The Ninth Flame

Auschwitz memorial

As heard in 2004 from a Holocaust survivor, who was an eleven-year-old child in the camps. At the time (in 2004) he was 71 years old and living in the United States.

Chanukah 1944. Auschwitz.

It was exactly 60 years ago. Time moves very quickly and very slowly for me. 60 years ago is both like yesterday and like a 1000 years ago. Those horrible days are frozen moments that never go away. Yet they are also very distant and apart – from another universe, another era.

I will never forget the last Chanukah in the barracks. Most of us were so consumed with scrapping together any morsel while avoiding the attention of the guards that we had no inkling which day in the year it was. Especially in those last weeks before the liberation, the Nazis were particularly unpredictable and cruel, and the chaos only made matters worse.

Yet there were a few who always knew the exact dates. They would tell the rest of us that today is Shabbos, Pesach and other significant days.

On this particular day a man would tell me that it was Chanukah.

That morning I went to the infirmary to try smuggling out some balm – anything to help relieve my father’s open sores. His disease – I am not sure whether it was Typhus or some other cursed ailment – was eating his body away, and whenever I could sneak over to see him I would see him silently struggling for some relief. As a child I was completely overcome by the sight of my suffering father.

That particular day, when I finally snuck over to my father’s bunk – if you could even call it that, it was more like a cattle pen – he was no longer there. I became frantic.

An older gentleman, who I did not know but I often saw talking to my father, came over to console me. He too did not know when my father was taken – to this day I don’t know if it was the disease or a Nazi bullet that took my father to heaven – but his was a calming presence.

Today was Chanukah and we celebrate the victory of the few weak over the many powerful oppressors.

He told me that today was Chanukah and we celebrate the victory of the few weak over the many powerful oppressors. We light the candles to demonstrate that our light is stronger than any darkness. Your father would be very proud to know that you carry on his light despite the blackness around us.

I was so moved by his words – and all the memories it brought back from my earlier years in Lodz – that I suggested to him enthusiastically that we should light the menorah tonight. He sort of smiled to me the child – a smile hardly concealing his deep anguish – and said that it would be too dangerous to try. I insisted and made off to get some machine oil from the factory.

I was so excited. And for this brief moment I was able to put aside my grief. I slowly made my way back, so not to be noticed, to the barrack with my treasured bit of oil. Meanwhile the strange gentleman had put together some wicks, apparently from clothing or some other material.

Now we needed fire to light our makeshift menorah. I noticed at the end of one building smoldering cinders.

We agreed that we would wait till dusk and at an opportune moment we would light our Chanukah lights.

Wait we did. As we were walking over to the cinders a guard, one of the especially ruthless ones, noticed us and grabbed away the oil and wicks we were concealing. He began cursing and frothing at us. A miracle seemed to happen when his superior barked some command that apparently needed his participation, and he ran off with our precious fuel.

The miracle however was short-lived. The animal yelled back at us that he will soon return to “take care of us.”

I was terrified. The gentleman was absolutely serene. And then he said to me – words that are etched into my every fiber until this very day:

“Tonight we have performed a miracle greater than the miracle of Chanukah. We have lit a flame more powerful than the Chanukah lights.

“The miracle of Chanukah consisted of finding one crucible of oil, which miraculously burned for eight days. Tonight we preformed an even greater miracle: We lit the ninth invisible candle even when we had no oil…

“Make no mistake. We did light the Menorah tonight. We did everything in our possible power to kindle the flames, and every effort is recognized by G-d. G-d knows that we were deprived by forces that were not in our control, so in some deeper way we lit the Menorah.

“We have lit the ninth flame – the most powerful one of all, so powerful that you can’t even see it.”

The man then promised me: “You will get out of here alive. And when you do take this ninth invisible flame with you and let it go free. Let it fly like a bird.

“Tell G-d that as great as His miracle of Chanukah was, we preformed an even greater miracle: We lit a candle even when we had no oil.

“Tell the world – show them the light that has emerged even from the darkest of darkness. We had no physical oil and no spiritual oil. We were wretched creatures, treated worse than animals. Yet, we in some miraculous way we found a ‘crucible’ where none existed – in the hell fires of Auschwitz.

“The fires of Auschwitz annihilated not just a Temple. They burnt to ashes the people themselves. In the Temple’s destruction the Divine wrath was released on ‘the wood and the stones.’ Here they have consumed our lives.

“So there was no oil. Not even defiled oil. No oil, period. Yet we still lit a flame – a flame fueled by the pits of darkness. We never gave up.

“Let the world know that our ninth flame is alive and shining.

“Tell every person in despair that the flame never goes out.”

As he finished these last words, the Nazi beast returned and viciously led him away behind one of the barracks…

I made my escape. A few weeks later the Russians arrived and we were liberated.

Here I am today to tell you the story of the ninth flame.

*  *  *

Editor’s afternote:

Chassidic thought explains that the light of Chanukah is rooted in a place that is beyond light and dark. It therefore has the power to illuminate and transform even the darkest darkness. As stated in Psalms (139:11-12): Surely the darkness will shadow me, then the night would be light around me. Even the darkness conceals nothing from You, and the night shines as day; the darkness is as the light.

Perhaps the mysterious gentleman was referring to the secret Chanukah light that is beyond darkness and light, which only emerged in place with no oil.

Our world is once again in need of a ninth flame, a miracle that will surpass nature’s limits of oil and light and illuminate the darkest of nights. We are ready for the ninth flame to shine bright once and for all.

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Reuven Frank
8 years ago

OMG! This is one of the most powerful things I have ever seen, EVER!
Wow! If I could I would send this to every Jew I know.
Simply amazing! (The tears are still running down my cheeks.)
I just don’t have more words.
Well maybe,…

When I read stories like this, I don’t think about the survival of the Jewish people
I don’t believe in this survival, I KNOW that it is and will be so.
Belief and behavior like this is what makes me sure.

8 years ago

January 27, 1945 Would be the correct date, making it 70 years ago instead of 60 as the story is being told. The child would had been 1 year old as opposed to 11.
Perhaps the story was written 10years ago?
Please clarify.

5 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

It says in the beginning that the story was heard in 2004. So 60 years before is right…

Miss Desmond Clark
18 years ago

I am in awe of the story. I found the story most enlightening — thanks for sharing.

Susie Selman Duchesneau
17 years ago

This writing has removed the scales of blindness from my eyes..eye will re-member it ..when eye resort 2 self pity…G-D was there..even in hell itself….luv n duvs 0{+> violet4u

dovid cohen chabad south london campus
11 years ago

a beautiful source for the theory of the ninth flame- torah or last paragraph of KI ATO NERI HAVAYEH. daf mem alef amud alef
just learned it and it hits the nail on the head . gut shabbos!

11 years ago

my mother was from Lodz and in Auschwitz.
The man described here who told the boy the story was a true angel of Ha Shem… There were such angels in the darkness – keepers of the flame of light. We must all remember to have the courage to kindle this 9th candle – a candle that glows with the light that came before the creation of the sun and the stars.

Sandy Kay
11 years ago

I believe the 9th candle is the neshama. The spark of life from Hashem and the light of hope that never dies.

Thank you for giving us more meaning as light the Chanukkah candles tonight.
Sandy Kay

11 years ago

My sister is dying and went to hospice yesterday ~ Thank you for this story is Blesses us all ~

Jo-Ann Silverstein/Toronto
11 years ago

I read The Ninth Flame with a sense of profound awe. I understood with all my heart where G-d was, at that very moment, when a light is lit without a drop of oil and how strong our Jewish nation, Israel, will always endure and so will the Jewish people because we all have that oil within us. Thank you for bringing The Ninth Flame to light my way.

RJ ( Russian Jew)
11 years ago

I also would like to bring to the awareness The Tenth Flame. The Ten Flame is the flame of the flames. Its the flame that burns even when we have no idea why is it there and what does it mean. Its the flame that lives in the heart and the soul of Russian Jewry. Who knew exactly who they were – Jews… suffered as a result of it and yet were denied the knowledge what it means. We, as Russian Jewry, had a passion and loyalty for our roots. But in many cases we had no idea, or any knowledge at all about Chanukah , Shabbas and etc. Without knowing anything we still were able to preserve our identity and endure the oppression and remain Jewish . Our memory was fragmented, stolen and replaced with lies…our hearts were shattered….but our souls were whole. The Tenth Flame is the flame that reminds us that even when we are blindfolded in the darkness of the darkness the hand of Divine Providence brings the oil to us and lights the tenth candle by using the flame from the original spark…our soul. The Tenth flame, the Soul and Heart of Russian Jewry is a proof that we are not forgotten and the promises that were made to us by Hashem will be fulfilled ….even if we do not know, not aware , dont remember….that they were made.

hanna baum
11 years ago

A very poignant and inspiring story in the depths of depair at Aushwitz. Today is the eighth day so tomorrow will be the supernatural ninth.
Thank you so much for the gift.

11 years ago

The 9th candle is the shamash – the servant candle. The elderly gentleman was lighting the servant candle within the younger man.

7 years ago

What an amazing story of faith in Hashem even in the midst of such darkness. The world is in such a crazy place right now. It is Chanukah and Erev Shabbat. Tonight we light the chanukiah and the Shabbat candles. May the lights we light tonight brighten the world and have Hashem bring us the ultimate light….Mashiach.
Shabbat shalom and Chag Chanukah Sameach.

Reuven Green
7 years ago

The Ninth Candle Is The Will:
It can’t be the old man, because he said that lighting the candles ” would be too dangerous”. It’s the child who decided to light them. The older man later assisted, and wrapped the event with its deeper meaning.
And specifically in the child, what lit the candles was his Will: to be lit by G-d (inspired by his Neshama) -and then- to carry and project that light further -into the World- ALL the way up to us.
The article brought tears to my eyes.
Thank you.

Reuven Green
7 years ago

To Annonymous
The article says at the beginning – and you missed that- that the story was told in 2004.
Chanukah Sameach.

Jerri Brolin
5 years ago

Truly inspirational. Thanks, MJL

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