By Paul Goldfinger
July 24, 2012. Ocean Grove, New Jersey: Luna Kaufman was 12 years old when the Nazis stormed into Cracow, Poland, where she and her family lived in 1939. She spent the next four years in a ghetto, followed by three different concentration camps. She and her mother survived, but her father and her sister died in the Holocaust.
After the war Ms. Kaufman and her mother escaped to Israel and then finally to the United States in 1952, where she has devoted her life to educating others about the Holocaust. Her main themes are those of forgiveness and reconciliation. In particular, she has worked to promote good will between Jews and Christians, especially Roman Catholics.
She has had a long association with Seton Hall University, where she had taught. In 2009, they presented her with an honorary doctorate. Ms. Kaufman has written a book about her life (“Luna’s Life”), and in 2011 she went back to Poland to receive a medal from the President of Poland. Now, at the age of 85, she came to Ocean Grove to deliver a Stokes Lecture at the Bishop Janes Tabernacle.
Dr. Jason Tramm moderated the session, where Ms. Kaufman related key events in her life and then took questions from the audience. One event stands out. It took place at a concentration camp where a Nazi officer put a gun to the back of her head. She heard a click — the gun jammed.
When asked how she survived, she said, “I was just lucky.” While in “the camps” she said that people didn’t care about losing all their possessions — “Only life was precious.” As for the lingering pain of what occurred, she said, “We can’t expect to fully repair the damage, but every bit of reconciliation is a building block to a better future.” She also said, “Being bitter is non-productive.”