Hana Greenfield, a Holocaust survivor who co-founded the Jerusalem-based Gefen Publishing House with her husband, Murray Greenfield, died in Tel Aviv on Monday after a long illness at the age of 87.
Greenfield (nee Lustigová) was born in Kolín, Czechoslovakia, on November 3, 1926 and was sent during the Holocaust to concentration camps in Terezin, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. She was liberated from Bergen-Belsen on April 15, 1945, and after a short period in London made aliya, married Murray and had three children.
Gefen Publishing House published her memoirs, Fragments of Memory: From Kolin to Jerusalem (1998, revised edition 2006), in English (the work has also appeared in Hebrew, Czech, German, and Russian), for which she received the Axel Springer Fund Award.
She was the initiator of Yad Vashem’s Survivors Speak Out program and founder of a high school program in Jewish history and Holocaust education for Czech youth, for which she was honored by then-Czech president Vaclav Havel. In addition, she was on the board of the Terezin Ghetto Museum, and her research on the children of Bialystok was published by Germany’s Max Planck Institute.
She is survived by her husband, two children, Ilan and Meira (a son, Dror, died in 2003), and 10 grandchildren.
Before learning of his mother’s death, Ilan Greenfield – who currently heads Gefen – visited The Jerusalem Post on Monday morning to discuss a new book on the Holocaust.
There’s only one word in the book, but it’s repeated six million times. The tome published by Gefen, whose cover is painted like a prayer shawl and lacks a title, commemorates the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in a unique – and chilling – manner.
The word “Jew” appears in every row and column, with no variation, six million times.
According to Greenfield, the idea for the stark book arose from the experiences of Rabbi Phil Chernovsky, editor of the Israel Center’s weekly Torah Tidbits, who was teaching young adults about the Holocaust some 20 years ago.
“He realized they were unable to fathom the figure of six million in terms of Jews annihilated during the Shoah,” said Greenfield.
As an exercise, Chernovsky asked the students to spend a couple of hours writing out the word “Jew” as often they could within the time allocated. The total came to 40,000 words. He hung the results on his classroom walls, making the point that, as large as this figure was, and as much space as it covered, it was as nothing.
Years passed until Chernovsky took the next step. He decided to print the word Jew multiple times on a single page and photocopy it over and over until he had six million repetitions.
Then he had the copies bound and the book was born.
He kept it at home and over the years he showed it to people, said Greenfield.
Last year, Greenfield’s partner in Gefen, Michael Fishberger, saw the book and showed it to Greenfield, who was shocked.
“The minute I saw it I said, ‘I don’t care what we do with it, I don’t care if we don’t make any money out of it, we must publish this,’” he recalled. “Being the son of a Holocaust survivor who went through Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, I decided it had to be put out there, no matter what.”
Each book is part of a gargantuan hand-numbered limited edition, envisioned to eventually reach six million copies.
There is also a space on the first page, under the numeration, for a personal dedication, perhaps to a lost relative, said Greenfield. Or, lacking one, even to someone like the famous educator and Holocaust victim Janusz Corzcak, he suggested.
The aim, he said, is to encourage communities to have copies of the book to be used in educational programs. At present Denver, Johannesburg, and Sydney have committed to buying 1,000 copies each in a user-friendly agreement that translates into purchases of 50 copies at a time.
When Greenfield met with Anti-Defamation League national director Abe Foxman some five months ago, the latter’s reaction was “Wow...
wow!” “I think he bought 20 copies right away and said he would see what he could do. A week later he ordered 100 copies and a month later he came to Israel, and he wanted 2,000 copies,” said Greenfield.
“Foxman said that people simply could not put the book down. I have experienced that myself. You keep turning pages because you think, it cannot be, there must be something else on the pages, but no, you turn another and another, and all you have is the world ‘Jew,’ each time representing another victim,” he said.
Over the course of 2013, copies were distributed to ministers Yuli Edelstein and Naftali Bennett, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, and President Shimon Peres, as well as US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and others in America, and there are plans to distribute the book among heads of state.
The aim of the project is for every teacher who teaches Holocaust studies, in the US and around the world, to have a copy of the book to show to students, said Greenfield. Its title, although not visible on the outside, is And Every Single One was Someone.