Six Holocaust survivors will light torches in memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, at the annual Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony on Sunday evening.
Elka Reines-Abramovitz, Moshe Ha-Elion, Moshe Jakubowitz, Moshe Porat, Max Privler and Jeannine Sebbane-Bouhanna will light the torches in the Holocaust museum’s Warsaw Ghetto Square, at a State ceremony attended by President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The wartime experiences of these persons reflect the central theme chosen by the museum for Holocaust Remembrance Day, which this year commemorates the “Fate of the Individual During the Holocaust.”
• Elka Reines-Abramovitz
was born in 1932 in Novoselitsa, northern Bessarabia, Romania (now Ukraine).
On July 7, 1941, the Romanian Army entered Novoselitsa, and Reines-Abramovitz, together with all the town’s Jewish residents, was soon ordered to leave on foot for Transnistria – which Romania had taken from the Soviet Union. There, her mother, Frida, fell ill and died, along with her grandfather, grandmother and two cousins.
In March 1944, the Red Army reached Transnistria and Shimon, her father, was conscripted by the Romanian Army. After his discharge in September 1945, he and the children returned to Romania. Elka was sent to a Jewish orphanage in Cluj.
Reines-Abramovitz and her sister Ester joined the Habonim Dror Zionist youth movement and sailed for Mandatory Palestine aboard the Pan York in December 1947. After being detained by the British in Cyprus, they reached the Land of Israel in March 1948.
Reines-Abramovitz is active in a Holocaust remembrance organization and assists the families of slain IDF soldiers.
• Moshe Ha-Elion
was born in Thessaloniki, Greece, in 1925 to Rachel and Eliahu. A few days after the start of the German occupation in April 1941, his father died and Moshe, his mother and his sister, Esther-Nina, were deported to Auschwitz in cattle cars.
Ha-Elion performed various forms of labor and survived several selections, but his entire family was murdered in the death camp.
Following the war, Ha-Elion set off for Greece, but then decided to instead immigrate to Israel. In June 1946, he arrived aboard the Josiah Wedgwood.
He was wounded during the War of Independence, and then served as a career soldier for 20 years before moving on to work in the security services.
Ha-Elion has dedicated his life to supporting needy Holocaust survivors, commemorating Greek Jewry and fighting Holocaust denial. For 15 years, he was chairman of the Association of Survivors of Concentration Camps of Greek Origin Living in Israel. He was a member of the International Auschwitz Committee, the Yad Vashem Directorate and the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel. He is currently the acting chairman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel.
• Moshe Jakubowitz
, the eldest of three brothers, was born in Warsaw in 1929 to a hassidic family.
Jakubowitz and his family were sent to live in the Warsaw Ghetto, where his father was murdered by the Nazis. Jakubowitz, his mother, two brothers and grandfather were sent to Majdanek where he was separated from his family never to see them again.
In late 1943, Jakubowitz was transferred to the Mielec concentration camp and then to Flossenbürg, Germany.
During a death march toward Dachau, he managed to slip away and link up with American liberators. Although he received papers allowing him to immigrate to the US, he decided to move to Mandatory Palestine.
He fought as part of the Irgun, and later in the IDF during the War of Independence. In civilian life, Jakubowitz became a construction manager.
IDF Chief Cantor Shai Abramson sings "El Maleh Rahamim" at European Parliament's International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony on Jan. 25, 2017 [credit: TAMARA ZIEVE]
• Moshe Porat (né Frisch)
was born in 1931 in Hajdúnánás in southeastern Hungary to Jozsef Levy and Gizella-Naomi – an observant hassidic family of seven.
In March 1944, the Germans occupied Hungary and the Frisch family was soon forced onto a train for deportation, which was bombed by the Allies and remained stopped on the tracks for many days. When the train finally reached Vienna, they were transferred to a labor camp. Moshe’s older brother Shevah was sent to a different camp and murdered.
As the Red Army drew near, Moshe, his mother and siblings were sent on a death march and, after three weeks, reached Mauthausen. On May 5, 1945, they were liberated by the US Army.
After first returning home, Moshe made his way to Austria and Italy and, in the summer of 1948, he reached Israel. He helped found a garin (core group of settlers) at Kibbutz Shluhot, and wrote his autobiography. Today, he lectures and gives testimony about his experiences during the Holocaust and accompanies youth delegations to Poland.
• Max Privler
was born in 1931 in the village of Mikulichin in Poland (now Ukraine) to David and Malka. The family owned land, factories, shops and even a school and a synagogue.
In June 1941, the Germans occupied the region and the family’s property was confiscated. In March 1942, the Gestapo and Ukrainian police broke into the family home and took Privler and his father to the police station. The next day, they were brought to the forest with a group of Jews. A second before they were shot, David pushed Max into the killing pit, and was shot on top of him.
One bullet lodged itself in Max’s shoulder, where it remained for more than 25 years, but he managed to climb out of the pit at night and fled to the home of the Boyuk-Nimchuk family, Ukrainian friends, who hid him.
After later escaping another execution, Max fled and joined a group of partisans and, eventually, enlisted in the Red Army where he helped liberate Krakow and Auschwitz.
After the war, Privler lived in Ukraine until immigrating to Israel in 1990. He remains active in the Association of Disabled Veterans of the War against Nazism, as well as the commemoration of children who served in the Red Army during WWII. He is the author of several books on the subject.
• Jeannine Sebbane-Bouhanna
was born in 1929 in Nemours (now Ghazaouet), Algeria, to Jacob and Rahma.
In 1938, the family immigrated to Paris. In May 1940, the Germans occupied France, and Jeannine’s father and older brother died a year later.
On July 16, 1942, (the date of La Rafle du Vel d’Hiv, – the roundup of the Jews of Paris), French gendarmes raided their arrondissement, but Jeannine and her family avoided arrest.
Eventually, Sebbane-Bouhanna and her three younger siblings fled Paris and were hidden by farmers in a village outside the city. In 1944, they fled to southern France where they survived in a small village.
After the war, Sebbane-Bouhanna married Lucien Bouhanna in Algeria. They returned to France and followed their children to Israel in 1992.