Holocaust Remembrance Day began Sunday night, in memory of the more than six million Jews who were massacred in the Nazi Holocaust of 1939-1945.
On Monday, in Israel, a two-minute siren will sound at 10 a.m. at the start of a series of day-long ceremonies marking Holocaust Remembrance Day nationwide.
Yad Vashem is continuing its quest to increase its records of the names of known Holocaust victims. At present, the names of only some three million victims are registered.
The official state wreath-laying ceremony will take place just after the Monday-morning siren at the Warsaw Ghetto uprising memorial, in the presence of the prime minister and other VIPs, which will be followed by the “Unto Every Person There is a Name” ceremony, which will be held both in the Hall of Remembrance and the Knesset.
One of the six torch lighters at the opening ceremony, Hungarian-born David Leitner, 74, had, was horded as a young boy of 14 with hundreds of other children to the crematorium at Birkenau.
Amid cries of “Shema Yisrael” and calls for their parents, the children were stripped naked for extermination. Minutes before certain death, the selection process was suddenly stopped since a group of children was needed to unpack potatoes from a train of supplies that just arrived. Leitner was one of 50 children selected for the task.
After the war, Leitner sailed to Israel in 1949, where he met his Israeli-born wife. Today, they have two daughters, 10 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
“It is especially important for today’s youth to remember what we went through, when we did not have a state of our own,” he said.
The stories of individual survivors whose families were decimated place in bold relief the national catastrophe of the Jewish People. For instance, Nissim Bechar, 84 years old, was sent at the age of 19 from his home in Greece to a concentration camp; his parents Yosef and Esther, as well as his married siblings Rivka, Leon, Jivia, Regina and Yehuda, and their spouses and children, were all murdered. Nissim immigrated to Israel in 1948, where he married Rivka, and is
today the father of four children, and has 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Similarly, Tziporah Ehrenkrantz Levavi, 77, from a Hassidic home in Stry, Poland (eastern Galicia), was the only one to survive from her family of seven; her parents Hirsch Itche and Miriam, and her siblings Yossele, Sarah, Arele (Aharon) and Rachel, were all killed.
Tziporah arrived in Israel in late 1945, completed her studies, went to a religious kibbutz, married Nachum Levavi – himself a lone survivor – and now has four children, 33 grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren. A resident of Masuot Yitzchak, she said,
“I don’t know why I am counted among those few who survived, I don’t know how I merited it. It’s a question that occupies me and I don’t have an answer. I would rather phrase the question like this: For what purpose did I remain alive? After I was saved, it was clear to me that there would be a purpose/meaning to my life only if it had significance – and this I found in coming to the Land, in the merit that I received to live during the period of the establishment of the State and to live in it, to live on a kibbutz and settle the Land; I merited to build a family and to live for 20 years with my husband Nachum of blessed memory who was a man of great faith, and in G-d’s great kindness I merited having children and grandchildren who walk in the path of Torah and Avodah (Torah and Work), just as I had dreamt. ‘I thank You, for You answered me, and You were a salvation for me.'”
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