Six survivors: Holocaust ceremony honorees named

Holocaust survivors with amazing stories chosen to light candles for Yom Hashoah.

Arutz Sheva staff ,

Yad Vashem

Six Holocaust survivors have been chosen to light the six ceremonial candle at this year's official Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) ceremony, with one candle for each million Jews killed during the Holocaust. Yom Hashoah will be marked from the evening of Wednesday May 4 until the following evening. 

The 2016 ceremony's theme will be "Keeping the Human Spirit during the Holocaust." 

The honorees have been named as: 

  • Robert Tomashof, 100 

    Tomashof, born in 1916 to an observant family in the Slovakian town of Dolný Kubín.

    In 1939, with the rise of fascist rule in what was then Czechoslovakia, Tomashof was forcibly drafted into the Czech army for hard labor; he was forced to build concentration camps. Tomashof's mother and two brothers were shipped to Auschwitz and died in 1942.

    Tomashof eventually escaped the forced labor and hid at his sister's home in Žilina, where he was able to obtain false identity papers. He was arrested in Budapest in 1944 after Germany's takeover of Hungaria; while he waited in a local prison to be transported to Auschwitz, he volunteered to translate documents, and was instead posted there. He managed to secure identity papers a second time while serving in that post, escaping during a changing of guards.

    Tomashof was then rearrested while trying to access the port, following false rumors of a boat to Israel; he was liberated by the Red Army in August of that year. He then worked with Zionist organizations in Prague to bring arms to the resistance movement in Israel; in 1946, he married his wife, Miriam, and made Aliyah in 1948. 
  • Sarah Kain, nee' Itzkovitz, 97

    Born in 1919 to a traditional family in the city of Kaashe in the modern-day Czech Republic, Kain was one of eight siblings.

    In 1944, one month after German occupied Hungary, Kain's family was moved to a ghetto; they were later transported to Auschwitz, where her parents were sent to the gas chambers, leaving Sarah and her sister Ethel. Both survived several selections and disease to see the camp liberated in 1945; upon the news breaking worldwide, the two discovered a sister living on Kibbutz Gan Shmuel. They sailed for Israel on the ship Israeli Soldier, which was captured by the British; the two were sent to the Atlit internment camp.

    After Israel's independence, Sarah married Avraham Kain, whom she knew from Kaashe; they have three children, ten grandchildren, and fourteen great-grandchildren. 
  • Jehoshua Heschel Fried, 85

    Born in 1930 to a family of nine in the Czech town of Velké Kapušany, his father was the town's rabbi. On Passover eve 1944, Hungarian police exiled the town to the Ungvar ghetto, deporting the Jews from there to Auschwitz in May.

    He survived by selling possession he found in his work cleaning ditches outside the camp to Polish inmates for food. In December 1944, Jehosua and his friends were taken to the Sachsenhausen camp, and from there to Lieberhausen.

    As the Red Army drew nearer, they were sent on a death march. At night, they slept in the snow. They were eventually transported to Mauthausen, where they had to eat snails and frogs to survive; after their transfer to Gunskirchen, Jehosua contracted typhus.

    The Red Army liberated the camp in 1945. Fried returned to Velké Kapušany after his recovery and found his sisters. After studying at a yeshiva in Košice, deciding to relocate to then-mandate Palestine after it relocated to the US; he and his sisters were captured by the British while attempting to enter on the Moledet, and he was held in a Cyprus detention camp.

    He finally made Aliyah in 1948, before the War of Independence. In 1952, Jehosua married Rivka, whose uncle had been with him in the camps.

    Jehosua and Rivka have three children, 14 grandchildren, and 33 great-grandchildren. 
  • Chaim Grosbein, 79

    Born in 1937 in Dołhinów, Poland (today Dauhinava, Belarus), to a religious family of four. His father owned a butcher shop and leased land.

    he town's Jews were interred in a ghetto after Germany occupied the town in 1941; Chaim's father and brother were murdered when trying to escape with a forced labor camp, and the rest of his family when they tried to hide during an Aktion.

    During the following Aktion, he and his cousin Rishka escaped to a partisan group in the woods. Chaim, then just a school-aged boy, was sent behind enemy lines with a group of partisan fighters; he was shot in the leg during a march and later operated on in a Russian hospital without anesthetic.

    After the partisan group left, he was left behind in the woods, where he survived on his own for two years by hunting and gathering. He was then sent to a Belarussian orphanage after meeting another partisan camp. He studied carpentry and joined the Red Army; he discovered on a furlough that two of his aunts survived. 

    In the early 1960s, Chaim immigrated to Israel. In 1965, he married Aliza; they have two children and five grandchildren.
  • Joseph Labi, 88

    Born in 1928 in Benghazi, Libya, to a family of 19, he is a descendant of the Rabbi Eliyahu Labi.

    n 1938, Italian racial laws were extended to Libya, and Labi and his siblings were transferred to segregated schools. In 1942, Joseph’s entire family was deported to the Giado concentration camp in Libya. The Libyan Jews were then deported to Italy, where they were interned at Castelnovo ne' Monti.

    In February 1944, the Germans sent them to Bergen-Belsen. At first, Joseph refused to eat because the food at the camp was not kosher, but after a week of hunger, he relented. He later celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in the camp with some perfume and a potato.

    In 1945, he was freed in a prisoner exchange deal with France, and made his way to Portugal and Spain. On returning to Benghazi, Joseph met soldiers from the British Army’s Jewish Brigade, and he was smuggled into Israel dressed as a soldier. 

    Joseph then lived on several kibbutzim, volunteered for the Palmach, and fought in Israel’s War of Independence. He and his wife Yvonne have a son and daughter, seven grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter. He still has the tallit that he received at his bar mitzvah ceremony at Bergen-Belsen.
  • Lonia Rozenhoch (née Wudka), 96

    Born in 1920 in Radom, Poland, to a family of five, her father was a shoemaker and a member of the Bund, a socialist Jewish party. The Jews of Radom were interred in a ghetto in 1941; she married Moniek Rakocz there, but was separated when she was sent to a forced labor camp with two of her sisters in Ukraine. Both in the ghetto and in the camp, she was offered means of escape, but refused to separate from her family.

    In 1942, Moniek and his family and Lonia's mother were killed in Treblinka; her father was presumed killed en route.

    In July 1944, with the advance of the Red Army, Lonia and her sisters were sent on a death march across Poland. On 3 August, they were deported to Auschwitz, where Lonia concealed her sister's bad back to save her life as a slave laborer. 

    In December 1944, Lonia and her sisters were transferred to Ravensbrück and its sub-camp, Malchow. They were forced to work in a munitions plant. Lonia's leg had been injured by SS beatings at Auschwitz, but her sisters helped her until she was reassigned to work in the kitchen.

    In April 1945, the sisters were released in a prisoner exchange deal. They went to Sweden, where Lonia began working as a teacher of child Holocaust survivors on behalf of Youth Aliyah. In March 1948, Lonia boarded a ship bound for Haifa. She moved to Kibbutz Afikim, where she married Jacob and worked as a teacher of young immigrants. 

    Lonia and Jacob have three children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren