Joined: May 27 2008
|Posted: Tue, Dec 08 2009, 12:28 pm Post subject: Incredible Story
|This is from an email I received. Very special.
I want to share with you a story tonight. It is a story about a Jewish
girl who became an opera singer, performing in front of Adolf Hitler,
about a world renowned Jewish spiritual master and a world-famous
psychiatrist – and how their three lives converged.
It was a strange phenomenon. The famed professor Victor Frankl, author
of the perennial best-seller Man's Search for Meaning and founder of
Logotherapy, would send each year a check to Chabad of Vienna before
the High Holidays. Nobody in the Chabad center or in the larger Jewish
community could understand why. Here was a man who was not affiliated
in any fashion with the Jewish community of Vienna . He did not even
attend synagogue even on Yom Kippur. He was married to a very
religious Catholic woman. He is not even buried in the Jewish cemetery
in Vienna . Yet, he would not miss a single year of sending a
contribution to Chabad before Yom Kippur.
The enigma was answered only in 1992.
I Am the First Emissary
Margareta Chajes walked into the office of my colleague, Rabbi Jacob
Biederman, the ambassador of Chabad to Austria . Rabbi Biederman built
the magnificent “Lauder Campus” in Vienna creating a Jewish
renaissance in Austria , the country which gave birth to the greatest
monster in Jewish and human history, Adolf Hitler (yemach shemo).
Margareta, an 85 year old woman, was dressed very classy, and looked
youthful and energetic. She told Rabbi Biederman: “I know you think
you are the first shliach, you are the first emissary, of the
Lubavitcher Rebbe to Vienna ; but that is not the case. I have served
as the first ambassador of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to the city, many
years before you.”
You see, in the 1930’s Margareta was a young Jewish opera singer in
Vienna . She even performed at the Saltzburg Opera Festival in 1939 in
the presence of Hitler himself. She escaped to the US , but lost her
family in the Holocaust. Years later, she paid a visit to the
Lubavitcher Rebbe who, she said, became like a father figure to her.]
From the Chassidim to the Opera
She began to relate her story. Margareta’s maiden family name was
Hager; she was an heir to the famed Chassidic Hager family, producing
the Rebbe’s and leaders of the Vishnitz Chassidic group.
As a young girl, she left home. The lifestyle and belief system of her
parents did not inspire her. She travelled to the cultural center of
the world, Vienna , where Margareta Hager, a granddaughter of the
Vishnitzer Chassidic Rebbes, became an opera singer.
Margareta performed during the 1930’s in the Salzburger Festspiele
(pronounced: Fest Shpile) -- The Salzburg Festival -- a prominent
festival of music and drama, held each summer within the Austrian town
of Salzburg, the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
On 12 March 1938, German troops marched into Salzburg . The Anschluss
– the annexation of Austria by Germany – was now complete, and Nazi
ideology immediately began to affect the Salzburg Festival. All Jewish
artists were banned, the leading Jewish conductors and composers were
“deleted.” Yet Margareta Chajes was still performing.
For the Festspiele in August 1939, Hitler himself made an appearance
at two Mozart operas. He did not know that one of the young women
singing so majestically was a young Jewess, a scion of a Chassidic
family, Margareta Chajes.
Shortly thereafter, the general management made a surprise
announcement that the Festival would terminate on 31 August, a week
ahead of the scheduled finale on 8 September. The reason was,
supposedly, that the Vienna Philharmonic was required to perform at
the Nuremberg Party Convention. But the Germans were brilliant liars.
The true reason became apparent on 1 September when the German army
invaded Poland and unleashed the Second World War – exactly 70 years
ago -- which exterminated a third of our people, including much of
On the very night after her performance at the Salzburg Festspiele,
close friends smuggled her out of Germany to Italy . From there she
managed to embark on the last boat to the US before the war broke out
just a few days later. Margareta settled in Detroit, where she married
a fine Jewish young man with the family name Chajes (a grandson of one
of the most famous 19th century Polish Rabbis and Talmudic
commentator, the Maharatz Chayos, and they gave birth to a beautiful
Forward the tape recorder of history. It is now many years after the
war. Jews were rebuilding their lives and their careers. The rabbis
were rebuilding their communities. But one rabbi was thinking of not
just of his own community.
You see, the daughter of Margareta married a prominent Jewish doctor,
who was honored by the dinner of a Chabad institution in the US and
his mother-in-law, Margareta, acquired an audience with the
Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
“I walked into the Rebbe’s room,” related Margareta to Rabbi
Biederman, “I cannot explain why, but suddenly, for the first time
since the Holocaust, I felt that I could cry. I – like so many other
survivors who have lost entire families -- never cried before. We knew
that if we would start crying, we might never stop, or that in order
to survive we can’t express our emotions. But at that moment, it was a
though the dam obstructing my inner waterfall of tears was removed. I
began sobbing like a baby. I shared with the Rebbe my entire story:
Innocent childhood; leaving home; becoming a star in Vienna ;
performing in front of Hitler; escaping to the US ; learning of the
death of my closest kin.
The Rebbe listened. But he not only listened with his ears. Hr
listened with his eyes, with his heart, with his soul, and he took it
all in. I shared everything and he absorbed everything. That night I
felt like I was given a second father. I felt that the Rebbe adopted
me as his daughter.
At the end of my meeting with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, I expressed my
strong desire to go back and visit Vienna . The Rebbe requested from
me that before I make the trip, I visit him again.
A short while later, en route to Vienna , I visited the Rebbe. He
asked me for a favor: to visit two people during my stay in the city.
The first was Viennese Chief Rabbi Akiva Eisenberg, and give him
regards from the Rebbe (the Rebbe said that his secretariat would give
me the details and literature to give to Rabbi Eisenberg.) The second
person he wanted me to visit I would have to look up myself. The Rebbe
said that he was a professor at the University of Vienna and his name
was Dr. Victor Frankl.
You Will Prevail
“Send Dr. Frankl my regards,” the Lubavitcher Rebbe said to me, “and
tell him in my name that he should not give up. He must remain strong
and continue his work with vigor and passion. If he continues to
remain strong, he will prevail.”
Using the German dialect, so Margareta would understand, the Rebbe
spoke for a long time about the messages he wished to convey to Dr.
Frankl. Close to forty years later she did not recall all of the
details, but the primary point was that Frankl should never give up
and he should keep on working to achieve his goals with unflinching
courage and determination.
I didn’t understand a word the Rebbe said. Who was Dr. Frankl? Why was
the Rebbe sending him this message? Why through me? I did not have an
answer to any of these questions, but I obeyed.
Margareta traveled to Vienna . Her visit with Rabbi Eisenberg was
simple. Meeting Victor Frankl proved far more difficult. When she
arrived at the University they informed her that the professor has not
shown up in two weeks. There was thus no way she can meet him. After a
few failed attempts to locate him at the University, Margareta gave
Yet feeling guilty not to fulfill the Rebbe’s request, she decided to
violate Austrian mannerisms. She looked up the professor’s private
home address, traveled there and knocked at the door.
A woman opened the door. “May I see Herr Frankl please?”
“Yes, please wait."
“I saw a room filled with crosses,” Margareta continues her tale. "It
was obvious that this was a Christian home. I thought to myself, that
this must be a mistake; this can’t be the person whom the Lubavitcher
Rebbe wanted me to encourage."
You see, in 1947 Frankl married his second wife -- a very devout
Catholic, Eleonore Katharina Schwindt.
Victor Frankl showed up a few moments later, and after ascertaining
that he was the professor at the University, she said she had regards
“He was extremely impatient, and frankly looked quite uninterested. It
felt very awkward.”
“I have regards from Rabbi Schneerson in Brooklyn , New York ,”
Margareta told him.
“Rabbi Schneerson asked me to tell you in his name that you must not
give up. You ought remain strong and continue your work with
unflinching determination and you will prevail".
“Do not fall into despair. March on with confidence,” Rabbi Schneerson
said, “and I promise, you will achieve great success.”
Suddenly, the uninterested professor broke down. He began sobbing like
a baby. He could not calm down. I did not understand what was going
on. I just saw him weeping uncontrollably.
“Wow,” Dr. Frankl told me. “This Rabbi from Brooklyn knew exactly when
to send you here.” He could not thank her enough.
“So you see Rabbi Biederman?” Margareta completed her tale. “I have
been an emissary of the Rebbe to Vienna many years before you came
Rabbi Biederman was intrigued. Victor Frankl was now 87 years of age,
and was an international celebrity. He had written 32 books which were
translated into 30 languages. His book “Man's Search for Meaning” has
been deemed by the Library of Congress as being one of the ten most
influential books of the 20th century. What was the secret behind the
Rebbe’s message to Victor Frankl?
“I called him immediately,” Biederman recalls.
“Do you remember Margarete Chajes?” Rabbi Biederman asked Dr. Frankl.
“No,” the professor responds. Well, he can be forgiven. More than 40
years had gone by.
“Do you remember a regards she gave you from Rabbi Schneerson in
Brooklyn?” Rabbi Biederman asked the professor.
Suddenly, a change in his voice. Dr. Frankl melted like butter in a frying pan.
“Of course I remember. I will never forget it. My gratitude to Rabbi
Schneerson is eternal.”
And Victor Frankl began to unveil the “rest of the story,” which
captures one of the greatest debates of the last 100 years,
encapsulates the essence of Jewishness and reveals to us the secret of
In the Camps
Victor Frankl was born in 1905 – three years after the Lubavitcher
Rebbe -- in Vienna . The young Frankl studied neurology and psychiatry
and in 1923 became part of the inner circle of one of the most famous
Jews of the time, Dr. Sigmund Freud, the "Father of Psychoanalysis"
who lived and practiced in Vienna.
The “Final Solution” did not skip over the Frankl family (7). Victor’s
mother and father were murdered in Auschwitz ; his first Jewish wife,
pregnant, was murdered in Bergen Belsen. All of his siblings and
relatives were exterminated. Professor Frankl was a lone survivor (he
had one sister who emigrated to Australia before the war.) He returned
to Vienna where he taught neurology and psychiatry at the University
The Great Debate
Already before the war, and even more so during his three years in the
Nazi death camps, Victor Frankl developed ideas which differed
radically from Freud. Yet the entire faculty of his department at the
University consisted of staunch Freudian scholars. Academically they
hunted down Victor Frankl calling his ideas “pseudo-science,” and the
joke of the century.
You see, friends, this was no small debate. These two Jews were
debating the very meaning of human identity and Victor Frankl had been
advocating a view extremely alien to the then-dominant Freudian
outlook. In a word: A human being has a SOUL, what we Jews call a
Freud, like most medical schools, emphasized the idea that all things
come down to physiology. The human mind and heart could be best
understood as a "side effect" of brain mechanisms. Humans are like
machines, responding to stimuli from within or from without, a
completely physical, predictable and godless machine, albeit a very
complicated machine, creating psychotics, neurotics, and of course
[The difference? The neurotic build castles in the air; the psychotic
lives in them, and the psychiatrist? – he collects the rent from
Victor Frankl disagreed. He felt that Freud and his chevrah reduced
the human being to a mere mechanical creature depriving him or her of
his true essence. “If Freud were in the concentration camps,” Frankl
wrote, "he would have changed his position." Beyond the basic natural
drives and instincts of people, he would have encountered the human
"capacity for self-transcendence." "Man is that being who invented the
gas chambers of Auschwitz ; however, he is also that being who entered
those chambers upright, with the Shema Yisrael on his lips.”
"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked
through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of
bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient
proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: The last
of the human freedoms — to choose one's attitude in any given set of
circumstances, to choose one's own way.”
Of course, there are many things about our life we have no control
over. But there is a dimension of the human self – the essence of
human identity -- which nothing and nobody can control. It is
transcendent by its very “nature” – free, uninhibited, wholesome and
deeply spiritual, never defined by life’s circumstances and
limitations, but rather free to define them, to define their meaning
A person – he taught -- was not a son of his past, but the father of his future.
But in the University in the 40’s and 50’s they defined Frankl’s ideas
as fanatic religiosity, raising up all the old, unscientific notions
of conscience, religion and guilt. It was unpopular for students to
attend his courses.
“The situation was horrible,” Frankl told Rabbi Biederman. “Rabiner
Biederman!” Frankl said. He then added these shocking words: “I could
survive the German death camps, but I could not survive the horrific
derision of my colleagues at the university who would not stop
taunting me and undermining my every iota of progress.”
“The pressure against me was so severe, that I decided to give up. It
was simply too much to bear emotionally. I was drained, exhausted,
depressed. I fell into a melancholy. I was watching all of my
life-work fade away right before my eyes. One day, sitting at home, I
began drafting my resignation papers for my University job. In the
battle between Freud and Frankl – Freud would be triumphant.
Soul-less-ness would prove more powerful than soul-full-ness.
And then suddenly, as I am sitting in my home, depressed, defected,
feeling down, in walks a beautiful woman. She gives me regards from a
Chassidic master, Rabbi Schneerson from Brooklyn , New York . His
message? “Don’t dare to give up. Don’t dare to despair. If you will
continue your work with absolute determination, you will prevail.” I
could not believe my ears. Somebody in Brooklyn , no less a Chassidic
Rebbe, knew about my predicament? And what is more – he cared about my
predicament? And what is more – he sent someone to locate me in Vienna
to shower me with courage and inspiration?
"I began to sob. I cried uncontrollably. I was so moved. I felt like a
transformed man. That is exactly what I needed to hear. Someone
believed in me, in my work, in my contributions, in my ideas about the
infinite transcendence and potential of the human person and in my
ability to prevail.
“That very moment I knew that I would not surrender. I tore up my
resignation papers. New vitality was blown into me, I was confident,
secure, and motivated.”
“Indeed,” Victor continues, “his words came true. A few months later,
I was given a chair at the University."
And a short while later, Frankl’s magnum opus “Man's Search for
Meaning” was translated into English. It became not only an ongoing
bestseller to this very day, but has been deemed as one of the 10 most
influential books of the 20th century.
The professor’s career began to soar. The once-scoffed-at professor
became one of the most celebrated psychiatrists of a generation.
“Man’s Search for Meaning” has been translated into 28 languages and
has sold over 10 million copies during his life time. Frankl became a
guest lecturer at 209 universities on all five continents, held 29
honorary doctorates from universities around the world, and received
19 national and international awards and medals for his work in
His brand of therapy inspired thousands of other books, seminars,
workshops, new-age and spiritual groups, which have all been based on
Frankl’s ideas of the unique ability of the human to choose its path
discover meaning in every experience. From Scot Peck’s “Road Less
Traveled” to Steven Covey’s Seven Habits, and hundreds of other
bestsellers during the last 30 years, all of them were students of
Victor Frankl’s perspectives.
Victor Frankl concluded his story to Rabbi Beiderman in these words:
"איך וועל אים אייביק דאנקבאר זיין"
“I will forever be grateful to him,” to the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
I Love Chabad
Not knowing who he was talking too, Frankl added:
A number of years ago Chabad established itself here in Vienna . I
became a supporter. You too should support it. They are the best…
And finally, Rabbi Biederman understood why he was getting a check in
the mail before each Yom Kippur.
Their conversation was over.
Tefilin Each Day
But the story is not over.
In 2003, Dr. Shimon Cown, an Lubavitch Australian expert on Frankl,
went to visit his non-Jewish widow, Elenor, in Vienna.
She took out a pair of tefilin and showed it to him. “My late husband
would put these on each and every day,” she said to him.
Then she took out a pair of tzitzis he made for himself to wear.
At night in bed, Victor would recite the book of Tehilim (Psalms).
You get it? On Yom Kippur nobody saw him in shul, but a day of Tefilin
he did not miss.
When they asked in interviews whether he believed in G-d, he would
usually not give a direct answer.
But a day of tefilin he would not miss!
Oy, what a Jew!
In 1973, an Israeli soldier lay in the hospital, depressed and
dejected, saying that he feels like committing suicide.
You see, he lost both his legs during the Yom Kippur war. He felt that
without legs his future was hopeless.
One day, his doctor walked into the room. The soldier was sitting
upright, and looked relaxed and happy. The doctor looked at him, and
saw that his eyes regained that passionate gaze.
What happened? The doctor asked.
The soldier pointed to his night table. He has just finished reading
“Man's Search for Meaning” and the stories about how certain Jews
behaved in the death camps. He learnt of the capacity of the human
being to choose to turn adversity into triumph by discovering the
meaning in his life’s experiences. “This transformed me,” the soldier
This, friends, was the potential the Rebbe saw when he decided to send
Margareta on a mission to Vienna .
Imagine: One single message from a man in Brooklyn who cared literally
transformed tens of millions of lives!
And what was the message? Don’t despair. You will prevail.
Because the Lubavitcher Rebbe was determined to get out to the world
this message: we really do have a soul; the soul is the deepest and
most real part of us; and that we will never be fully alive if we
don’t access our souls.
What is a soul?
A soul is our inner identity, our raison d’être. The soul of music is
the composer’s vision that energizes and gives life to the notes
played in a musical composition. The actual notes are like the body
expressing the vision and feeling of the soul within them. Each soul
is the expression of G-d’s intention and vision in creating that
particular being. The soul is the very fabric of our being—as
conceived by G-d’s vision in wanting us to exist. Each of us is a
unique musical note in a grand cosmic composition. It is incumbent
upon us to discover our soul—our higher calling—and play its unique
Joined: Nov 24 2007
|Posted: Tue, Dec 08 2009, 2:05 pm Post subject: re: Incredible Story
Fascinating!!! I wonder where this was published?
“All that is thought should not be said. All that is said should not be written. All that is written should not be published. All that is published should not be read.”
Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk
Joined: Sep 22 2009
|Posted: Tue, Dec 08 2009, 2:27 pm Post subject: re: Incredible Story
|Thank you - that was so inspiring !
Joined: Mar 24 2008
Location: New York
|Posted: Tue, Dec 08 2009, 2:33 pm Post subject: re: Incredible Story
|Thanks for sharing, Very inspiring!
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