Holocaust survivors slated to light memorial torches

Yad Vashem ceremony to feature six survivors to memorialize lost Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

yad vashem lighting torch 311 (photo credit: GPO)
yad vashem lighting torch 311
(photo credit: GPO)
Six Holocaust survivors are slated to light torches memorializing the 6,000,000 Jews murdered by the Nazis, at the opening Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem Sunday night.
The initial survivors chosen were Peretz Hochman, Otto Dov Pressburger, Dina Ostrover, Eliezer Eizenschmidt, Miriam Liptcher and Baruch Kopold. However, as Hochman died on Sunday, his widow, Sima, will represent him. Short videos about each of the lighters will be shown.
The ceremony will also feature speeches by President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the kindling of a memorial torch in the Holocaust memorial’s Warsaw Ghetto Square by Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev, and remarks by Aliza Vitis-Shomron on behalf of the survivors of the European inferno.
Hochman, born as Pavel in Warsaw in 1927, fought in the Polish underground against the Nazis during World War II. He made aliya in 1946 and was wounded during the War of Independence while serving in the Palmah’s Negev Brigade.
“All I wanted was to hurt Germans, to take revenge on them. In a sense, something within me was already dead, and therefore I was not afraid of death,” he would later recall, describing his time in the Polish underground.
Kopold, who was born in Iwje, Belarus, in 1923, was the second of five children.
After the Nazis forced him to cover up the mass graves containing most of Iwje’s Jews, they sent him to the Lida ghetto. Upon escaping with several friends, he made his way to the forest and eventually joined Tuvia Bielski’s Jewish brigade.
“We would organize ourselves into groups and plunder trains and villages for food and provisions,” he recalled. “We were constantly on the move.”
He later escaped from a Soviet work camp, led a group of Jews on foot from Poland to Italy and made his way to Israel, where he was drafted into the Hagana for the War of Independence.
Pressburger, from Czechoslovakia, was one of the first Jews to be interned in Auschwitz, and witnessed the first experiments in gassing Jews to death in that camp.
He was later forced to build the crematorium in Birkenau.
Liptcher, the only survivor of her family, was rendered barren by experiments conducted by the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele. She has joined the March of the Living program – which brings teens to Poland – on many occasions and told her story. Her efforts in smuggling food and clothing to fellow inmates in Auschwitz saved many lives.
Ostrover, from Stryi, Ukraine, grew up as the youngest of four children in an Orthodox home. Also the only survivor of her family, she managed to escape the Nazi death machine by posing as a Ukrainian, using a forged birth certificate that her uncle obtained. From June 1943 until the liberation in July 1944, she hid the Jewish couple Shlomo and Miriam Reinhartz in the attic of the inn where she was working.
After living in a displaced persons camp in Germany, and later in Italy, Ostrover made her way to Israel in 1949, following eight months of detention by the British in Cyprus.
Eizenschmidt, from Luna, Belarus, was also the only surviving member of his family.
As a member of the Sonderkommandos tasked by the SS with removing bodies from the gas chambers, he was involved in the planning of a failed revolt against the camp guards. Although he revealed nothing under interrogation, his hair turned white overnight.
Today he works as a blacksmith.
On Monday there will be a wreath-laying ceremony at Yad Vashem immediately following the nationwide memorial siren at 10 a.m.
Among the participants will be Netanyahu, Peres, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, the deputy chief of the IDF General Staff Maj.- Gen. Yair Naveh, police Insp.- Gen. Yohanan Danino, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, and representatives of survivor and fighter organizations, as well as youth delegations from across the country.
A recitation of the names of victims will take place at the Knesset at 11 a.m.