Photo of Yad Vashem memorial for illustrative purposes only. Photo Credit: Utenriksdepartementet UD [License]

Holocaust Survivors Light Up Jerusalem on Yom Hashoah

Today is Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) in Israel, with the official ceremonies held in Jerusalem. It is a time when Israel remembers the people who suffered and died at the hands of the Germans and their collaborators. It is also a time when Israel focuses on the strength of the Jews who fought back and directed their hearts and dreams toward surviving and returning to our homeland, with Jerusalem as our unified eternal capital. This year’s ceremony in Yad Vashem will see 6 special survivors helping light up Jerusalem with their torches, experiences and thoughts.

Photo of Yad Vashem memorial for illustrative purposes only. Photo Credit: Utenriksdepartementet UD [License]

6 Holocaust survivors to light torches on memorial day

Article Courtesy: YNet

Holocaust Memorial Day will begin Wednesday at 8pm at the Warsaw Ghetto Square in Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, with the day’s events collectively titled, “Holocaust survivors shape memory and build a state”, interweaving with Israel’s upcoming 70th Independence Day.

President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak at the ceremony inaugurating the day or remembrance, with six Holocaust survivors set to light torches to commemorate the the six million Jews murdered in the Nazi extermination program.

The first survivor participating in the ceremony is Miriam Lapid, born in 1933 in Deventer, the Netherlands, and the youngest child in her family.

After the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Miriam was forced to wear a yellow badge and was expelled from school. At the same time, the Germans confiscated Jewish homes, but when they arrived at Miriam’s family home, they refrained from entering the home after seeing a message hung on the door saying that she was ill.

In April 1943, the family was taken to the concentration area of ​​Jews in Amsterdam, and in June its sons were deported to the Westerbork concentration camp. Only the eldest brother, who was in the Dutch underground, survived the deportation.

Lapid’s father, Hermann, received an office job in Westerbork, thus obtaining a forged immigration permit for the family to come to Palestine, then under the British Mandate, and the family was able to be included in a list of prisoners to participate in a prisoner swap.

The family was sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in January of 1944 and incarcerated in a sub-camp whose denizens were to participate in the prisoner swap. Hermann Lapid perished in February, 1945.

On April 9, prisoners were marched towards a train station. Lapid’s mother Batya had typhoid and could not walk, and Miriam’s siblings were forced to carry her on their backs.

Miriam and her family boarded the train, and for the next two weeks it drove and stopped intermittently, with stops being used to bury those who had perished during the journey. On April 23, the train’s passengers were freed by the Red Army on the outskirts of the village of Tröbitz in east Germany.

Months later, the family returned to the Netherlands, where Miriam joined a Zionist youth movement and later became a counselor and the movement’s secretary. Miriam visited Jerusalem in 1950 as part of her role in the youth movement, studied Hebrew and became acquainted with the nascent country.

She made Aliyah in 1953, met her future husband Aki in the country and then joined the Tzora kibbutz in central Israel with him. She has been the manager of the kibbutz’s secretariat since 1960.

Miriam and Aki had six children, who gave them 14 grandchildren. One of their sons, Ran, was an Israel Air Force helicopter pilot and El Al captain, and was killed in a plane crash in 2009.

When Ran was asked to ferry the German chancellor when he visited Israel, he said he would only do it if his mother approved, which she did, saying, “There’s nothing greater for my son, an Israeli Air Force pilot, than to fly the German chancellor. That is my victory,” she exclaimed.

The second survivor to light a torch is Shmuel Bogler, born in the Hungarian village of Bodrogkeresztúr in 1929 and the youngest of ten children. His father, Mordechai, was a trader and Shmuel worked in the family business.

Mordechai was arrested in 1941 following an anti-Semitic plot and was incarcerated for 18 months. Three of Shmuel’s brothers were recruited to the labor service (Jewish men conscripted to forced labor during the war—ed), and one of them was murdered in Buchenwald a short time later, with the other two surviving in Soviet captivity.

Bogler and his family were sent to a ghetto in Sátoraljaújhely, Hungary, following the German army’s invasion of the country in March, 1944. From the Hungarian ghetto, the family was sent to Auschwitz in Poland.

While both of Shmuel’s parents and three of his cousins were killed in the death camp’s gas chambers, he and his brother were sent to a nearby labor camp.

On January 31, 1945, Bogler and his brother were among the thousands of Jews forced by the Germans to march west. The two made it to Buchenwald, and were released shortly thereafter by the approaching American army.

Shmuel joined the religious-Zionist Bnei Akiva youth movement and transferred to Vienna, from where he continued to a displaced persons’ camp in Germany and then went to Italy.

He boarded an olim (immigrant) ship in May, 1947, but it was stopped midway by the British, who directed its passengers to Cyprus. After four months in detention, Bogler came to Israel in October, 1947.

He joined the Palmach’s religious division and fought for the defense of Gush Etzion, where he was captured by the Arab Legion in May of 1948. He was released after almost a year in the prisoner of war camp, and joined the Israel Police.

He went on to become an officer with the force, and to hold various senior positions including deputy commander of the police’s southern district.

Today, he volunteers at Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations department and translates testimonies of other survivors from Hungarian to Hebrew. He also recounts his own life story on a near daily basis to a wide variety of audiences.

Shmuel and his wife Shoshanna have two children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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