Every year, Holocaust Memorial Day becomes more of a forgotten memory as the victims who survived the horror disappear. With an average age of 87 years, almost 40 of them pass away on an average day, and in another few years, there will remain no one with personal memories of their horrific suffering during the Nazi period. This winter was especially hard as some 900 Holocaust survivors died from Covid in Israel. Israel365 is working hard to ensure that this incredible asset is not forgotten or neglected.
There are fewer than 200,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel today. A shocking 25% of these survivors live below the poverty line and so it is one of the main goals of the Israel365 Charity Fund to support impoverished Holocaust Survivors living today in Israel.
This winter was especially cold and wet and many of these elderly Holocaust survivors are unable to maintain their housing. Under the motto of “For those who can’t remember and for those who can’t forget”, Israel365 has set out to help the remaining Holocaust survivors live in dignity.
“While their health is failing, their needs are increasing,” Rabbi Tuly Weisz, head of Israel365 said.
Israel365 sent its volunteers to Dov (Beru) Greenwald to fix the electricity and plumbing. The repairs were sorely needed as the Greenwalds were one of the first Jewish families to live in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem.
Beru was a small child in Debrecen, Hungary, a large Jewish center, when World War II broke out. For most of the war, Beru lived in a ghetto under very difficult conditions. The Jews were used as slave labor in a brick factory. Near the end of the war, when the death camps were working at full tilt to wipe out the last remaining Jews, he was loaded onto a train to Auschwitz. Through a bureaucratic foul-up, the train was stopped just a few kilometers from Auschwitz. From inside the boxcar, the young Beru saw the German officers arguing in order to get the train moving. But Beru was saved from the camps and the train he was in sat on the tracks, just outside of the camp until it was sent to Vienna where they were used as slaves yet again.
“My father’s story is the story of the miracle of the Jews, of God’s love for Israel,” Ayala said. “If we hide it away or refuse to look, it will disappear.”
After the Holocaust, Beru’s family moved back to Debrecen but their house had been appropriated by the neighbors. They decided to move to Israel. Descended from pious rabbis, Beru remained religious and served in a prestigious combat unit in the Golani Brigade with flowing sidelocks of hair.
Beru is now 85 years old and has three grown children. His daughter cares for him but she simply cannot do repairs around the apartment.
“We do out best but this winter was difficult,” Ayala said. “Not only did the volunteers do wonderful work, but they were so pleasant and helpful. That is also a big part of helping.”
“The coronavirus was not only difficult a challenge to keep the body healthy but also the spirit was challenged,” Ayala said. “Also, my father lost three siblings over the last three years, also Holocaust survivors. My father did not speak about the Holocaust for many years for very clear reasons. He had to become tough. But he is always thankful for the miracle God did by keeping him in the world.”
Mazal has an equally amazing story. Most people are unaware that the Holocaust reached Morocco. Though most of the Jews of Morocco were withheld from the Nazis through the good graces of the king, Mohammed V, the Jews suffered. Thousands of North African Jews were sent to forced labor camps where many died from hunger, exhaustion, and disease, and anti-Jewish laws were enforced.
“Many of the young girls were taken and married off against their will.” Yafa, Mazal’s daughter, said. She related how the family fled to British Mandate Palestine where they spent the remainder of the war in a British internment camp.
Yafa said that as the Passover holiday approached, she despaired of properly taking care of her mother. Her apartment in Ashkelon was in dire condition with the plaster ceiling in the bathroom falling down in large flakes anytime the shower was used. Large sections of the floor had rotted away and plants were growing. The municipality had visited but no help was available.
“It is amazing how much work two volunteers were able to accomplish in sucha short amount of time,” Yafa said. “My mother is 85 years old and has had difficulty remembering where she is. She was angry because the apartment was a wreck and she couldn’t remember when that happened. She had been much happier since the repairs.”