For 80-year-old David Ariel, a survivor of the Holocaust, parting with cherished letters from his mother, killed at Auschwitz, was a painful but necessary duty.
Ariel and thousands of other elderly Israeli survivors answered a call by Yad Vashem to hand in Holocaust-era keepsakes to preserve their memory for future generations.RELATED:Marking Holocaust Remembrance Day loudlyYad Vashem requests privately held Holocaust papers
Ariel's contribution to Yad Vashem's "Fragments of Memory" campaign consisted of the few letters his mother Zelma had written to him and other family members before she was killed at Auschwitz during World War II.
"I felt like I was separating from her all over again when I handed them
in, even though I knew I didn't have the proper conditions to preserve
them and they were starting to yellow and tatter," he said.
Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev said the drive to collect fading
memorabilia, including letters, photographs, toys and articles of
clothing, before survivors died was "a kind of race against time so that
they will be remembered".
Recent attempts to deny the Holocaust, particularly by Israel's
arch-enemy Iran, have refocused Israeli efforts to collect survivors'
testimonies and relics.
"Imagine if we had six million testimonies, it would stand for ever
against all the Holocaust deniers," Shalev said. "Perhaps this is
thinking virtually, but practically any new testimony or artifact adds
something to this process."
Ariel, born in Czechoslovkia and a retired lieutenant colonel in the Israeli military, wept as he described his wartime ordeals.
Taken at the age of 13 to Auschwitz, in Poland, he spent a week in the
death camp before being sent to Mauthausen concentration camp in
Austria, where he survived for months on food scraps as a slave laborer.
"People all around me were dying like flies. I don't know how I
survived," said Ariel, whose father, a brother and a sister perished at