Pinchas was only 7 when the war began. He was a Hasidic Jew, which meant that he wore his hair in long curls at the sides. His mother was often assumed to be a Polish Christian, which made life complicated. Pinchas has never forgotten hearing a well-dressed man say to his mother, 'How can a beautiful Polish woman like you be a servant to rotten Jews!' The man thought that she was Pinchas' nanny.
Pinchas and his family lived in the ghetto in Warsaw. The Jews in the ghetto arranged a revolt against the Germans. While the uprising was happening Pinchas and his family hid underground in specially made bunkers. The rebellion was brutally stopped - there were few Jewish survivors. It was at that point that a Jewish informer gave Pinchas and his family away. The Germans threatened to drive them out of the bunker with gas, and they crept out to be met by German soldiers shouting 'Hands up! Don't shoot!' The soldiers had thought they were dealing with gun-carrying rebels.
They were attacked and chased into an apartment block so crowded that people couldn't even sit down. 'Water was being sold by the bottle,' Pinchas remembered, 'but only for gold or diamonds'. After a few days they were loaded on to cattle trucks and taken to the concentration camp at Majdanek. On the journey they were crowded together so closely that 'one had to fight for every breath of air. It was even more difficult for the children. My parents had kept a sock full of sugar, and fed my sister and me with regular spoonfuls throughout the journey.'
At Majdanek Pinchas and his father were separated from his mother and sister. Pinchas was quite tall, so he was put with the men. They were stripped and sorted out, some for death straight away, others for slave labour if they looked fit enough for it. Pinchas was one of the fit ones. He was only 12 years old.
At the end of the war, Pinchas remembers how he watched a road down which not Jews but German refugees were being driven or were trying to escape. There were whole families with children and baggage, pushing wheelbarrows and bicycles or in wagons drawn by horses. As they went they were attacked. Pinchas and a crowd of children watched this unhappy procession. 'I remember clearly my feelings of pity and sympathy for these people, because they reminded me of how I had suffered myself. Instead of the intense hatred I might have had for these Germans, all I felt was sadness and sympathy. I still wonder about that.'
Here's an example of how even the biggest issues start with individual people right where they happen to be. This boy, watching the refugees (mostly old men, women, and children like himself) was able to see both sides of the tragedy. Might he have felt differently about a procession of defeated soldiers? The place to get to is where there's a view of (and a chance to understand) what makes an oppressor want to oppress, and what makes it possible for him or her to do it.