Akiba Drumer left us, a victim of the selection. Lately, he had wandered among us, his eyes glazed, telling everyone of his weakness: “I can´t go on . . . It´s all over.” It was impossible to raise his morale. He didn´t listen to what we told him. He could only repeat that all was over for him, that he could no longer keep up the struggle, that he had no strength left, nor faith. Suddenly his eyes would become blank, nothing but two open wounds, two pits of terror.
He was not the only one to lose his faith during those selection days. I knew a rabbi from a little town in Poland, a bent old man, whose lips were always trembling. He used to pray all the time, in the block, in the yard, in the ranks. He would recite whole pages of the Talmud from memory, argue with himself, ask himself questions and answer himself. And one day he said to me: “It´s the end. God is no longer with us.”
And, as though he had repented of having spoken such words, so clipped, so cold, he added in his faint voice:
“I know. One has no right to say things like that. I know. Man is too small, too humble and inconsiderable to seek to understand the mysterious ways of God. But what can I do? I´m not a sage, one of the elect, nor a saint. I´m just an ordinary creature of flesh and blood. I´ve got eyes, too, and I can see what they´re doing here. Where is the divine Mercy? Where is God? How can I believe, how could anyone believe, in this merciful God?”
Poor Akiba Drumer, if he could have gone on believing in God, if he could have seen a part of God in this Calvary, he would not have been taken by the selection. But as soon as he felt the first cracks forming in his faith, he had lost his reason for struggling and had begun to die.
When the selection came, he was condemned in advance, offering his own neck to the executioner. All he asked of us was:
“In three days I shall no longer be here. . . . Say the Kaddish for me.”
We promised him. In three days´ time, when we saw the smoke rising from the chimney, we would think of him. Ten of us would gather together and hold a special service. All his friends would say the Kaddish.
Then he went off toward the hospital, his step steadier, not looking back. An ambulance was waiting to take him to Birkenau.
These were terrible days. We received more blows than food; we were crushed with work. And three days after he had gone we forgot to say the Kaddish.