Paul finally boarded the ship that was to take him to the United
States. He was a willing recipient of Western civilization. The
history he learned and the literature he read in translation made him
admire the culture. Great religions, art, music, philosophies
originated or matured in Europe. But none of these were sufficient to
tame the wars and violence that culminated in the Holocaust. Even the
Christian churches of Europe failed. Their teachings often stimulated
religious hatred, but then failed to restrain the violent emotions
that culminated in genocide. In exchange for becoming "state
religions" they often yielded much of their moral authority. They
rendered too much to undeserving Caesars, and not enough to God. Paul
was glad to leave the Old World behind. He looked eagerly forward to
become part of the New World, for a new start and a new life.
The vessel was crammed with the survivors of the Holocaust. It was a converted Liberty ship. During the war it transported thousands of soldiers who contributed to the crushing of Nazi Germany. Now it was on an errand of mercy, helping to transplant the survivors of genocide to a renewed existence.
The scant comforts of steerage travel did not bother Paul. But nature provided a greater challenge. A great storm broke out in the middle of the Atlantic. Huge waves pounded the ship. The captain later said that this was the greatest storm he experienced in his career. Paul unfortunately became seasick. But his misery was relieved by the certainty that he will soon land in his promised land.
As the howling winds ceased, Paul ventured to the deck. He was astounded by the huge waves that still continued to lift and then drop the vessel. Here was indeed an example of Nature still dwarfing man and his creations.
Like millions of other immigrants to America, Paul experienced the elation of seeing the Statue of Liberty looming up at the entrance of New York Harbor. After the stormy crossing of the Atlantic the skies cleared as if by magic. The ship floated over the smooth surface of a suddenly tranquil sea. It seemed as if the elements themselves became subdued by the torch lifted high, promising freedom to the oppressed masses of humanity.
For Paul and his fellow survivors the words of Emma Lazarus -- carved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty -- were especially appropriate. Their ship indeed carried the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free." These survivors of Nazi Germany's genocidal Jewish-Slavic Holocaust were a small remnant of once thriving communities. Yet they were only a small fraction of the tens of millions of victims of war and militarism in the 20th century.
Paul again experienced the exultation and emotions of joy as he disembarked in Ellis Island, the gateway for millions of immigrants to America. His sufferings came to an end. The promise of the New World, at one time unattainably distant, now became a reality to him.
Return to Contents