Six Holocaust survivors are slated to light torches memorializing the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis, at the government’s Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem on Sunday.
Asher Aud, Zvi Michaeli, Dita Kraus, Chayim Herzl, Hinda Tasman and Itzchak Biran, will light torches at the Holocaust museum’s Warsaw Ghetto Square at the event attended by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, and Chief Rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau. Lau’s father, Israel Meir Lau, himself a former chief rabbi and chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, will also be present.
Asher Aud, né Anshel Sieradzki, was born in Zduńska Wola, Poland, in 1928, and was incarcerated in his town’s ghetto together with his parents and brothers in 1940. In 1942, during the liquidation of the ghetto, he was sent with his mother and surviving brother to the local cemetery, where he was the only member of his family to survive the beatings and a brutal selection, and then was sent on to the Lodz ghetto as a forced laborer. He was then deported to Auschwitz, where he was reunited with Berl, his other brother, and worked dissembling motor vehicles.
After surviving further Nazi torments at Mauthausen and Gunskirchen, Aud made aliya, served in the Hagana during the War of Independence and worked for Israel Military Industries. He is active in commemorating the dead of Zduńska Wola and has accompanied dozens of Israeli groups traveling to Poland.
Born in Thessaloniki, Greece, in 1917, Zvi Michaeli was one of 9,000 Jewish men forced to undergo brutal beatings by German soldiers while standing all day in the blazing sun in downtown Thessaloniki in what later came to be known as the Black Sabbath. He survived internment in Auschwitz, Ellrich and Bergen-Belsen, where he was later liberated by the British.
Michaeli made aliya in 1949 and has lectured IDF soldiers on the Holocaust.
Edith (Dita) Kraus, née Polach, was born in Prague in 1929. She was deported to the Terezin ghetto/concentration camp in 1942 where she was separated from her parents and put to work in agriculture. Participating in the cultural activities that were permitted for the inmates, it was there that she met her future husband, Otto. Later transferred to Auschwitz, Kraus served as the librarian for the children’s block, caring for the few books that were there, and organized educational and Zionist activities. After being liberated from Bergen- Belsen, she returned to Prague, where she was reunited with Otto. They made aliya in 1949.
Chayim Herzl was born in Budapest in 1937 and was impressed into forced labor at a camp outside of the city in 1943. His father, also taken as a forced laborer, was killed on a death march by the Hungarian army just before the end of the war. His mother was later killed by the Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross militia.
Despite moving in with relatives at one of several Jewish houses outside the ghetto that enjoyed Swiss diplomatic protection, he was taken by the Hungarians and the Germans to the Danube where they intended to shoot him.
“They took us out into a large garden on the bank of the Danube and arranged us in two rows. I was standing in the row closest to the water’s edge. The Hungarians and the Germans shot every person standing in that line… An old man told me: ‘You are still young, try to run,’ and that is what I did… I ran quickly… They shot at me but I managed to get to the back row.”
Following the war, Herzl moved to Israel, where he was adopted by an uncle. He later became a rabbi and a leading figure in the Bnei Akiva religious Zionist youth movement.
A farm girl from Minsk, Belarus, Hinda Tasman, 85, was forced into the city’s ghetto by the Nazis in 1941.
She subsequently escaped and joined a partisan unit in the nearby forest. She risked her life, repeatedly, returning to the ghetto to sneak out inmates and to obtain valuables to trade for food at nearby villages. She also stole “loose” weapons from German army camps.
After the war she moved to Poland, and in 1959, made aliya with her husband, Boris.
Born in the Romanian village of Drăcineț in 1935, Itzchak Biran was the only survivor of the 1941 Nazi massacre of the town of Bobivtsi, where he was staying with his uncle. Biran, whose parents were divorced, managed to reconnect with his mother, who later died of typhus. After being adopted, Biran managed to find his father.
After the war, his surviving family moved to Poland, where he received a strong Zionist education. A passenger on the ill-fated Exodus, Biran finally arrived in Israel in April 1948.
He served as an air force squadron commander during the Six Day War and later worked as an El Al pilot. His final flight, in 2000, from Tel Aviv to Warsaw, was “a kind of closure,” he would later say.
He is working on compiling the stories of Israel Air Force veterans who survived the Holocaust as part of the curriculum at the Air Force Academy.