The country-wide Holocaust Remembrance Day siren that is sounded at 10 a.m. in memory of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust was activated on Monday morning by Holocaust survivor Stephanie Fortuno.
Stephanie, 77, survived the Holocaust as a young girl in Poland.
On Monday morning Stephanie arrived at the Home Front Command's war room, which is run by her son Yoni Fortuno, to press the button which would sound the siren all over the country.
Fortuno's father was a factory owner, and her mother was an accountant. When the Nazis invaded Poland during World War II, she was hidden in the home of one of her father's factory workers, until the host family could no longer hide her.
In the meantime, her father was taken to a concentration camp where he eventually met his death. Her mother was arrested by the Gestapo on her way to visit the home where Stephanie was hiding - and then disappeared, leaving young Stephanie on her own.
Stephanie's uncle, who was a partisan, took her under his wing and found another Polish family who would hide her until the end of the war.
For three years, Stephanie hid in a closet in the family's home, which was located just opposite the local Gestapo headquarters. Two years after the war, when Stephanie was seven years old, she was sent from Poland to England. She was adopted at age 9 by a couple who raised her until her marriage at age 21.
"I met many people who did me kindnesses," Stephanie said. "I learned that in every situation, there is at least one good thing."
"People endangered their lives to help me, ignoring the risks involved. I owe them my life."
Yoni Fortuno said, "My mother's story is a life lesson for me. The great kindness strangers showed her is something I try to incorporate into my life. Everywhere I go, I try to do something good for someone else."
"The fact that my mother sounded the siren is a kind of closure for me. I am the commander of a unit in charge of activating sirens during air strikes, when there is a danger to Israeli civilians.
"The siren today was not a siren of war, it was a siren of unity, a siren of remembrance."