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Facing Goliath

April 25, 2021 | by Malka and Leah Berger

After the Holocaust, I was an emaciated girl, spent physically, emotionally and mentally, facing a robust and cruel Russian soldier with no conscience. What chance did I have?

The following true story happened to my grandmother.

The year was 1945. We knew the war was coming to an end based on all the bombings, and because our guards were getting jittery. Little did we know that we would need miracles to survive liberation itself.

We were nearing the end of our misery. We were forced to walk for days on the death march and given just a few minutes once a day for personal needs. We had no idea what was the day of the week; we just kept on walking and walking.

One day we were in middle of a field and the next thing we knew the guards disappeared, fearing the aggressive Russians. Just like that we were free.

The inhabitants of the houses dotting the fields had all fled the approaching Russian armies. We piled into those homes and began settling in. Gunshots startled us and I ran out hysterically. Alas, it was the incoming Russian soldiers, celebrating by shooting in the air. Since I spoke Russian, I was tasked with communicating with the Russian soldiers on behalf of my fellow survivors.

We reentered the houses, randomly choosing beds in what was to be our new lodgings.

Nobody wanted to sleep with one girl whose state of mind was greatly affected by all the traumas we had experienced. I volunteered to be her roommate.

We were young girls on the cusp of adulthood, fifteen, sixteen and seventeen. Alone and bereft, we tried to make sense of our new reality.

Every fiber of my being filled with horror. He closed the door behind him and I started screaming.

One night around midnight, a burly Russian soldier burst into my room. He had a dangerous air about him and a wild look in his eyes. My blood froze. My heart started pounding so loud; every fiber of my being filled with horror. He closed the door behind him and I started screaming.

“Be quiet or I’ll shoot,” the soldier commanded, stepping closer to me menacingly.

“Shoot,” I replied.

I stood there, a young teenager all alone, alone in the world and alone in the room. The troubled girl was there with me, but in her state, she could be no help at all.

There I was, a weak, emaciated girl, with not an ounce of strength left in my skeletal body, totally spent physically, emotionally and mentally, facing a robust and cruel Russian soldier, with no conscience. What chance did I have?

I felt like David, the young shepherd facing off against the mighty giant Goliath. Goliath was a fierce and massive warrior, armed with a heavy and expensive body armor of solid brass, and an enormous iron spear. All David had was a modest staff, a slingshot and five pebbles.

What chance did David have?

Yet David bravely proclaimed, “You come to me with your sword and weapons, and I come to you with the Name of God!” In a ringing voice, he called out to Goliath, “You will soon lie defeated at my feet, and all the world will know that there is a God!" David's words rang through the valley, while both opposing armies held their breath.

When Goliath moved forward to kill David, he found himself stuck, as if he were nailed to the ground. He wanted to raise his spear but his arm would not obey him. At that very moment, David let a stone fly from his sling. The next moment, the giant's huge body lay upon the ground, his forehead crushed by the sharp little stone that struck it and pierced his head.

David ran up to the giant and stood on his body. Having no sword of his own, David drew the giant's sword and cut his head off.

David did not win with armory or muscles, but only with his faith in God.

Facing this Russian brute, what did I have? Just like David, I had only my faith in God. I was not alone. I had lost my parents, my family, everything dear to me. I was broken and withered, a shell of myself. I had suffered and starved under the Nazis, but my faith was intact. In those few horrific seconds I beseeched God, begging him to save me.

At that moment, time stood still and seconds after I defiantly answered, “Shoot,” the soldier suddenly slipped and fell.

Just like that he lay on the floor, still like a corpse.

Just like that he lay on the floor, still like a corpse.

I bolted from the room and ran. I hurried out of the house, joining a milling crowd outside so he wouldn’t be able to find me. My heart was beating so loud, I could have woken the dead and it took me a long time to get to myself. Unbelievably, I had been saved.

I don’t know what happened to the soldier. Did he slip and get hurt badly, laying there dumbfounded, unable to move? All I know is that when I came back to the room hours later he wasn't there, and I never saw him again.

For many years, I didn’t share this story with anyone as I was too traumatized to talk about it. Over eighty years later, the time has come to publicize this miracle, one in a string of many.

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