When 8-year old Bruno leaves the bustling city of Berlin, he finds his new country home to be a virtual prison. His friends are back in the city, his Kommandant father won’t stop fighting with his mother about work duties, and his sister washes away in a sea of patriotism. He even misses school, until a traveling tutor admonishes him for reading adventure stories & forces him to recite boring history texts.
Bruno’s only break from solitary confinement comes from a farm he spies through his window. It’s a very curious place, and no one can answer his questions about it: why do the farmers look so strange? What games do they play with the numbers on their chest? And why do they wear striped pajamas?
After a chance meeting with Shmuel, a starving boy his own age, Bruno begins to learn that this is no ordinary farm. The Boy In The Striped Pajamas is a heartwarming & heartbreaking tale of youthful naiveté, friendship & understanding in the most terrifying moments of human history. Bruno & Shmuel are kindred spirits, separated only by adult prejudices, official propaganda & an electrified fence. Each wants what he sees on his friend’s side of the fence: Bruno wants a community, and Shmuel wants freedom.
Yet, all Shmuel asks of his friend is food, the most basic sustenance. Bruno’s smuggled food (and occasional games of checkers) offers Shmuel the hope to last his harsh days & hard labor. Sadly, many elderly Holocaust survivors still find themselves in Shmuel’s shoes, living alone in poverty without any support.
In 1952, Germany agreed to provide Israel reparations for Holocaust survivors living there. Both countries underestimated the survivors’ tenacity. Today, a quarter-million survivors carry on into their late 80s & 90s, long after the funds have run dry. Germany & Israel are unable to renegotiate their past agreement, despite drastic increases in medical & living costs.
Times are even harder for tens of thousands of survivors who fled to the former Soviet Republics and receive little to no reparations from any government. These courageous men & women have already survived the vilest circumstances, and yet their daily life remains a harsh struggle. Many cannot afford basic food, medicine & shelter, let alone surgeries or home repairs for the encroaching winter. Others face crushing loneliness as the sole, forgotten survivor of their village or community.
The Survivor Mitzvah Project works to ensure that these brave souls can live the rest of their lives with dignity & hope. The Project provides direct financial aid to Holocaust survivors in remote regions of Eastern Europe & Ukraine. A global-spanning network of registered mail, wirings & humanitarian travelers insures each survivor & their unique needs are accounted for. Beyond financial needs, Survivor Mitzvah Project volunteers also deliver love & community through letters, photographs & exchanges with Holocaust survivors.
We at MAZON treasure The Survivor Mitzvah Project, and are proud to include them amongst our grantees. We are equally proud to support The Boy In The Striped Pajamas and those who work tirelessly to keep the memory of the Holocaust and its survivors alive. May we all continue our work together so their hardest days remain history.