President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem on Wednesday to discuss with them their memories of the period and their challenges in discussing the horrors they endured.
Steinmeier, who is in Israel for the Fifth World Holocaust Forum taking place at Yad Vashem on Thursday, met with the survivors at the Amcha center which provides Holocaust survivors with mental health and social support services.
The German president said that it had been important for him to meet with the survivors during his visit, and to hear from them.
“Whenever we speak to survivors we always ensure to speak about their lives and the lives of the victims, and not just about the numbers of those who were killed,” Steinmeier said.
He added that during his discussions of the Holocaust, he always talked of Germany’s responsibility for the genocide of the Jews, and said that he was always fighting against any inclination to draw a “finish line” under the story of the mass-murder of Europe’s Jews and in favor of perpetuating the memory of these events.
Myra Gol, 81, was one of the survivors present at the event.
Myra was a young girl living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands when the Nazis invaded and occupied her country.
Her parents sent Myra, then aged three, and her infant sister to live with two separate, non-Jewish families whom they paid to provide for their daughters and hide them away, while Gol’s parents themselves hid out with another family as well.
Eventually, Myra’s sister had to be moved in with the family hosting Myra since she cried frequently and the family who had taken her in were worried that they would be discovered.
Nevertheless, Myra, her sister and her parents managed to evade discovery during the entire five-year duration of the Nazi occupation, and in 1965 Myra immigrated to Israel alone.
“When we hear the word Germany it always arouses emotional feelings, but we need to progress also,” said Myra.
She said she initially had “mixed thoughts” about attending the event with the German president, but said that after reading up on his background decided that he was a good person and that the event would be an “honorable and dignified event.”
Another of those to discuss their experiences was Elias Feinsberg, 102, who during the course of the Holocaust was sent to nine different concentration camps and death camps, including Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Dachau.
Following the end of World War II, Elias ended up in a US displaced persons camp, where he married his wife. He had an uncle in Guatemala and eventually made his way there where he lived for 22 years, before making aliyah to Israel in 1969.
“I have 21 great-grandchildren and this is my revenge. I came to Israel because I didn’t want my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren not to have a state of their own. Now, here in Israel, my great-grandchildren have their own state,” he said.