Israeli Holocaust survivor tells his story to the next generation

Zwi Nigal was almost beaten to death by Nazis in Austria before managing to escape to Israel.

94-year old Holocaust survivor shares his memories with Israel's next generations (credit: REUTERS)
Holocaust survivor Zwi Nigal remembers when the two Gestapo secret policemen, wearing trenchcoats, knocked on his door in Vienna in 1939.
Gently leaning on his wife for balance, Nigal, 94, shared his experiences during World War II with a few dozen people who gathered in an apartment in central Israel on Sunday, the eve of the country's annual Remembrance Day for the six million Jews killed in the Nazi Holocaust. Sitting on bean bags and a sofa, they listened to the Nigal's account as part of a nationwide project called  Zikaron BaSalon (Memories in the Living Room).
The next morning, pedestrians and traffic in downtown Jerusalem, and across Israel, stood still as a two minute siren wailed to commemorate the Holocaust victims.
Nigal eloquently spoke about his middle class upbringing in Vienna abruptly cut off by the annexation of Austria to the German Reich in March 1938, his separation from his parents. He recounted how he escaped deportation and was nearly beaten to death by Nazis before fleeing to British-mandated Palestine.
Similar remembrance gatherings were held in 13,000 other homes in Israel, where survivors shared their stories. Their numbers dwindling, some 189,000 elderly survivors live in Israel, making the first-hand testimony all the more poignant.
Ayelet Goldin Vaknin, who hosted the gathering with Nigal in her living room, said such events could be the last chance "to meet in person with people who have been there and who have experienced personally the Holocaust".
Several dozen guests sat for more than two hours to hear Nigal's story.
He said his father was first transported to a ghetto in Vienna, then to Theresienstadt concentration camp and finally to Auschwitz, where he perished in the gas chamber. His mother survived the war and was eventually reunited with her son in Israel.
When the evening came to a close, guests headed toward Nigal, rather than the door, eager to hear more. It was, said 42-year-old Tami Yaniv, a unique opportunity for one generation to pass its story to the next generation.