In an unusual documentation project launched five months ago, more than 1,000 elderly immigrants in assisted living facilities have provided testimony about their experiences in World War II. Officials at Yad Vashem – the Holocaust Memorial Authority – said the new testimonies have great research value because they come from areas about which there has been relatively little information regarding the Holocaust.
Siemion Rosenfeld, 84, from Belarus, joined the Red Army in 1940. In August 1941 he was taken prisoner by the Germans and sent to the Sobibor death camp in Poland. “They don’t talk enough about the escape from Sobibor,” he says, “it was like the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, only Sobibor was wiped off the face of the earth.” Rosenfeld is one of 80 POWs who took part in the uprising. Only five survived. In 1944 he returned to the Red Army and his unit reached Berlin. “One of the walls of the Reichstag bore my signature,” he says proudly.
Many of the immigrants who refused initially to cooperate eventually changed their minds once they realized the importance of testimony for future generations and as part of the campaign against Holocaust denial.