Stories of Six Survivors who will Represent Six Million
Six Holocaust survivors will each light a flame on Wednesday night, Yom HaShoa (Holocaust Memorial Day), in memory of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their allies.
The main Yom HaShoa ceremony will begin at 8 p.m. at Yad VaShem in Jerusalemand will be attended by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, and Rabbi Meir Yisrael Lau, a Holocaust survivor and former chief rabbi. This year’s events will focus on the theme “The individual and the collective – Jewish solidarity during the Holocaust.”
The stories of the six candle-lighters are as follows:
Hasya Vardi, 80, of Poland, was her parents’ only child. Her father Yaakov was sent to a labor camp in 1942 and later murdered in a death camp. In the same year, as Jews of her town were being sent to their deaths, Hasya and several relatives managed to hide in a bunker. Hasya later fled to the woods with a group of women and children, and there learned to knit.
After several months, the group of survivors was discovered by the Nazis. The women and children were lined up and shot, but Hasya miraculously survived and made her way to acquaintances she knew through her knitting. She later joined a group of Jews hiding in a bunker in the forest.
After the war Hasya was cared for in foster homes and orphanages until she made aliyah to Israel in 1946. Each year she accompanies Israeli students to Poland and tells them her story.
Eliezer Lev-Zion, 85, of Germany, lost his father early on when the Nazis came to power. His father, a journalist, was arrested and “disappeared.”
Eliezer, his mother the doctor, and his baby brother fled to France. In winter 1939 they were sent to a prison camp. After four months Eliezer was released and joined the Jewish underground; his mother and brother were eventually sent to Auschwitz, where both were murdered.
Eliezer worked with the priest Alexander Glassberg, who was later recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, to save dozens of Jewish children. Eliezer hid the children and rode them to safety on his bicycle. He took on a fake identity and for a time served as a translator for a Nazi SS unit, passing along the information he obtained there to the French underground.
After the war he worked with the Joint Committee, training Jewish orphans to prepare them for aliyah to Israel. He came to Israel in 1946 and fought in the War of Independence, then built a farm. He now is an activist for the protection of nature, and for people with mental illness and other disabilities.
Antoli Rubin, 84, was born in Belarus as the youngest of four children in a traditionally observant Jewish home. In June 1941 while he was away at summer camp the Nazi army invaded. He returned to find his home burnt, his father dead, and the rest of the family in the Minsk ghetto.
In November 1941 Antoli and his family were taken to be murdered, but Antoli and his sister Tamar managed to escape. Tamar was later turned over to the Germans and murdered. Antoli returned to the ghetto, where he did forced labor and survived on German scraps. He was taken to be killed again, escaped a second time, and survived using fake identification papers.
After the war Antoli learned electronics. Soon afterward he was arrested by Soviet police and sentenced to years in prison for “Zionist activity.” In 1969 he made aliyah to Israel.
Artemis Meiron, 84, was born in Greece. In the summer of 1943 the German army invaded her town and SS soldiers broke into the family home, robbed the family and took Artemis’s father, who was murdered two weeks later.
In 1944 Artemis, her mother and her brother were put on a train, where they were in cramped conditions and without food for eight days. The train brought them to Auschwitz, where Artemis managed to pass the selection thanks to her mother’s fur coat, which made her look older than her age. Her mother and brother were sent to their deaths immediately. In 1945 Artemis survived a death march to Germany.
In 1946 she made aliyah to Israel and worked as a teacher. Today she volunteers for Yad Vashem, translating documents from Greek to Hebrew and writing memorial pages for thousands of Greek Jews.
Yehuda, 93, was born in Poland as the second of four brothers in a traditional, Zionist family. The family was sent to the Lodz ghetto in 1939 and managed to survive until 1944 running a kitchen for residents of the ghetto. In 1944 the ghetto was liquidated and the family sent to Auschwitz, where father Avraham, mother Leah, and son Gavriel were murdered in the gas chambers.
Yehuda and his younger brother Yehosha survived the war. In 1945 they returned to Lodz and found their home had been taken over by a Polish family and only one uncle had survived the war. After the war Yehuda opened a textile factory and helped the Etzel resistance group in Israel by sending weapons from Poland. In 1950 he made aliyah to Israel and became a businessman. He also works to restore Jewish graves in Poland, and has restored 7,000 graves to date.
Batsheva Dagan, 87, was born in Lodz. She had five brothers and three sisters. When war broke out, four of her brothers and one sister fled to the Soviet Union, while the rest of the family was sent to the ghetto. Batsheva managed to continue learning as part of an underground study group. She also worked with the Jewish underground, using a fake Aryan ID to move between ghettos and carry information.
In 1942 Batsheva’s parents and one older sister were sent to Treblinka, where they were murdered. Batsheva received fake documents from a Polish acquaintance and worked as a housekeeper, but was discovered and sent to Auschwitz in 1943. She endured forced labor and survived a death march.
After the war Batsheva went to Belgium, where she met her future husband. The couple made aliyah to Israel, where Batsheva served in several positions related to teaching. She has shared her story of survival with all ages, writing children’s books about the Holocaust as well as stories for youth and adults.