Saturday, August 17, 2013

The kindness of Anton Schmid

It's not clear whether Anton Schmid was a feldwebel - a sergeant - at the time, or whether he had already been commissioned. He was an Austrian from Vienna who had been drafted into the German Army during World War II. He was a quiet, thoughtful man.

He was stationed in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, during the months in 1942 when 80,000 Jews there were done to death. He would walk in Vilnius Ghetto and see the Jews, many of them starving to death. In his pockets would be hidden bottles of milk for Jewish babies, bread and medicines. He would carry messages from Jews outside the ghetto to Jews inside the ghetto.

Schmid was asked to help five Jews who planned to escape the ghetto and hide in the woods outside. He agreed. He was found out, arrested and court martialled. He wrote to his wife:
I must tell you what fate awaits me, but please, be strong when you read on. . . I have just been sentenced to death by a court martial. There is nothing one can do except appeal for mercy, which I've done. It won't be decided until noon, but I believe it will be turned down. I am resigned to my fate. It has been decided from Above - by our dear Lord - and nothing can be done about it. I am so quiet that I can hardly believe it myself... 

I must tell you how it happened. There were so many Jews here who were driven together by the Lithuanian soldiers and were shot on a meadow outside the city - from 2,000 to 3,000 people at one time. They always threw the small children against the trees - can you imagine? I had orders. . . to take over the versprengtenstelle [dispersal place] where 140 Jews worked. They asked me to get them away from here. I let myself be persuaded - you know I have a soft heart. . . 

It will be hard for you, my dear Stefi and Gertha, but forgive me: I acted as a human being, and didn't want to hurt anyone. When you read this letter, I will no longer be on this earth. I won't be able to write to you again. But be sure that we shall meet again in a better world with our dear Lord. . . 
Four days later, on April 13, Schmid was shot with the five Jews he tried to help. Two days later, the priest, with whom he had left his letter, forwarded it to his widow in Vienna. "I was with him in the last hours," he said. "He prayed and remained strong to the very end. His last wish was to tell you that you too must remain strong. . ."

It was not popular to help the Jews in those days. It still isn't. But the Jews are exceedingly precious to God, because of His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God doesn't forget His promises. 

"They shall come with weeping,
And with supplications I will lead them.
I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters,
In a straight way in which they shall not stumble;
For I am a Father to Israel,
And Ephraim is my first-born"  Jer 31:9.

After the fulness of the Gentiles is come in, God will turn again to His Jewish people, and do whatever it takes to bring them to faith. He intends Israel to become a believing nation.

There is a blessing promised to the man who blesses Israel. But woe betide the man who persecutes the Jews.

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