Holocaust Survivor Story: Why Little Things Make a Big Difference!

Little Things Can Make a Difference

By Garey J. Simmons

The whole world can pivot on a dime, a single word, a brief moment of inspiration, a split second decision, and everything changes. 

Sometimes it’s the tiny, little things we do, the actions we take that can make all the difference in the world. And sometimes it’s the little things we don’t do, the actions we don’t take that can make the difference for better or for worse. The difference between health and sickness, between success and failure, even life and death can all be traced to small, little things!

Big doors swing wide open on little hinges. And they can slam shut on those same tiny hinges. A little light at the end of the tunnel can help you find your way forward out of the pit. We never know exactly when the seed of an idea will turn into a mighty oak tree of resounding accomplishment.

In fact, this is why I am alive today. It’s why I even exist on this earth. More on that in just a bit.

A fleeting idea is why I am in business today as a health coach, a dietary supplement expert and a marketer. I had an idea. It was just a little passing thought. It happened quickly in a brief flash of inspiration. In 2005, after 30 years overseas working as a missionary with various churches, prisons, youth groups and camps, I received a bleak diagnosis about a heart condition. I was given a set of prescription drugs to try.

But I didn’t take them. I didn’t even pick them up from the pharmacy. Why?

I hadn’t taken a prescription drug in 30 years and wasn’t about to start, at least not without proper research and finding out if there was a natural way to treat my condition. The last time I had taken a prescribed drug was in India and I had an allergic reaction. So no. I said no to drugs. Within days I found 11 National Institute of Health (NIH) studies that pointed toward a natural treatment: Omega-3 fish oil. I found it worthy and meaningful to try a natural remedy rather than run straight to pharmaceuticals, which I knew mainly suppressed symptoms rather than going to the root of a medical issue. Today, no matter what your TV commercials say, most drugs don’t seek to cure anything. It’s mostly suppression of symptoms and hopefully relief from suffering without too many negative side effects.

Within 3 months I had reduced my risk factors by 80% and wasn’t even considered at high risk anymore. What if I’d taken the drugs and further compromised my health instead of looking for a natural way to deal with my issues? Just a little pause, to do a little research.  Read a few studies. Why not try a simple change in diet? Why not follow a simple protocol to see if it would help? In three months I went from very high risk to near normal.

The disclaimer is you have to make these decisions consciously and not just because the doctor said so! Experts are sometimes wrong or use the wrong lens to look at a problem. Of course, sometimes those drugs can save lives too, especially in emergency situations. It’s always good to have various health counselors on your team, people who can look at a situation from different angles and viewpoints. Doctors can be a great asset and they can also be notorious for closing themselves off to alternative medicine and natural remedies.

At the point in time when I needed to reorder this high potency Omega-3, I realized three things simultaneously: 1) high quality Omega-s can be expensive and some companies try to upsell on other products that we may not need and 2) if I needed this and it works so well, then other baby boomers and seniors will need this too. 3) And no one wants to be pressured into unnecessary buying decisions especially those on limited income like our senior population. So I made a decision:

At that very moment, without being an expert in heart disease or fish oil, I see the makings of a great business that aligns with my values and I wouldn’t treat people the way this company was treating me. A wise man once said, “What is it you know, that others don’t know, not that you have to be an expert, but what do you know more than what the average person knows? Can you share that knowledge and help folks solve problems?”

What problems have you solved that you can help others solve?”

It didn’t take long but I had my personal story on a one-page website with a PayPal button. I was only charging slightly more than what the product cost so I could help as many boomers and seniors as possible. I sold $30,000 worth of product in the first three weeks with the help of a Google Ad that cost me fifty cents a click. I was in business. I began educating myself, attending trade shows and I find myself back to school to become a certified Integrative Nutrition health coach.

In the years that followed, we’ve been able to help more than 50,000 people face their fears over heart disease and commit to a proven holistic, natural approach that works and sometimes works better than taking pharmaceutical synthetic drugs that always have negative side effects.

A small dose of a natural ingredient straightened out my heart health issues. Sometimes, it’s the little things that can make a big difference.

The Story of the Mason’s Trough … a small tool saves a family

Or

Little Things Are Important

I would like to share a story that illustrates this point about little things. Eight decades ago, a little baby girl is born in Vienna Austria, the 3rd daughter of Isaak and Hani. It’s 1934 and the world was getting ready for an all-out blitzkrieg, an assault on beliefs, ideologies, values and practices. Hitler is on the rise and perfecting his tenor for world war.

In 1938 the Anschluss happens. Germany and the Nazis move into Austria. Isaak and Hani along with their three girls are warned by the villagers where they live to vacate quickly before the soldiers arrive. They depart under the cover of darkness, leave all their belongings to move to the Jewish Ghetto in Vienna where they hope they’ll be protected by political and religious leadership, people with conscience in the capital city of Vienna. The baby girl is now four years old has a new address: 8 Tur 8 Niebelungengasse, Wien, II, Austria.

For years Isaak had tried to get his farm sold to a fellow Austrian, but the buyer is a Nazi sympathizer and thinks he doesn’t have to honor the sales contract with a Jew. He just takes the place and defaults on payment. So off to Vienna they go, Hani, older sisters Regina and Edith start sewing yellow stars of David on their clothes.

Baby sister, little Lotta is able to attend school and even ride the street car for a while but by 1941 with the War raging and fear of Jews mounting, she has to walk to school, no longer allowed on the streetcar. Finally, little Lotta is told to stay home. No more school for you little girl. By 1942, the Jewish leadership in Vienna in concert with Herr Gobbels, Hitler’s foreign minister, engineers a plan to relocate the Jews out of Vienna to “…farms in Poland. Every village will have a doctor and you’ll be able to grow your own vegetables.”  Yes, the promise was “Universal Health Care.” Housing is urgently needed in Vienna for German troops headed towards the Balkans. The Jews have to go.

Family Leaves Vienna with Promises of a Better Life

So bags are packed with uncertainty and the family prepares as best they can for universal health care in the Polish Promised Land. The underground whispers do not match the glowing political promises. They leave on a passenger train but the train veers east. Somewhere in the Ukraine, in the middle of night, they are forced off the passenger train and put onto cattle cars. After  many sickening hours, they arrive. The railway station sign reads, “Minsk.”

“Worst train ride ever,” the baby sister says.

The Sorting

Arriving at the railway station in Minsk, the dividing and sorting of people and goods takes place. If you are young, healthy and can work, you might get a pass to enter the camp as a worker if you are so lucky. If you are too old, too young, too feeble or too sick you are loaded onto trucks with a one-way ticket to an open pit. The goal is obvious. Get into the camp!

Who would have thought that the goal and promise of life was to get INTO a concentration camp? Maybe the soup is thin, but there is a chance at life.

While the Germans have ammunition, it is death by firing squad for the less able and the less fortunate, later it is easier to gas the old feeble Jews in box trucks, just attach the exhaust with a pipe and let them asphyxiate. Save the bullets for the Russians.

Wisdom is listening to your hunches.

Isaak, in his wisdom, packs a mason’s trough in his knapsack and claims a pass into the camp with “excellent carpenter and masonry skills.”  Let’s just say he learns his trade quickly. He sells his skill set, to the German officers. He may have never picked up a hammer in his life, but he would rise to the occasion and be whatever he needs to be. The mason’s trough was a simple “show and tell” to convince the Germans he is worthy of a job.

Hani is a seamstress as were the two older daughters. But little Lotta? Why she is only 8 years of age in 1942, what could she do? Sing songs in German? Play hopscotch? Recite children’s rhymes?

Little Lotta is being shoved toward the trucks. Older sister Edith does not remain quiet. Edith takes action. She pleads with the SS Officer in charge of sorting the wheat from chaff and somehow she finds some magic words to persuade him to have a change of heart. She may not have enough logic to win the argument over her little sister’s usefulness to the camp, but at least she tries. She stands her ground and lets her voice be heard. The SS Officer relents.

When Life in a Concentration Camp is the Best Option

The family remains together and enters the camp. A mason’s trough packed into a knapsack, a choice word spoken to authority with passion and boldness, access to life in a concentration camp instead of death in the open pit. Of course, there’s “luck” involved.

Hani and eldest sister Regina do not survive the camp. They are murdered as a matter of convenience along with hundreds of thousands of others. In total sixteen Jewish survivors escape Maly-Trotstinets. Near the end, most of the Jewish workers are herded into a building and burned to death by the Germans as the Russian Army is approaching. Out of the hundreds of thousands that die at the camp, out of the sixteen that survive the camp, three of them, Isaak, Edith and little Lotta are on the run.

The Story Gets Stranger

Upon their escape, Edith who is 19 could run faster and manages to make it all the way to Czechoslovakia, and eventually is granted asylum in the United States after the war. Isaak is re-arrested by Germans in the forest and ultimately captured by Russians and sent to prison. Little Lotta? She’s left alone in the middle of a wooded battlefield to fend for herself at age 10.

She’s wounded in the head by shrapnel and awakes to find herself bleeding. The blood has meaning. It tells her she is still alive. She wanders across a field with bullets flying, towards some Russian peasants who are digging ditches to hide from the bombs.

Since little Lotta only speaks German, the Russians shooed her away and say, “The Germans are over there,” pointing across the way to another cluster of trees. She walks towards them. They are Polish teenagers, conscripts, draftees, wearing ill fitted German uniforms. They take care of little Lotta, try to stop the bleeding and one soldier hoists her on his shoulders during their retreat from Minsk.

After some days, the Polish teenagers (German soldiers) are captured by Russians. The Russians want to deposit little Lotta at an orphanage but she refuses. It’s inexplicable how a ten-year-old girl could defy heavily armed Russian soldiers but she does. She continues on with the Polish teenage soldiers. Finally, they leave her on a village square in the middle of the White Forest about 50 miles away from the camp.

It takes a couple of days for the villagers to figure out who could take in this waif of an orphan. A village nurse of sorts shaves her head, dresses her wounds. A Catholic woman brings her home. Little Lotta hides her religion. She hides her identity… for years. She tends the peasant family’s one cow, taking her to the grazing fields in the morning and bringing her back in the evening. She bakes in a stone oven, cooks on a wood fire and attends to her benefactor’s family as a servant to poor Russian peasants. Whatever she needs, she is taught how to get along without.

The son of the family who is in school teaches little Lotta, who is not in school, Cyrillic, to read and write. The son later dies of appendicitis while being transported to the hospital on the back of a wagon. The bumpy rutted roads are too much for a boy with a burst appendix.  Little Lotta is called the “German girl” by the villagers. She goes to church with the Catholic mother. She becomes the scribe for the family.

Escape from Russia

One day a German officer comes through the village. He is a prisoner but there is no food in the prison, so the prisoners are allowed out to beg for food in surrounding villages and return to prison by sunset. The villagers tell him to see “the German girl.” Little Lotta takes the opportunity to do a little thing: she gives the German her name and her last address in Vienna, 8 Tur 8 Niebenlungengasse. A piece of bread in exchange for a faint glimmer of hope: a possible ticket to freedom.

The German does a little thing: He keeps the slip of paper and is eventually released. He rolls the bit of paper up into a ball and hides it between his toes as he walks back to Germany. There are many check points. The German soldier is brave to carry the name of a Jewish orphan on a slip of paper back to Germany. Nobody likes Jews all the way from Minsk to Berlin, before the war, during the war, after the war. Even today in Belarus, Jews are not welcomed.

The German soldier makes it to East Germany and is able to get the information to a nephew in West Berlin in the American quadrant, who turns it into the International Red Cross. Back in Vienna Isaak is informed by a kindly neighbor that she’s heard his daughter’s name on the radio, the International Red Cross broadcast.

Friends in High Places

With Isaak in Vienna and Edith in Washington DC, Isaak writes to Edith with the good news that little Lotta now 16 is alive! Now Edith, being a seamstress is sewing a winter coat for Mamie Eisenhower’s secretary. The Eisenhowers haven’t yet been elected to high office but the secretary puts in a call to the New York congressman. His name was Jacob Javits. The congressman knows someone in Moscow. But Moscow is a long way from the White Forest.

It takes weeks, an emissary from the Russian government travels to a little, tiny village where a waif of a cow herder girl is escorted back to Moscow to obtain an Austrian passport. Her Jewish identity is revealed but the German girl already has accepted communion at the local Catholic Church.

Edith asks in a letter what she could do for the peasant family in exchange for the care they provided her sister. The Russian step-father wants a diamond tipped glass cutter. Arrangements are made to fulfill that wish.

lotte-repatriationLittle Lotta is taken to Moscow, receives a repatriation passport and is provided a seat on a Russian airplane back to Vienna in 1951. Most displaced persons have to walk or find some box car to ride on to get back to their native lands. Little Lotta gets to fly! The cabin is not pressurized and Lotta remembers the pain in her ears.

In the same year, she and her father travels by ship out of Hamburg to transformationNew York City through Ellis Island and settles with Edith in Washington DC. Isaak can’t find work and doesn’t speak English. He returns to Vienna.  Notice the difference in the two pictures of little Lotta taken about six months apart. A peasant girl becomes a woman.

Because Lotta insists on remaining Catholic, there is a falling out between her and the Jewish side of the family.

How I know about little Lotta’s story?

Lotta is my mother.

I only find out a little about my Jewish heritage as a senior in high school, by bits and pieces from my father. Mother never speaks about it.

With only a year of formal education in Vienna, Lotta goes to work as a soda fountain clerk for People’s Drug Store, a secretary for AMVETS and retires as an accountant with a local county government. She only begins sharing some of her experiences with us after I turned sixty years of age! Maybe she finally feels safe.

Few of her peers ever learn she isn’t a native born American. Her accent is Mid-Atlantic with a twinge of West Virginian she picks up from my dad. Her favorite pass times are playing scrabble and card games. She still attends Catholic Church and prays a prayer of gratitude at every meal. On her bathroom wall is a yellow post it in her perfect cursive handwriting, “I am a survivor.”

The Little Lotta story is filled with lessons on taking what little you have and leveraging it.

What skills do you possess? What stories can you tell? How well can you sell yourself and your skills in order to survive? To live yet another day?

Everyone knows something. And if you know more than the next person you can share your lessons, your expertise. Everyone has insight into life and what we know we can share to the benefit of others.

The whole idea of business is to solve problems. The simple truth of the 80/20 Rule or sometimes called the Pareto Principle: it’s the small things that can make a big difference. Understanding that you have power to change minds of those in authority. Knowing that human rights are God-given and inalienable. You, me and all of us have a right to life. We have a voice and we need to use it when it’s called for.

Because of my hero mother, aunt and grandfather I can enjoy the fruits of being native born in America. I have a lot to be thankful for!

What are the odds?

The freedom to enjoy a life of my own choosing: I can volunteer to help teens. I can serve food at a shelter. I can raise ten kids who would not have ever existed except for a mason’s trough and a word spoken in due season, except for a name and an address written on a scrap of paper.  Little things.

Take what you have and share. Use it to build a future for yourself and your family. Do not neglect the small things, the little hunches. I live a life rooted in optimism, but keep a knapsack packed just in case. One never knows what the future holds and which way the wind will blow. Keep in mind, preparation and opportunity equals good luck.

As a business owner, I frequently speak at networking events and groups sharing lessons I’ve learned in business using best practices to achieve health and success. I’ve been called upon by small and large companies to render an opinion on marketing ideas. I’ve done business with one of the largest health care companies in the world. Why? Because I share my ideas freely. I do good for those around me and try to help small business people to make it and pursue their dreams.

How? By paying attention to the little things. Little things do the work and can reap big results for small businesses.

Leverage is key. Positioning is key. Big doors swing open on small hinges. This is the single most important thing one can do: see yourself for what you are worth, distinguish yourself and increase your value to your marketplace, those you serve. Share your story!”

You have value to share, you too can solve peoples’ problems. You have what it takes to make a difference.  It like the martial art of Jiu Jit-su. Use leverage for positioning. Use what you have as leverage to increase the strength of your position. This is true in every aspect of life. Just ask Archimedes. He said over 3,000 years ago, “Give me a lever long enough, and a place to stand and I shall move the world.”

Are you ready to be a world changer?

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