Holocaust survivor: 'Why should we live in shame?'

Survivor taking part in Sunday's March of the Living tells his story to the Post.

jude star 88 (photo credit: )
jude star 88
(photo credit: )
In 1995, Menahem Haberman took part in the March of the Living - retracing the path from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the work camp that he barely survived as a boy. On Sunday, the 80-year-old took part in another March of the Living - from the Knesset's Rose Garden to the Prime Minister's Residence. "I marched in Poland to remember those who no longer live. My mother and sisters whom I watched go into the ovens. I march today for those who are still alive, but are living in conditions that no survivor should ever have to endure," said Haberman. He arrived at the protest with "his oldest friend in the world," Zeev Nachman, who survived the Birkenau camp with him. "We survived together, and came here to start a new life. A life in a land of Jews where we would not have to afraid," said Haberman. "But our old fears have only been replaced by new fears. There is crime here, violence that the government can't be completely responsible for. But no one who survived the Holocaust should have to fear, once again, for having bread on their table." Among the dozens of survivors that attended Sunday's protest, sentiments ranged from anger to sadness at the government's decision to allocate a meager NIS 83 per person per month to survivors. Haberman said that since hearing about the government's decision, his feelings had run the full gamut, and that at the moment he only felt shame that so many among the survivors would once again need to beg for food and medicine. "When I left the camp I weighed 35 kilos, and the doctor who saw me there told the soldiers to leave me. He said I would only live a few more days. We all remember those days; we remember the hunger and the not having anything. These are psychological fears that are only made worse when the government tells you that they will not give you enough to take of your basic needs - food and medicine," said Haberman. He described how his wife, who also survived the Holocaust, still stows cans of food in their pantry out of fear that a day will come where they have nothing to eat. "We already live with so much fear. That fear nobody will ever be able to remove. Why should we have to live in shame as well? [We feel] shame that this country, which was founded on our backs, would disrespect us in this way," said Haberman. Haberman came to Israel in 1952, after spending several years in a Swiss sanitarium recovering from the damage done to his body during the Holocaust. Remaining there or moving to another Western European country would have been the easy choice, he said, but he chose to come to Israel because he thought he would finally be safe in a Jewish state. "When I was in Birkenau there was a wise older man who told me that I would have to look after myself, or I would be leaving through the chimney. He said that each person had to provide for himself," said Haberman. "When I came to Israel, I thought that maybe I would be able to rely on someone else, but that was foolish." Haberman said that from the earliest days of the country, he felt that the government was willing to use the memory of the Holocaust to gain favor and funds from the international community, but not to provide a better life for the survivors. "I will always have two names. I will always be Menahem, but I will also always be 10111. The number that was my name for years in Birkenau. I will not have to live with these memories for long. "None of us will. Each year we are fewer in numbers," he said. "All I ask is that the government consider this. Consider how little is left of us. I ask that they reconsider their numbers to let us die in dignity."