I do not believe the many Germans who say that they knew nothing of the concentration camps. I was there in Germany and I knew about them. I remember feeling that it was terrible, but I had no special feelings for the Jews, because I did not know even one.

I was born Christel Eckern in a little town in northern Germany, on September 1, 1934, to devoutly Christian parents who received me as a gift from G‑d. What they could not see was the fact that G‑d had given me a Jewish soul.

I had never seen a synagogue; I had never seen a JewWhen I was two years old, my mother died while giving birth to my brother. My father married again, and in 1941 my second brother was born.

There were no Jews in our little town except our doctor and his family and they moved to South Africa while I was still a young child. I had never seen a synagogue; I had never seen a Jew. But on my fifth birthday, World War II started, and within one or two years, I knew that there were concentration camps where Jews were being killed.

I remember feeling that my parents were somehow upset, and that when friends visited them, they would huddle together and speak secretly. I listened in one evening, hiding behind the door, and it was then that I heard. My mother's friend had a son who was a member of the SS. He had come home for his first holiday and told his mother that they had been informed of a horrific new mission, and that as a religious soldier, he did not know what he was going to do. He did not tell his mother anything else, but on the last day of his holiday, he shot and killed himself. My parents and their friends secretly spoke about that, too. I was told that I must pray every day that under no circumstances should our country win this war. And that I must never talk about that. I never did.

I was ten years old when the war finished. My father had never been a soldier. He was the last German worker in a screw-making factory where all of the other workers were prisoners. And every time my father was called to the "Wehrmacht" (the home defense), the boss of the factory kept him from leaving by telling the authorities that if my father was taken away he would close down the factory. Because screws were so necessary for war, my father was able to remain at home. I saw this as a miracle.

Years after the war, when I was a young woman, I wanted to work with children.

They had come from Germany, and it was hard to feel their JewishnessSo, for two years, I worked with children who had physical and mental disabilities. In order to learn to speak English properly, I stayed in England for a year and worked as a housekeeper for a family. They were a Jewish family, but they had come from Germany, and it was hard to really feel their Jewishness. I was a Catholic who went to church several times a week. We got on very well.

It was there that Israel came into the picture for the first time. One day, I received a letter where they explained to me everything about "Aktion Sühznezeichen"/Operation Reconciliation/Ot-ha Kaparot." Young people were being recruited to work for six to twelve months in foreign countries where the Germans had left their mark of destruction. They had already rebuilt an orphanage in Norway that German soldiers had destroyed, planted trees on a ditch in Holland, and built a water carrier in Crete. They wanted to go to Israel, too, but the Israelis had refused their offer.

But the "Aktion Sühznezeichen" was determined to help repair some of the damage done in Israel, and after much begging, Kibbutz Urim, a small settlement in the South that was founded by American Jews, agreed that a group could come. In the letter that I received, they wrote that they wanted me in the group because I was Catholic and most of the others were Protestants, and also because I spoke English quite well. But when I heard the word "kibbutz," I right away thought of cows and working in the fields, and wrote back to them, saying a loud "No!"

Instead, after England, I stayed in Rome for a while, working for a library. I spent half of my day in the Oriental Institute, and during the remainder of my time, I simply enjoyed life and the beauty of the "Holy City." One day, a professor of mine, and also the leader of the Institute, looked at me and suddenly asked, "What do you want to do with your life? Marry the Caesar of China?" It suddenly hit me that I had no plans for my future whatsoever.

I was really disturbed and I spent the next few days contemplating my life. At eight o'clock the next morning, I went to the little church in our students' home, sat down in my tiny room and spoke to G‑d. "Please tell me what I should do! Help me! I don't know what to do..." I sat there, feeling so lost, and I cried out, "I will not leave this chapel until You give me an answer!" I remained there, waiting silently all morning. But no heavenly voice rang out, and no special feelings suddenly rushed through me. G‑d, however, had been smiling at me. When I walked into the students' dining room, already from afar I saw an express letter from Germany. Immediately I knew: "There is the answer!" I opened it and read once again, "We need you in the first Israel-Group! Please come to Holland within four days. Preparations will be taking place…"

I saw that every single Jew is somehow "outside of the norm"I quickly ate, and then went back to the little church to thank my Creator for His answer. Four days later, I was sitting in Holland as a member of the first Israel-Group, learning Ivrit – the Hebrew language – and listening to a lecture on Jewish history.

Right from the beginning, I felt at home in Israel. There was this feeling of camaraderie, where I felt that I was "one of them." I had always felt like I was different from the people who surrounded me, and in Israel, to my delight, I felt that I was finally sharing that difference, because I saw that every single Jew is somehow "outside of the norm." I felt as if I was home at last, without really being able to pinpoint why.

Being the good Catholic that I was, I started "missionizing" the Kibbutzniks immediately. They were filled with humor and had far better arguments than I did to explain G‑d and religion. All this made me realize that I wasn't nearly as learned in my own religion as I had previously thought. I stopped being a missionary and decided that as soon as I returned home, I would study my religion in depth. Still in Urim, I applied to a place of study back in Europe, and began learning there as soon as I got home.

I studied a lot and really enjoyed it, but I felt a deep longing to return to Israel. After half a year of studying, I had written my first book, had it published, and went on learning. Slowly, slowly, I drifted away from the religion of my youth, and on the same day that I received my certificate for completing my three years of study, I went to a travel office and bought a one-way ticket to Israel.

I really wanted to learn the language, so I went to study in Ulpan Academy called Taavor in Nazareth-Illit. Five months later, I was looking for a job in social work. Our headmaster brought me to a woman who was responsible for all social workers in Northern Israel. She had helped my friend several times, but she did not know that I was German until I showed up. She came from Germany, too. Therefore, when she found out, she did not want to help me. More than that, she did not even want to meet with me. Instead, she sent her son out to the marpesset, the small porch out front, to make small talk with me. But she had no idea that in reality, she had sent out my future husband, Eli, to speak with me for what would be the first of many times. It was as if we had always known each other; we could not stop talking. And, thank G‑d, we went on talking for the next thirty-nine wonderful years, until G‑d took Eli, beloved husband and father, from me and my two sons, Jotam and Joel.

I will keep learning... for the two of usI went through with my Jewish conversion with great happiness, and full of thanks to G‑d. I felt that I had done nothing to deserve it, and that, for some reason, I was chosen to receive a wonderful present from heaven, from a G‑d who loved me very much. I loved him, too. But because Eli was raised in "German style," despite the fact that he lived like a tzaddik, a righteous man, had Jewish pride running through his blood, and taught me everything he knew about Judaism, he simply could not believe that the Creator of heaven and earth cares specifically for each individual being.

Six years ago, Eli and I took our first step toward koshering our kitchen, and slowly started to learn about, and keep, more mitzvot. Two years later, a short time before my loved one would suddenly die, he wrote a little note: "Motek, (sweetheart) please be religious for the two of us. Tamid hishlamnu echad et hasheini. Ani ohev otach. We have always completed one another. I love you."

This little paper was on our dining room table when I came home from Italy without him. Since that time, I am learning as much as I can, and am trying to keep all the mitzvot that I am able to keep. My relationship with G‑d has grown stronger. I know that I still have so much more to learn. And I will keep learning... for the two of us.

There has been a time
Jews suffered and died.
Old men, Torah scholars,
Babies on their mothers arms,
Children, who were already able
to understand,
that something terrible
In their mothers faces
they saw sadness and fear.
And eyes, filled with tears.
Trust in G‑d, and despair
were fighting each other.
Death was waiting
at the end of the road.

At the same time
a German girl
heard people talking.
"Terrible things
are happening."
She also saw
her mothers face,
tears and despair
and indescribable sadness.
For this girl, there was no death
awaiting her at the end of
her road.
She was part of the people
of murderers.
Christian and German.

The killed ones were Jews.
She did not understand
what that meant.
At that time
she never had seen
a Jew or a Jewish girl.
But that girl who was going
to be murdered
and the German girl
had something in common.
They both believed
in One G‑d. Unusual
for a Christian girl,
but nevertheless
true. Why? G‑d
had decided to put
a Jewish soul in her
German body.

Only twenty years later
she felt irresistible
homesickness for Jerusalem
and the Jewish people.
So one day she stood
at the Beth Din.
Loud and openly
she recited the "Shema
and the Mikvah - waters
made her life anew.
Now she shed tears.
Tears of joy and thankfulness.
And she knew:
"That Jewish girl
who was killed,
was my sister.
Maybe one day
I will meet her in heaven.
And from her eyes and mine
all tears will be wiped