Survivors light torches at Yad Vashem
Holocaust survivors who were youngsters during WWII light torches at memorial ceremony in J'lem.
The central theme of this year's official opening ceremony for Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day, which took place Monday evening in the Warsaw Ghetto Square at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem, was Children of the Holocaust, and the survivors lighting the torches were youngsters when World War II began.
Lea Paz, nÃ©e Weitzner, was born in 1930 in Lvov. Her father, Herman, died when she was five. In September 1942, Lea, her mother Gusta and her grandmother were deported to Belzec. With rumors about the camp circulating on the train, Gusta pushed Lea through a narrow opening and the girl found her way back to her grandfather and an uncle, Mundek, who had escaped the deportation. Mundek lived in Mandatory Palestine but had returned to introduce his fiancÃ©e to his family and was caught in the war. He was determined to save Lea and bought forged papers, taught her Christian prayers and customs, and encouraged her to eventually emigrate to Palestine.
Lea first lived with the Plauszewski family, and then with a relative of theirs, Stefania Gos, later recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations. Just before liberation, Mundek and Lea's grandfather were turned in by a neighbor.
Lea emigrated to Palestine on an illegal immigrant ship but was arrested by the British and interned in Cyprus. She was eventually united with relatives on Kibbutz Merhavia. She married Ephraim, and they have two children and six grandchildren.
Mirjam Schuster was born in 1935 in Zarojani, Moldova, to an observant Jewish family with six children. In 1941, the family was deported on foot to Transnistria. After more than two months of walking day and night, Mirjam and her family arrived at Balki, near the city of Bar, where thousands of Jewish prisoners were crammed into windowless horse stables rife with disease.
In 1944, the Soviets liberated Balki. Of more than 10,000 inmates, only a few hundred survived. After a few months, Mirjam boarded an illegal immigrant ship that was intercepted by the British and rerouted to Cyprus. Just before the establishment of the state, she reached Israel's shores.
Mirjam married Moshe and has three children and eight grandchildren. She is the volunteer director of the "Help for Holocaust Survivors" organization.
Solomon (Sjema) Feigerson was born in 1930 in Liepaja, Latvia. His older brother, Hanoch, was killed in June 1941 while defending the town from the Germans. His father, Yaakov, was murdered in July 1941, and his mother and younger brother, Josef, were murdered in February 1942. Solomon escaped by running away, despite having been shot by Latvian guards.
In July 1942, the Jews of Liepaja were herded into a ghetto. Solomon lived in one room with 20 other orphaned boys. On Yom Kippur 1943, the ghetto was liquidated and Solomon was deported to the Kaiserwald labor camp. In August 1944, he was transferred to the Stutthof concentration camp, and in April 1945 was put on one of four ships carrying 500 inmates and sent into the Baltic to die. His vessel eventually reached Neustadt, where German sailors shot at the survivors. A British soldier found him, exhausted and ill, clutching a loaf of bread.
After the war, Solomon went to Riga and started a family. While there, he campaigned with Holocaust survivors and others to emigrate to Israel, where he arrived in 1971. He worked as an engineer and volunteered with a number of organizations commemorating the Holocaust and assisting survivors. He also published a book about the destruction of the Jewish community of Liepaja. Solomon and his wife, Ethel, have a son and two grandchildren.
Iudit Barnea and Lia Huber
Iudit Barnea and Lia Huber (nÃ©es Tchengar), identical twin sisters, were born in 1937 in Simleul Silvaniei (Szilagysomlyo), Transylvania. In June 1942, their father, Zvi, was taken to a forced labor unit on the Russian front.
In May 1944, after the German conquest of Hungary, Iudit, Lia and their mother, Miriam-Rachel, were interned in a ghetto. Later, they were deported to Auschwitz, where the twins suffered the infamous medical experiments of Josef Mengele. One day, as Mengele was experimenting on the girls, Miriam-Rachel burst into the shack and begged him to stop. In response, she was injected with a concoction that nearly killed her, causing permanent deafness.
In January 1945, the girls and their mother were liberated by the Red Army, and in August were reunited with their father. In 1960, the family immigrated to Israel. Both girls married: Lia and her husband, Jean, have two children and seven grandchildren; Iudit and her husband, Moshe, have three children and five grandchildren.
Esther Debora Reiss-Mossel
Esther Debora Reiss-Mossel was born in 1938 in Heiloo, Holland, the youngest in a well-known Zionist family of five. In May 1943, the family was sent to the Westerbork transit camp, and in January 1944 to Bergen-Belsen, which Josef believed to be a stop on the way to Palestine.
In April 1945, some 2,500 prisoners were forced onto what later became known as "the lost train." Elsa was left behind at Bergen-Belsen, where she died. For weeks, the train traveled back and forth in an attempt to reach Theresienstadt, caught in the crossfire between German and Red Army forces. Close to a quarter of the passengers died during the journey.
On April 23, the train was liberated near Leipzig. While there, Tzadok and Chana Mossel adopted Esther and her siblings. In the summer of 1950, Esther's parents' dream was realized when she immigrated with the Mossels to Israel. Today, she is active in commemorating Jews who saved others during the war, as well as saving the forests and hills of Judea.
Esther was married to the late architect Elimelech Reiss, who helped plan Yad Vashem's Children's Memorial. She has three daughters and five grandchildren.
Shimon (Sjema) Greenhouse was born in 1932 in Krasna, Belarus. His older siblings, Henya and Mendel, were active in Zionist groups and planned to emigrate to Palestine.
At the end of 1941, Shimon and his family were interned in the Krasna ghetto. One day, the Germans gathered Jews in the ghetto's central square and shot them one by one. Shimon and his father, Yekutiel, stood there, their hands clasped. When Yekutiel was shot, he dragged his young son down. Shimon remained beneath his dead father, dazed and covered with blood, for a full day until family members pulled him out.
On Purim in 1943, the Germans liquidated the ghetto, killing Henya and Mendel. Shimon and his mother hid for five days with 20 other people. When they emerged, the ghetto was empty and the air reeked of incinerated bodies. As Shimon recovered from typhus, his mother carried him on her back to the marshes and the partisans, where they survived the war with minimal clothing and food.
In 1950, after Shimon completed his studies, he and his mother emigrated to Israel. Shimon married and had four children and three grandchildren. He served as a high school principal in Petah Tikva, leaving his mark on generations of students.