Ever been told by a friend or family member that they would help you pay a bill, get a car, or pick you up and they didn’t show up? Been hurt, lied to, abused by an ex, or family member? Would you be able to forgive them? How can you heal through forgiveness?
Holocaust survivor Peter Loth presented “Healing through Forgiveness” in Missouri Valley’s Eckilson-Mabee Theater, Tuesday night at 8 p.m.
From Germany to Switzerland, Ukraine to the United States, Loth travels the world telling his story, which includes surviving the Holocaust.
With students sitting on the floor and standing up in the back, Loth joked “Come on in, sit down, if a guy wants to sit in a girl’s lap, that’s cool.” The audience in the packed theater laughed at Loth’s easy-going spirit.
At 3 months pregnant, Loth’s mother was arrested and taken into a concentration camp, where Loth was born and where his mother and he were used in experiments. Being filled with drugs for testing, tattooed, and branded on the back of their skulls was a normal routine for children at the Stuttoh concentration camp.
Loth shared that, during his life, he has washed with soap that was made out of human bodies; raped by SS soldiers who were drunk; ate rats, mice, and roaches when there was no food; was forced into a coffin with a dead body; and was bullied in school.
Loth’s said his friend Star would tell him, “Everything will be OK, because God loves you.” Loth and Star went from camp to camp together. A day Loth will never forget is the day that Star died, after an SS officer went on a killing spree. One by one, the SS officer would grab children by the neck, put a pistol in their mouth, and fire.
“She was pleading for me to help her,” Loth said, as the officer grabbed Star by her neck and then fired the gun.
Star’s body laid helpless. “Her eyes were just staring at me,” Loth said.
Star was not only Loth’s best friend, but later Loth found out that Star was his twin sister. During the Holocaust, twins usually traveled together because they were used for experimentation, he said.
Loth also explained how women were degraded–their hair was cut off, they stood in freezing weather with water on their feet, and, one by one, an SS officer pushed them, breaking their toes as they fell.
Finally, residing in the Eastern Block under the rule of the Soviet Union after the war, Loth was 14 years of age when he was taken to prison, accused of being a spy. It was there where he became a victim of “rifle beatings,” which meant taking a AK47 and hitting the victim in the mouth, eyes, hands, and kidneys. The beatings continued for weeks.
“I only had my two front teeth,” said Loth, but the time the brutality ended. He eventually came to America.
“Would you be able to forgive?” Loth questioned the silent crowd.
After being freed from the prison, Loth told the story about the first time he met his sisters. “They’re black!, Surely those are not my sisters,” he joked, Loth also laughed at the fact that all his nieces and nephews are black and “I’m the only white one in the family picture.”
Beyond the deprivation of his youth, Loth remembered when he ate a banana and orange for the first time. Loth told how the skin of the banana and orange was “very bitter.”
Despite the tremendous struggles he endured, Loth remains very humbled, funny and grateful while telling the story that many do not tell because of the pain of it. His website is about his evangelical mission. “Peace by Piece” is a book about his life.
One of the many MVC students at the presentation was junior Carnekia Burnett, who said, “Struggle brings success.” Burnett learned from Loth to always forgive. “No pain can break you but only make you stronger,” Burnett added.
Loth went through a lot of terrible events, but his message was forgiveness, said senior Robert Tinker.
Loth travels all around with his wife telling his story and mostly wanting to reach out to the hurt, abused, and misused to teach them about forgiveness, ending the presentations with a prayer, hoping someone had a change of heart.
“That’s what it’s all about, forgiveness, so we can set ourselves free,” said Loth.