the International Tracing Service (ITS) of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which administers the archive, began transferring digital copies of its documents to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, to Yad Vashem, Israel‘s Holocaust memorial, and to the Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw, Poland.

The vast archive of war records in the small German town of Bad Arolsen opened its doors to the public in November, giving historians and Holocaust survivors access to concentration camp records detailing Nazi horrors.

The ITS has completed digitizing some 50 million index cards from shelves that would stretch 16 miles long and fill a half-dozen buildings in Bad Arolsen. The remainder of the records, relating to slave labor and displaced persons camps, will be transferred in installments between 2008 and 2010, the agency said.

Yad Vashem said it would begin responding to queries in February.

Bar-Yuda already has his answer. After reading about the opening of the archive, he turned to an old friend who worked at Yad Vashem and had been to Bad Arolsen, to find out if she could uncover any information about his father. Two weeks ago, he was handed the document that recorded his father’s execution.

Alfred Kastner, number 2802, was executed in Majdanek.

Bar-Yuda, a retired journalist and envoy for the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency, was hidden during the war with his mother and two siblings and later escaped to Palestine.

Other survivors said his father had perished, either in Majdanek or in the Auschwitz death camp. But there was nothing official and no records about him — beyond the one that showed he was deported from Bratislava on March 27, 1942.

“I’ve been trying to find out what happened to him. I didn’t know anything,” said Bar-Yuda, who recently wrote a book about his own Holocaust experience.

Bar-Yuda said knowing how his father’s life ended was a great comfort after years of devastating uncertainty.

“The question marks are gone,” he said. “Now I know how to deal better with the knowledge, and not with the confusion.”

Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said the Holocaust museum was speedily integrating the new material into its database in the hopes of providing more answers.

“This story illustrates how the millions of documents in Yad Vashem’s archives, including the recently received documents from the ITS, allow us to be able to uncover the missing pieces of information, so that survivors and others will be able to finally complete the picture as to what happened to their loved ones during the Holocaust,” he said.

Allied forces began collecting the documents even before the end of the war, and eventually entrusted them to the Red Cross. The archive has been governed since 1955 by a commission that ratified an accord in November that unsealed the archive.

Yad Vashem expects the next batch of material from Bad Arolsen to arrive later this year and to have the full copy of all the ITS records by 2010.

It recently uploaded a special online request form on its Web site, and encouraged survivors seeking material from the German registry to do so.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington said the museum will begin responding Thursday to requests for information from the archives made by Holocaust survivors and their families. The museum also will be open for members of the public to look at documents.


Vast Nazi archive opens to public

holocaust-files.jpg

By ARTHUR MAX, Associated Press Writer

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – After more than 60 years, Nazi documents stored in a vast warehouse in Germany were unsealed Wednesday, opening a rich resource for Holocaust historians and for survivors to delve into their own tormented past.

The treasure of documents could open new avenues of study into the inner workings of Nazi persecution from the exploitation of slave labor to the conduct of medical experiments. The archive’s managers planned a conference of scholars next year to map out its unexplored contents.

The files entrusted to the International Tracing Service, an arm of the International Committee of the Red Cross, have been used until now to help find missing persons or document atrocities to support compensation claims. The U.S. government also has referred to the ITS for background checks on immigrants it suspected of lying about their past.

Inquiries were handled by the archive’s 400 staff members in the German spa town of Bad Arolsen. Few outsiders were allowed to see the actual documents, which number more than 50 million pages and cover 16 linear miles of gray metal filing cabinets and cardboard binders spread over six buildings.

On Wednesday, the Red Cross and the German government announced that the last of the 11 countries that govern the archive had ratified a 2006 agreement to open the files to the public for the first time.

“We are there. The doors are open,” said ITS director Reto Meister, speaking by telephone from the Buchenwald concentration camp where he was visiting with a delegation of U.S. congressional staff members.

Survivors have pressed for decades to open the archive, unhappy with the minimal responses — usually in form letters — from the Red Cross officials responding to requests for information about relatives.

“We are very anxious,” said David Mermelstein, 78, an activist for survivors’ causes in Miami, Fla., who wants to scour the files for traces of his two older brothers whom he last saw as he passed through a series of concentration camps.

“Now I hope we will be able to get some information. We have been waiting, and time is not on our side,” said the retired businessman.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem began receiving digital copies of the entire archive in August, allowing survivors and historians more access points.

Izzy Arbeiter, 82, the head of a survivor’s organization in the area of Boston, Mass., said he hoped to go to the museum next month to browse the files.

“My goodness, I don’t know where I would start, there are so many things I am interested in,” he said. “The history of my family, of course. My parents. One of my brothers is missing. We never knew what happened to him.”

Yad Vashem said the opening of the archive was “a breakthrough” for survivors and others.

“Our understanding and knowledge of the personal story of the Holocaust will be deepened,” said Yad Vashem’s chairman Avner Shalev.

The records are unlikely to change the general story of the Holocaust and the Nazi era, probably the most intensely researched 12-year period of the 20th century.

But its depth of detail and original documentation will add texture to history’s worst genocide, and is likely to fuel a revival of academic interest in the Holocaust.

Among its files, seen by The Associated Press during repeated visits to Bad Arolsen in the last year, are the list of deportees from the Netherlands to Auschwitz on which Anne Frank‘s name appears, the list of employees of Oskar Schindler’s factory who were sheltered from death, medical records showing the number of lice on the heads of prisoners, the list of inmates evacuated by the Nazis from the Neuengamme labor camp who later died on prisoner boats mistakenly bombed by the British air force.

Defying its orderly appearance, the archive is a labyrinth of paper that has never been organized by a historian or even by a professionally trained archivist. Its main database comprises 50 million entries of names, often duplicated in different spellings, referring to 17.5 million victims of Nazi persecutions.

The Bad Arolsen facility, which has received 50 applications this month alone from researchers and institutions seeking to examine the archive, has opened a visitors room with 10 computer terminals to enable searches of files that have been scanned. But less than half of the 50 million pages have been digitized and are available on computer.

Though the archives are now open to the public, Erich Oetiker, the ITS deputy director, said anyone seeking specific information would need professional assistance and all visitors are asked to make an appointment in advance.

While it is not set up to receive unannounced visitors off the street, he said, “we will refuse nobody, but we have very limited staff to provide support.” Guided tours are also available.

Visitors have to show ID and cannot access a special category of documents — correspondences between the ITS and private or official inquirers that are less than 25 years old. Researchers must sign a waiver stating that they are personally responsible for respecting privacy laws.

The ITS gets about 700 requests each month for information about relatives, and has not yet cleared away a backlog of inquiries that reached nearly half a million a few years ago.

The Tracing Service, the Washington museum and Yad Vashem intend to hire new staff to help to ferret out specific documents.

“The challenge now is organizing the material in such a way that people can easily find what they want and what they need,” said Paul Shapiro, director of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the Washington museum.

The museum took the first step by creating a database to search an inventory of more than 21,000 collections of documents, each ranging a few pages to thousands.

Allied forces began collecting the documents even before the end of the war, and eventually entrusted them to the Red Cross. The archive has been governed since 1955 by a multinational commission that normally met once a year.

Access to the archives had been closely guarded by Red Cross officials who viewed requests for academic information as a distraction from what they saw as their humanitarian task of answering requests about individuals.

In 2001 the State Department, urged on by the Holocaust museum, began pushing the 11-member governing commission to open the doors to the rapidly dying survivor population and for research.

The decision was adopted in May 2006, but it took 19 months to complete the required ratification process.

_____

Investigative researcher Randy Herschaft contributed to this report in New York.

**********************

Vast Nazi archive opens to public

 

The archive at Bad Arolsen - 28/11/2007

The archive contains details on the fate of millions of the Nazi’s victims

A vast archive of wartime German documents on the Nazi Holocaust has been opened to the public. The 47m documents, kept in Germany, contain detailed records on 17.5m forced labourers, concentration camp victims and political prisoners.

Previously, the files were only used to trace missing persons, reunite families and provide information for compensation claims.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) manages the files.

The whole archive takes up some 26km (16 miles) of shelving in the town of Bad Arolsen in western Germany.

Minute details

The files are not expected to shed dramatic new light on the Nazi regime – already one of the most researched periods of modern history.

But it will provide historians with more details about the murder and exploitation of millions of Jews, Roma (Gypsies) and other victims.

The Nazis kept records on the smallest details – from the number of lice on a prisoner’s head to the exact moment of their execution.

Allied forces began gathering the records from concentration camps and other Nazi prisons as they swept across Europe at the end of World War II.

The move to open the archive came after the last of the 11 countries that sit on the body managing the archive ratified a 2006 agreement to allow public access.

“I would like to invite all researchers to make use of this, and work through this dark chapter of German history,” said Guenter Gloser, Germany’s deputy foreign minister for Europe.


Labels … Let us Reflect on them …

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Krystalnacht – The Night of the Broken Glass…
The Beginning of The Holocaust

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arbeit-macht-frei.jpg

Work Makes You Free …

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A Survivor from Buchenwald

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Yad Vashem – Jerusalem Holocaust Memorial

 

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Auschwitz – Concentration Camp

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Red Ribbon

The Red Ribbon – Synonymous for AIDS

Pride Flag

The Pride Flag – Proud Symbol for all things Gay

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The Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt – For all those who died from AIDS
My friends,My family, My brothers and sisters…

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The JEW – The Star of David used during the Holocaust …
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You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who does not know peace
Who fights for a scrap of bread
Who dies because of a yes and a no.
Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter

Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At Home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,

Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.

Primo Levi

Survival in Auschwitz

 

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The Homosexual – Also Used during the Holocaust …

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A Young Man – Hungarian Jewish Boy –
From Fateless, the Motion Picture

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The Label Chart Used By the Nazi Party within
the Death Camps and Concentration Camps to
Identify people…
Location, Ethnicity, Area, Orientation, Religious Affiliation

 

There weren’t only Jews in the Camps…

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The ACT UP slogan for Gay and AIDS circa 1980

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What Would Jesus Do???

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This is my Label – I earned every hour of it, with Pride…

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We Should Be Proud, but we should remember what labels have done to millions world wide over the Decades. I think it is time to move past them, to stop labeling and Outing people. I think we need to learn to live together PEACEFULLY in order to stop the killing of ALL people around the world…

THAT WE SHOULD REMEMBER – SO THAT WE NEVER FORGET!!


Temporal Shift …

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Hello, my name is Jeremy and I am a Graduate Student in the Department of Theology at Concordia University… Try that one on for size…

Today was a big day … My first day of school as a Graduate Student. The beginning of the Fall semester is always fraught with drama long lines and insanity. This morning brought with it some sad memory, as my Monday-Wednesday morning class is in the Mother House in the West end of the house which has been transformed from living quarters of former nuns to classrooms and offices. I wanted to go visit the chapel this morning and spend some time in prayer, but that wasn’t in the cards today.

Christian Origins is my first class of the week, and it seems, because of certain technical problems, [read:no internet connections or electronic availability] in the room we are using, means a room change is in the offing soon. I saw some familiar faces from my summer as an independent student.

Thank God that none of the witches from the religion department are in any of my theology classes! There IS a God!!!

I took the afternoon to do some power shopping for books at the Diocesan Book Store in the core after class, and I even treated myself to a BK Lunch, Woo Hoo!! The Eaton Centre food court is really interesting at lunch time lots to see…

The Textbook for Christian Origins, Theo: 206 is called The Shaping of Christianity, and can be purchased at the Diocesan Bookstore at Place Cathedral at the McGill Metro. The book ran me $33.87.

I came home from my journey to the “Core” and took a short power nap before my evening class, hubby decided to join me for a nap… [he just can’t nap by himself when I am home] … I had 3 hours to nap, and I was in the middle of this fantastic adventure dream, it was action packed and I was really into it, when the alarm clock went off at 5:15 and it startled me so bad and I was so groggy that I could not hold onto the visual to write anything about it… I know I was in a town with a above ground subway system, it was dark and I was running all over the place. So I washed up and left for class and I couldn’t raise the dream in the light, I hate when that happens…

This evening I went to my Theology 204 with Fr. Ray was quite interesting. I saw many of the same faces that were in my morning Christian Origins class, which was great because this class is a lot smaller – with about 45 students in a smaller intimate lecture room. I think it is going to be a great semester…

The University Book Store also has the course packs for Theo: 204 Christian Ethics with Fr. Ray. The texts books are available and are on reserve in the library.

We had some really great discussion, and it is really nice to have Fr. Ray teaching the course, since he is one of my spiritual advisers, on the Catholic side. I told him that I had one foot in the religion of my family [Catholicism] and one foot in the Anglican Church, having been given a green light by Bishop Barry. So now Fr. Ray calls me the Anglo-Catholic. I am hoping that I reach some place new in my spiritual journey.

We are going to play Word Association now:

Your three words are:

Ethics — Morals — Christian

We talked about Religious Studies being a study in culture, society, history and tradition and Theology having a different Methodology, it is faith seeking understanding. Will we agree on all issues in Theology, probably not. Especially with a GAY, HIV+, Married, Catholic Queer in the classroom. This should be an interesting semester. I can look into my crystal ball and see much discussion and choppy waters ahead.

We all introduced ourselves in class and shared our majors and reasons for taking that class, many of us are in Core Studies for Theology, though, many of the students are from many other departments like Psychology [YAWN] Applied Human Sciences [Double YAWN] and others… If today’s discussions were indicative of what’s to come, this class should be incredibly enjoyable because of the varied beliefs, opinions and ages of students in the class. There are a few Graduate and Master’s students in the class, which is really cool…

Tomorrow should be even better with Religions of Tibet. I have high hopes for this class because I have been studying Buddhism and other Eastern Religions over the past four years, last academic year I took Buddhism and Jainism [at the same time] which was a real challenge. I did better in Jainism because it was more writing and academic study into a tradition that is labor intensive, because of the scarcity of primary source material. I flubbed on my Buddhism final exam, which hurt my grade. I hate huge multiple choice exams with very little writing!!! I perform better when I write.

See I did learn something in University! I learned how to write Good Essays and I learned how to write academically sound papers. It took me four years, but I was successful in my writing career. Writing here as well, has enhanced my academic writing because I can work out my ideas here before I add them to a paper.

In The Montreal News:

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The Strike at the Notre Dame de Neige cemetery is OVER!! Thank Bloody Christ, it is about time – for Pete’s sake! Now gravediggers go back to work on Monday and they have over Seven Hundred and Fifty Caskets to bury, that have been in cold storage for Months!!

I talked to Fr. Ray about this on the way home tonight, we walked to the Major Seminary where he was parked just up the hill from home, The Bishop of Montreal got involved to try to end the strike, we all admit he was a little late with his word, but it seems to have worked! The Religious Authority has some sway over our community thank God for that!

So we are at 1042 words… Have I gone on too long here???

Ok that’s all for tonight. More tomorrow from the world of Tibet…

Stay Tuned…

Oh, I forgot to mention that I am listed as an ALUMNI Blogger on the Concordia University Website!! Very Kewl!! We are also listed on the Religio Scholasticus website as well. I am really grateful for the support of my peers at Religio and as well from the University.

 


Sunday writings…

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I really don’t know what to write tonight, I really don’t feel like writing because I’ve not prepared anything really. The last holiday weekend before the grind begins with a bang this week. I’ve been banking on sleep as of late – trying to steal away hours here and there, I love to sleep.

I’ve been on these new medications now for 3 months.

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I have to say that throwing up is right up there on my most hated activities during my day. I have morning sickness once or twice a week. This morning it woke me up out of a sound sleep, as if I had spent the night prior drinking until I could not drink any more.

I didn’t even have a drinking dream to go with the morning sickness. I mean it would have meant so much more if I could put throwing up into context! Alas, I was exhausted afterwards and it took me an hour to calm down and get my breathing under control because my body was in that “post vomit” stage of recuperation… UGH!

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It was a beautiful day today. I sat out on the lanai enjoying the sunshine. The days are starting to get shorter and the sun will begin to set earlier and earlier. I can’t wait for the trees to start turning.

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I spent the past couple of nights reading Elie Wiesel’s  “Night.” I found the read to be as cathartic as Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz. Both men were boys when they were taken to the camps. I knew the story, even before I read the first page. Though the two stories are different, they share the common thread:

“You are in a concentration camp. In Auschwitz…” 

“Remember,” “Remember it always, let it be graven in your memories. You are in Auschwitz. And Auschwitz is not a convalescent home. It is a concentration camp. Here, you must work. If you don’t you will go straight to the chimney. To the crematorium. Work – or crematorium – the choice is yours.”

Reading Elie’s account as he moves from camp to camp, trying to stay with his father, to keep his father alive, through the worst of conditions was amazing. Where Elie tells us his story on a great scale, describing seasons and changes, his visions of babies being killed and burned in ditches was exceptionally brutal.

“Poor devils, you are heading for the crematorium.” Not far from us, flames, huge flames, were rising from a ditch. Something was being burned there. A truck drew close and unloaded its hold: small children. Babies! Yes, I did see this, with my own eyes…children thrown into the flames. (Is it any wonder that ever since then, sleep tends to elude me.)  

How was it possible that men, women and children were being burned and that the world kept silent? No. All this could not be real. A nightmare perhaps…

Night, ppgs. 32-33, 38-39…

Primo Levi tells another story of the same conditions but from a different point of view. Those reviews of that text are in my Holocaust files in Categories, you can read them there. Both writers are important to know, to read and to respect.

 

It is interesting that I was reading this text over the weekend, and during Saturday night’s Coast to Coast, with Ian Punnet, a caller called in – it was an off topic call – this man said that he had studied in Germany and knew people who were alive during WWII and he told the listeners that in Germany during that time, people were told and it was later understood that on certain days, one just did not go to the train stations at all…

To address the question about “the world not knowing what was going on, it is said that Germans learned not to explore outdoors or go to the train stations on certain days while the extermination of the Jews was being carried out.

Any read of the Horrific stories of the Holocaust are important so that these memories do not go unheeded, that the warnings are not passed on the future generations.  “That we should remember, so that we should never forget.” I highly recommend these two texts for those who are interested in Holocaust studies, ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel and ‘Survival in Auschwitz’ by Primo Levi. These stories must be passed on…

I’ve made some minor changes to the blog, and I’ve added and deleted some of my bookmarks on the side bar. People are returning from hiatus and from vacations over the summer, so go read them, each blogger on my blog list is worth the time.

I hope all of you are well and thanks again for your readership.

 


Photo Essay #8 – Christ Church Cathedral (AIDS)

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I was invited to a special unveiling of an exhibition at The Christ Church Cathedral today of art and information about The Primates World Relief and Development Fund. Directed at prevention and education about AIDS. A subject close to my heart, in fact, part of it as well. Below are photographs of the art on display for the next two weeks at the Cathedral.

Our Bishop, Barry B. Clarke, was on hand to open the exhibition and the chair of the Theology Department at Concordia University was there as well. They are looking for a few volunteers to show up and participate in the exhibition, if you have a spare hour or two, they could use your support.

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It’s time to open our hands, hearts and minds to HIV and AIDS and respond with action, love and knowledge.

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It’s time to stop the stigma and discrimination and act on God’s call to love one another, restore right relationships and ensure the dignity of every human being.

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It’s time to break the silence and inaction and face a world with AIDS more holistically, more authentically and more compassionately.

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It’s time to embrace all brothers and sisters as children of God without prejudice, judgment or fear.

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It’s time!!!

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This is the Altar piece from St, Michael’s Mission – artwork done by many artists. They represent different liturgical and seasonal scenes. The central panel is called “the life bearers,” to the left, “The Tree of Life,” and to the right, “beyond, what I see.”

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The creator of this altar piece followed one of the artists home and this segment of photos is called “On the way home.” From St. Michael’s Mission.

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The Primates World Relief and Development Fund
Hyperlink here

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What We Do

Development, Relief and Justice

PWRDF works in partnership with organizations in Canada and throughout the world to support people-centred development that improves the quality of daily life for vulnerable populations, promotes self-reliance, and addresses root causes of poverty and injustice. PWRDF is active in approximately 30 countries, and also accompanies Uprooted People – including victims of disasters, refugees, internally displaced people, and migrant workers. PWRDF partners are drawn from Anglican churches, ecumenical organizations and community-based groups. Partners address the root causes of problems and accompany communities as they move beyond survival into sustainable development.

 


Gay Bishop Announces Civil Union, Infuriates Church Conservatives

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I support the V. Rev. Gene Robinson. Good for him and his partner. 

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

(London) The only openly gay bishop in the worldwide Anglican Church has unveiled plans for a civil union with his longtime partner, unleashing an attack by church conservatives who call it a publicity stunt. 

New Hampshire’s Episcopal Bishop, Gene Robinson, tells the British Broadcasting Corporation that he and his partner of 18 years, Mark Andrew, 53, will have a civil union shortly after the state’s civil union law goes into effect next year.

“The decision to take advantage of the new law that will come into effect in New Hampshire on January 1 is simply our taking advantage of the kinds of rights which are now being made open to gay and lesbian people in New Hampshire,” Robinson tells interviewer Michael Buerk in the program to be broadcast August 28.

The timing would bring it just weeks before bishops from around the world are to meet in London for their once-a-decade meeting called the Lambeth Conference.

Conservatives pressing the church to outlaw gay clergy accuse Robinson using the timing in a bid to gain a political advantage, something Robinson disputes.

“I am certainly not doing that to rub salt into anyone’s wounds, but no one should expect me to penalize me and my partner when these rights are being offered,” he said.

“I believe that Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Nigeria, one of the primary spokespeople against my election [as bishop], I believe he is following his call from God as best as he can, I just wish he could believe I am following my call from God as best I can.”

Robinson first raised the possibility of entering into a civil union when he testified in April before a New Hampshire committee hearing leading up to the vote that passed the law.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the titular leader of the worldwide denomination has been trying to keep the Church from splintering over Robinson’s election in 2004.

While Robinson will be allowed to attend the Lambeth Conference, Williams will not allow him to participate or vote.

A similar restriction has been placed on bishops consecrated in the US by Akinola.

Despite claims by the dissident faction that they are not seeking a schism of the worldwide Church when leaders gather next year for their once-a-decade meeting bishops representing almost half of the denomination’s 77-million members will be absent. 

Last month the steering committee for the Global South Primates, made up of churches mainly in the developing world and the most conservative in the worldwide Anglican Communion, said last month its bishops will boycott the meeting because the Episcopal Church, is allowed to participate. 

On Thursday Akinola issued a statement saying the “the moment of decision is almost upon us” about whether Anglican conservatives and liberals can stay together.

The statement went on to say that theological conservatives cannot stand by as the U.S. Episcopal Church – the Anglican body in the U.S. – and the Anglican Church of Canada move toward full acceptance of gay relationships.

“We earnestly desire the healing of our beloved communion but not at the cost of rewriting the Bible to accommodate the latest cultural trend,” Akinola said. “We cannot turn away from the source of life and love for a temporary truce.”

©365Gay.com 2007


Finding the Perfect Church…

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I have asked this question of some of the ministers that write for our sphere. For many years I have searched for the “Perfect Church.” Growing up in a predominantly white, middle class neighborhood gave rise to attending church with my friends. And that served me very well for most of my young adult life.

Labels had not been applied to us in this period of our lives so we were free to worship wherever we chose to. And in most cases our parents followed along, because the church was not only a religious landmark, but also housed Youth Ministry that everyone was part of for several years through high school and junior college and even for myself, Seminary.

After leaving seminary with a bad taste in my mouth for Catholicism, and Church, I walked away from God and his church. I thought that I had been slighted by clergy and I was pushed against the “choose us or get out” wall. It took me many years dealing with the truth to walk back into church.

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This was always my childhood home, the Church I called home. It was the place that God and I communed. And after my leaving seminary – this was the church that I returned to many years later, as a weary, AIDS suffering sinner. I was sick, and I had been away, and I met a man who changed my life when I saw him say mass in this space with his crutches and MS. I vowed never again to complain about things in my life. And I have kept that word so many years later.

Being Gay, had its issues with Church. But not to the men who led this church forward. I was a part of this church and this is where I would find prayer, support and salvation.

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As I grew into my 30’s I hit several questions in my life about faith, recovery and living with AIDS. I’d like to say that I found all my answers in “church” but that would be false. I was living in an area of town that did not afford me the ability to get to church any more. So I was not attending “church” where I had been for so many years. It was just logistically impossible to get there in time for mass.

During my second recovery, I was seeing a therapist and I had friends who were talking care of me at the time. I was having my visions and spiritual experiences outside the church I may have left the church “physically” but not emotionally and spiritually.

*************

Faith is like a garden. Each one of us inhabits the garden of our own making. We tend that garden daily. In the morning we walk through misty, dew covered flowers and plants, and as the day wares on the sun tracks across the sky as we sit in that garden. I believe that everyone is born into some kind of spiritual tradition, more than most may speak of but nonetheless, someone puts the seed of faith within us at some point.

If you were like me, you were baptized, first communion ed and confirmed in the Catholic faith. Some were baptized in the baptist faith and others were raised in the faith of their parents or extended families. But we all carry that seed within us.

For many, being Gay and Christian or Being Gay and Catholic was something we battled with because of the politics of the church. Now in my 40’s I can tell you that I will not walk into, better yet worship in a space that does not welcome me fully into communion. I used to compromise my ethics and my politics because I was attached to the Catholic faith by an unbreakable umbilical cord that still exists today.

When I got sick, the priests told me to come to church and I did because they were 21st century men in an archaic world of Catholicism. That lasted as long as it had to to keep my in line with my faith and connected TO my faith. God was in the church, praying with others took place in the church. Mass took place within the church. And I was ok with that way of life.

When I got sober in 2001 I was filled with questions. My faith was strong because I KNEW who God Was and who god Is still. I did not need the physical building to give me what I had created and cultivated internally over many many years of spiritual exploration. You see, faith is not something you feed once a week in a worship service. Faith is not something you partake on any given Sunday.

I was sober a four months when I came to visit Montreal in the Spring of 2002. It was Ash Wednesday when I arrived. I celebrated Easter here and I loved it. This is such a rich religious city. Later I would meet a Jesuit priest who would give me the same puzzle piece he gave all the other boys I later met on the path later on.

This is where it all starts…

I had a reason to come here and I knew after two weeks of being here, that I needed to stay here. I went back to Florida, packed all that I could and I left, never to return. Lies my mother told facilitated my move out of the United States.

I started my journey of faith in the Church Basilica of Notre Dame. It took me weeks to start putting the faith puzzle together. and now six years later, I can tell you that there are still pieces of the puzzle missing.

I had to get used to living in Montreal, Pre-Iraq War. I had to find my place in the greater scheme of things. And that took a long time. I had my citizenship on February 17th 2003, and I was sober 14 months. I decided that I would go back to school. My chosen major in the beginning was Psychology, that quickly changed to Religion.

These were the years that demonstrations were taking place in the streets and Americans were being warned to sew Canadian flags on our backpacks, so as not to acquire the ire of Canadians in Montreal, because protests against the war were daily occurrences. I did that and I participated in those demonstrations. But eventually I would hit several crises points in my life, ONE would be “where do I fit in?” I had to find my place in the community and that took two years upon beginning University. I remember sitting in Donald’s office asking the all important question: “I don’t know where I fit in and I have one foot in the South and one foot in the North – I don’t know where I should be?”

He was always apt to tell me these key words:

“If you find yourself in between and you can’t decide where to go or move, then sit where you are and survey all that you see before you. FEEL your feelings and get in touch with your dis-ease with where you are. Consult your map and ask your questions of the people on the path, then when you are ready, plot your next step, but not before you are sure of your footing.”

I met a man of faith in the Chaplaincy office. I was a man of faith and I was sure in my faith as any other man or woman was. The one difference? I was a sure gay man living with AIDS. I made no excuses and expected no special treatment, just love and acceptance, which I found in Fr. Ray Lafontaine. Still to this day, as a fellow Christian and Catholic priest in my life, he challenges me in my faith to find the answers for myself.
I attended his church at Loyola on Sunday evenings. And that worked for me because there were others like me in the church and we were all accepted.

****

That haze of Summer lasted for two years. In that time I started working on my religious beliefs. And I maintained my sobriety by attending meetings in the basements of many of Montreal’s most beautiful churches. When Father Ray was moved to St. Monica’s church and new priestly blood was flushed into the chapel, I met my faith match…

Having been singled out over my marriage to my husband and the vile words shared with me by the existing chaplain of the University, I walked away from Church once and for all. Although when Fr. Ray and Fr. Paul said mass, I would always attend.

Having studied religion for so many years of my life, and having lived with AIDS for so many years, I knew several things. 1. I knew who God was. 2. I knew who God is not. and 3. I knew who I trusted to support me in my faith journey.

I have been separated from Church for a long time now. It took the invitation of friends to attend a mass said by the Very Reverend Gene Robinson in the Summer of 2006 at Christ Church Cathedral to seriously contemplate a return to Church. In 2003 I was married in the very Catholic Space at Loyal, much to the consternation of Georges Pelletier. We did it just to make a statement of faith, because the entire Loyola community was there to stand with us and profess our faith and love before our families, friends and God himself.

The only time I ever walked into a church, during my time in the field, was with my Great Aunt Georgette, may she rest in peace… I would pray in the mother house chapel with her and I would attend mass there as well. The last time I attended mass in the Mother House Chapel was the day we buried her in August of 2006.

I would never walk into another Catholic Church after her funeral. Although I still maintain a working relationship with men of Catholic faith, I don’t go to mass in the Catholic Church. The other day that marked a change in my Catholic belief system was the day that the Late Pontiff John Paul II died, and I attended mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

You see, while I was studying Religion in university, I was studying my past, making peace with it and learning why things happened the way they did for me, and I was afforded this historical review because of the professors that I studied with for the last four years. I polished my religious skills and I mastered my Christian faith.

I was getting sober in church basements and I was ministering to people in the field. I never walked away from God again. I knew better, and he would always wait for me to find Him. Some of you know about the last five years. Some of you sought me out from the field for spiritual guidance. And I was there for you without question.

I always knew where God resided within me. I knew where to find God, outside myself. I can walk into any church in the city and talk to God. And I can talk to God at any given moment of my day or night, because I have built a temple of God within me.

We are all temples of the spirit of God. Most of us do not know this truth. So I share it with you now. We are all created in the image of God, and therefore we carry the image of God within us. We are walking talking miracles of God’s love and grace. My garden of faith is Eden within me. And I share that garden with anyone who wants to come and walk amongst the flowers. I do not need a building or the perfect church to settle my restless heart.

I’ve spent the last five years searching for God in the sacred churches of Montreal. He was always there where ever I looked for Him. As for the perfect church? You will never find it, because of the true nature of men and women. Humans are imperfect sinners who need to be taught what is right from wrong. And those who come to church already have their preconceived notions of who their God is, and what they will be willing to accept, in the way of Christian teachings, dogma and practice.

So take a church full of imperfect humans and ask them to build for you the perfect church! With all the heads buzzing in the church, each with their notions of church and God, and what do you have? A room full of buzzing heads, who could not agree on what they would call church, and I am sure that their conception will not be what you had in mind either. The perfect church does not and will never exist…

Where did Jesus do his best work? In the field, over dinner in sinners houses. Working with the homeless and the poor and sick. How many times does Jesus step into a church in biblical writing? And what does he say about the ‘church?’ What would he say about all of the terrible incarnations of Church we have today – in the world?

I do believe that God and Jesus weep at the way Christianity is lived out in the millions of lives of people around the globe. We know the scripture, we know the reason yet we can’t see past the noses on our faces and we cannot take the plank out of our own eyes before we try to help another, so what does that say about active Christianity???

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I’ve been in the process of Spiritual direction for some time now, ever since coming to Montreal many years ago. I have sought the advice of many people over the years. And I work with others “in the field” every day…

Where is my “Church?” If I had to give you an address, that would be the Christ Church Cathedral because the bishop has said to the LGBT community that we are just as important to the church as any one else. That he supports us and wants us to participate in community and be active participants in our own faith. I am 40 now, and I have my morals, beliefs and values, and if I choose to leave the Catholic faith based on principle I can do that today, because of the certainty of WHO I am and What my faith means to me, because I am ‘out of communion’ with Benedict’s Church, and I can live with that today.

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But I don’t need a building to worship God. I don’t need the perfect church to teach me God’s word. I don’t need the perfect minister to keep me on the path of Godly living. Why, you ask? Because I can do all these things on my own. I celebrate my Christianity every day through prayer, word and action. I live my faith – therefore it is in front of me every day for all to see. I practice my faith. I talk the talk and I walk the walk, daily…

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This is not a task I ask you to ponder on your own and it is not for the feint of heart either. But in order to build your inner church, you must start with a foundation, a garden. Mark out the space in your heart. Till the soil and plant your seeds. Give them plenty of water and sunlight and then pray over them…

We each have the capability to till our own gardens of faith within us. Because until you have a strong garden of faith within you, will you be able to find a church that will serve you, because without the understanding and cultivation of your own garden, do you remove the judgments within your heart of men and ministry.

If you are looking for the perfect minister of Christ, he will not appear, save Christ himself. We are flawed human beings, and therefore we must understand that and with that knowledge we can better serve the community at large, and if we able to serve the community at large, we can then see God for ourselves where ever we go, and in whatever church we visit.

The best work of the field is done in the most imperfect churches, because most people know that perfection is unattainable. Your Heavenly Father is perfect, so we have every ability to be as perfect as our heavenly father is perfect. But that will take a lifetime to achieve.

In order to find church outside of you, you must first build church within yourself. You must find your definition of God, you must let your faith garden grow. You must be strong in your faith because without strong inner faith, you will not have strong outer faith for community. Without using the gardening tools that God has given you, how can you practice your faith? You must find Sacred Space within yourself, and you must build sacred space for yourself, while you are in the field.

Because, what good would looking for the perfect Church do for you, if you do not have a handle on your own inner faith to begin with??? Build your inner church and invite God to inhabit your sacred space. Get to know this God of your own understanding. There are certain things a Christian must do every day…

 

  • Read Scripture every day
  • You must Pray every day
  • You must Meditate every day
  • You must Actively Practice your Faith every day

Because the simple act of prayer – asking God for those things that weigh heavily on our hearts, must be followed up with a period of silent “Listening” for God’s voice to speak to you. Because sometimes we get the answer… ‘keep praying, not today, NO!’ Cookie cutter Christianity is too easy. You must live your faith actively in community, that is one sure way to find Jesus in the field.

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Start with your garden
Plant it, Till it, and let it grow
Listen to your heart song
and share it with the world
Take off the blinders on your eyes
and see the world in its imperfect state
Find Christ in the field and walk with Him
talk the talk and walk the walk
practice your faith in ACTION
in time your heart will soften
and you will see God
and you will find that

‘Perfect Church’

is but
‘Perfect Union with Christ’

AND

One day
A church will find its way to you

Because you will be ready to serve…


Quiet time …

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“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

1 John 1:5-7

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The Pontiff in Winter, John Paul II. And the candle lit tonight to bring my prayers to heaven above us. There is much to be grateful for and much to pray for this night. May the Lord hear us and grant us our petitions. We ask these and all things through Christ our Lord who gives all that is good.

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O God, my heart is the altar
and my love for you is the flame:
I’ll keep the fire burning for you, Lord,
And I will rejoice in your name

Hess – Our Daily Bread Sunday August 12th


10 Things I Hate about Commandments

10 Things I Hate About Commandments