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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Two Lives

Two men died recently. Their pictures depict similar looking men, both appear to be gentle elderly men. Both were born in Europe and left after surviving World War II. But the circumstances of their survival couldn't have been more different, the lives they subsequently led were opposites, and the vast differences in their lives are notable and deserving of memory.

Harry Drexler, the father of dear friends, passed away recently. His life was an admirable one, overcoming enormous obstacles to thrive in America. He should be remembered as a much loved and admired family man.

The death of a man named Paul Shaefer was reported today in the Los Angeles Times. His life was a despicable one, taking opportunities to victimize and damage human beings. He should be remembered, if at all, as a monster.

These are their obituaries as each appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Harry B. Drexler, June 8th, 1919 - April 23, 2010of North Hollywood California, passed away Friday April 23, 2010.
Harry Drexler was born in Poland, on June 8th 1919. Harry miraculously survived the Holocaust while almost all of his family perished. Harry was the devoted husband of Rena Drexler for 63 years, the father of David Drexler and Nina Guttman, grandfather of Jonathan and Justin Drexler, Leora Lang and Elana Guttman, and great-grandfather of Shai and Gabriel Lang.

After the War, he met Rena, a survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp, in Germany. They married and immigrated to the United States in 1951.

In 1957, Harry and Rena opened Drexler's Delicatessen, the first kosher deli in the San Fernando Valley. Drexler's Deli became a famous landmark in North Hollywood, with Harry and Rena serving as pillars in the growing Jewish Community.

Harry worked tirelessly, every day, except the Sabbath, as a butcher, providing for his family and serving the needs of his customers and community. With a strong work ethic, and unwavering family values, Harry successfully achieved the American Dream and built a strong foundation for his family. Harry always cherished his family and the traditions of the Jewish faith.

He was grateful for the freedom, liberty and opportunities in America. He deeply loved his Dodgers, Lakers and America.Harry will be fondly remembered as a man of few words, with a big heart. He was the rock-solid anchor of his family and community.

And this is the obituary of the other man:
Paul Schaefer, a former Nazi Luftwaffe medic who founded a secretive, commune-like colony of German immigrants in Chile, died of heart failure Saturday in a Chilean prison where he was serving time for child molestation and human rights abuses dating to the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. He was 89.

Schaefer immigrated to Chile from his native Germany in 1961 and started Colonia Dignidad, or Dignity Colony, a strictly regimented enclave 210 miles south of Santiago that was home to several hundred Germans and Chileans.

According to witnesses' testimony in court documents, Schaefer allowed Pinochet's security forces to operate a clandestine prison on the grounds where they detained, tortured and executed dissidents during the 1973-1990 military dictatorship.

Colony members say he ruled them cruelly as well. Married couples were forced to live apart, and children were separated from parents. Residents were prevented from leaving. Those who angered Schaefer were subject to electric shocks, high doses of tranquilizers and long periods of isolation.

Many "became real slaves of Schaefer, like robots dedicated only to obey his orders and not displease him," members said in a newspaper ad they took out in 2006 acknowledging human rights abuses at the colony and asking for forgiveness. The colony is now called Villa Baviera.There were also dozens of allegations of child molestation, leading Schaefer to flee the country in 1997. He was arrested in neighboring Argentina in 2005 and extradited back to Chile the same year.

Schaefer was convicted in 2006 of sexually abusing 20 children who attended the colony's school and clinic. He was sentenced to 20 years, plus three additional years for an illegal weapons conviction.

In two separate cases in 2008, Schaefer received more prison time for the torture of seven colony residents and for the fatal poisoning of a renegade security agent during the dictatorship.

After his World War II service, Schaefer became an evangelical preacher. He fled Germany after being accused of molesting boys at the orphanage he ran.

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