[The Face of Dutch]

from: Jack van der Geest, Was God on Vacation? (2002)

Mr Van der Geest was one of the very few people who escaped from the German death camp Buchenwald.
Van der Geest click to hear 2

"I'm blind! They've experimented on me and made me blind!" My eyes felt normal, but I'd heard of other prisoners who'd been used for experiments, so nothing would surprise me. click to hear ( 1 - 2 )

I frantically groped around in the dark and discovered I'd been locked in a small cement cell. Slowly my reasoning came back, and I decided I wasn't blind. click to hear 2

"Oh God," I whispered. What was I doing lying here bruised and filthy, crawling with bugs and calling upon God? I wondered angrily if God did exist. In my mind a just God would never have allowed the cruel tortures I'd seen. click to hear 2 3

I lay in the darkness cursing God. Exhausted, I fell into a stupor. After what seemed like a lifetime, guards pulled me from the cell, telling me I'd been in 'The Hole' for three days. click to hear 2 3

For several days I walked around in a daze. My fellow prisoners were surprised to see me again. A believer told me, "If we are united in the Lord, He will destroy the devil" - the devil being the nazis. I got some encouragement, but I'm not sure how much I believed that the Lord would save us. Still, that didn't discourage some religious prisoners from praying. Praying was forbidden by the nazis. After the voices faded away I felt calmer, though I still had doubts that a loving God existed. click to hear 2

That March night, I made up my mind to attempt an escape or to die trying. click to hear 2

At dawn I lay motionless on my platform while other prisoners crawled out at the guard's call. Men dying during the nignt was common, so I wasn't given a second glance. Later a truck scooped me up along with other bodies. The driver positioned us over a pile of bodies in the crematorium yard and dumped us. click to hear 2

In my mind I heard the prisoners in my barracks praying at night. What good did it do? Here they were lying dead next to me. There couldn't be a God who would allow this to happen. Or he must love our enemies more than the innocent men around me. I was on my own and had to make my move soon or die on this rotting heap of carcasses. click to hear 2

I thought it better to go for it in the dark. I couldn't lie still any longer. While the guard circled around the back side of the pile I shifted into a position to spring. I jumped up, bashed him on the shoulder. I grabbed his helmet and beat him over the head with it until I was sure he was dead. I rolled him over, tugged off his boots, coat and pants and put them on. For the first time in years I was unafraid. As I walked around for a few minutes, a truck unexpectedly pulled out from behind a building and stopped next to me. I walked to the back of the truck and crawled into the empty bed. click to hear 2

"Thank God, thank God, thank God. I've escaped Buchenwald." A ninety-pound mean by himself could never have overpowered and killed a German soldier twice his weight. I realized what I'd just said and knew God had helped me. He wasn't on vacation after all. click to hear 2