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WORLD FOCUS: It can happen only in America

As Harry Golden, the famous Southern writer, author of the bestseller, “Only in America,” would have put it, what happened to me, could have happened, indeed, only in America.

I was notified recently by my editor that Sen. Montgomery Mason, representing the 1st District in the Virginia Commonwealth’s Senate, wants to get in touch with me.

It turned out, the senator wanted to let me know, the Virginia Commonwealth Senate and House, in its 2021 session, passed a resolution, sponsored by Republican Sen. Thomas Norment, Democratic Sen. Monty Mason, and Del. Michael Mullin, whose district encompasses Williamsburg, saying, “The resolution commends Frank Shatz, as an expression of the General Assembly’s profound admiration for his contribution to the Commonwealth.”

Sen. Mason, quoting from the resolution said that as a long-time columnist for the Virginia Gazette, I have “inspired countless citizens of the Commonwealth with stories from my remarkable life.”

What is indeed remarkable has to do with the fact that a refugee from Communist Czechoslovakia, who has become a naturalized American citizen, would be honored twice by the Senate and House of the Commonwealth of Virginia, for past actions he has taken.

The first resolution, passed in 2001, 20 years ago, concentrated on my contribution to the establishment of the Reves Center for International Studies at the College of William & Mary and my actions during the second world war.

The first resolution stated, “WHEREAS, when the college of William & Mary announced plans to establish a world-class center for international studies in 1987, Frank Shatz recommended that Wendy Reves select the college as the recipient of a $3 million endowment.”

Another paragraph said, “WHEREAS, as a survivor of the Holocaust who once delivered a suitcase full of gold to the infamous Nazi Colonel Adolf Eichmann to ransom 3,000 Hungarian Jews, Frank Shatz spent the last two years of World War II saving Jewish lives while daily risking his own.”

The resolution, citing various actions, expresses “The General Assembly’s admiration and appreciation for his dedication to greater human understanding, the rule of law, and world peace.”

I was greatly honored by the General assembly’s resolution, and I had never expected to be cited once again, 20 years, later.

But, as Sen. Mason explained, it is a new generation of Americans who are the beneficiaries of learning from my public talks and writings about the horrors of the Holocaust and the lessons learned from the history of World War II.

Following the recent official presentation of the Virginia General Assembly’s resolution by Sen. Mason, in his Williamsburg office, the senator said, “Frank, my favorite line in the resolution is, ‘Frank Shatz has recently given a public talk about his experiences at the College of William and Mary, leaving all attendees with greater understanding of both World War II, and the Holocaust, and the philosophies that have helped him remain positive in spite of the traumas he has endured throughout his life.'”

Sen. Mason, in a quite emotional mode, reflecting on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 Islamist terrorist attack on the United States, noted that presentation of the resolution reminded him to remain positive and upbeat.

“You have spent a lifetime remaining positive and upbeat after unspeakable loss and family tragedy,” he said. “You have shared your experiences with this community, and I am thankful for it.”

Pointing to the many distinguished members of the Williamsburg community who came to attend the presentation of the resolution, Senator Mason said, “Here is the proof you had an impact in this community.”

William Walker, retired vice president at the College of William & Mary, paraphrasing William Falkner, said, “Frank Shatz didn’t merely endure; he prevailed.”

Harry Golden was right. Only in America!

(Shatz is a former resident of Lake Placid and a current resident of Williamsburg, Virginia. He is the author of “Reports from a Distant Place,” a compilation of his columns.)