There are few higher Jewish compliments to pay someone than to call them a mensch, though, of course, a true mensch would be too modest to want to be complimented.
A mensch is a person who can be relied on to act with honour and integrity. But the Yiddish term means more than that: it also suggests someone who is kind and considerate.
Rabbi Neil Kurshan, characterises it as “responsibility fused with compassion, a sense that one’s own personal needs and desires are limited by the needs and desires of other people. A mensch acts with self-restraint and humility, always sensitive to the feelings and thoughts of others”.
Who are we ? What are we ? What makes us what we are? Why are we not all the same? We look at two people whose lives connected with this town and region.
Salman Schocken, who built this marvellous store here in Walbrzych was a Mensch. A visionary businessman who democratised consumption, who made goods and services available to thousands of people who had never been included before. His impressive progressive modernist stores enabled working people to buy good quality products at affordable prices , and energised the urban profile of the city.He understood the necessity of improving the world – for the many not the few. A self educated German Jewish humanist , an inspiration and example for us all today.
Josef Mengele M.D fled Auschwitz as the Red Army advanced and became Head Physician at the KL Groß Rosen , a few kilometres from Wałbrzych. A doctor he was, a doctor who used other human beings for bizarre scientifically worthless “ experiments “. A doctor he was who accepted the opportunity to “ work “ in Auschwitz. A doctor he was who decided who would live and who would die with a smile on his face and an aria from Verdi. A doctor he was who never doubted the value and legitimacy of what he did. A doctor he was, but a Mensch he was not.