Rena Quint, born as Freida “Freidel” Lichtenstein, was only three years old when, in 1939, the Nazis invaded her hometown of Piotrkow Tribunalski, Poland. Three years later, her mother and her two older brothers were deported to the extermination camp of Treblinka where they were murdered. Rena, who was not yet seven years old, was deported with her father to a concentration camp, where she pretended to be a boy in order to survive. When Rena’s father was murdered, she was left alone in the camp. She was finally sent to Bergen Belsen concentration camp. In the various camps she was interned she was adopted by different women, but they all died. At the end of the war, Rena went to Sweden, where she was adopted by a Holocaust survivor who passed away a few months later. In 1946, Rena emigrated to the United States with an adoptive mother, also a Holocaust survivor, who after three months also passed away as a result of her poor physical condition. Rena was then adopted by a Jewish couple who didn’t have children. In 1984, Rena and her husband emigrated to Israel with their four children who were already married.
As a Holocaust survivor, Rena had a deep understanding of how the conflict in Israel ignited antisemitic violence in the US.
“I don’t know if I am an expert or have any special understanding,” Rena said. “I certainly can’t say what will be. But there was more violence targeting Jews than I have ever seen in the US. And there was also a lot of hatred and violence in Holland, England, and France. In Manhattan, a Jewish man was viciously attacked. Not because he was a Zionist or was visibly supporting Israel. He was beaten just because he was visibly a Jew. This is what is happening in Israel and so many are supporting this and cheering it on. People are enjoying seeing a Jew and beating him up.”
Rena related an anecdote told amongst Holocaust survivors which she heard from Michael Berger, another survivor. Berger told her that in Frankfurt, Germany, all of the Jewish housewives would buy their fish for the Sabbath from a specific fishmonger. He was openly friendly with his patrons.
“When the Kristallnacht pogrom happened, marking the beginning of the Nazi oppression of the Jews, that fishmonger was the first to light a fire burning down the synagogue,” Rena said. “He was their friend, their shopkeeper, and their neighbor.”
“And that is what is happening now in the United States and in Israel,” Rena said. “The people carrying out the violence are not strangers from far away. They are our neighbors turning against us. That is very frightening.”
“Jews always felt protected in these cities in the US. But now, their neighbors are rising up, precisely like our neighbors rose up against us in Poland and Germany.”
“Thank God, there is enough land in the world for everyone, enough food and water. We can share it. That is not why Hamas attacked us. The one thing the Jews cannot do is give up this land. It does not belong to us. It belongs to God and he told us to take care of it. So the Arabs tell us, and some in the US join in, that if we want peace we have to give up Jerusalem, the one thing we cannot give up.”
“It has nothing to do with the settlements,” Rena explained. “Going back to the 1967 borders won’t help because they were trying to kill us before then. It has nothing to do with Jerusalem or even the State of Israel. The Arabs attacked us before there ever was a state of Israel. The reason why my husband, of blessed memory, was born in America was that his father was forced to flee Hebron after the 1929 Arab pogroms.”
In a powerful transgenerational victory, Rena has three children who live in Karmei Tsur, a lovely community just a few miles north of Hebron.