Had liberation come two weeks later, "I wouldn't be here," said Holocaust survivor Steven Hess. Survival, he said, was a matter of chance.
Hess was among several survivors who told their stories for a first-of-its-kind joint Jewish-Christian program called "The Two Thousand Year Road to the Holocaust," presented earlier this year at Brighton's Temple B'rith Kodesh and sponsored by a number of religious organizations.
The Holocaust Road is among the latest examples of Rochester's long and rich history of interfaith collaboration. That collaboration has lately been showing itself as an eagerness for dialogue, especially around difficult topics such as the Holocaust, race relations and the Mideast conflict.
Hess, 71, was a child during World War II. His family fled Nazi Germany for Holland in 1936. The family survived the war. But Hess, his parents and his twin sister were eventually sent to the camps.
Hess, who moved to Rochester in 1975 and ran a photographic equipment business, told his survivor's story, of how his mother, a very attractive woman, was able to slip contraband silver past German soldiers too smitten with her to notice.
It is through sharing such stories that members of Rochester's interfaith community hope to gain a clearer understanding of one another's spiritual foundations.
Rochester's interfaith activity is decades old and constitutes the work of the Greater Rochester Community of Churches, the Interfaith Alliance and Interfaith Forum, and newer groups trying to remove barriers between Christians and Jews, Jews and Muslims, and Catholics and Muslims.