Youths visit graves of Last of Kin
Youths visit graves of Last of Kin Education Ministry

A national youth assembly was held Wednesday in memory of the 'last of kin', the 148 Holocaust survivors who died fighting in Israel's War of Independence and left no first-degree relatives (parents,brothers, sisters or children).

Teenage last of kin survivors, for example, left the shelter of the Kfar Hassidim youth village, where they had been placed after reaching Israel, happy to rush to defend Kfar Darom in Gaza. When several fell in battle, and left no family, the youth villages began a tradition of screening their pictures to students every IDF Memorial Day. Today, only the youth villages and the IDF know that these brave young men ever existed.

These survivors experienced all the ravages of the Holocaust in ghettos, concentration camps and death camps or they fought as partisans in the forests. When they immigrated to Israel they were immediately conscripted to the IDF and fell in battle, leaving no immediate family members.

A special monument is located at the end of the trail that connects Israel’s Yad Vashem, the official memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and Mount Herzl, the national cemetery for Israeli leaders and fallen soldiers, known as the Last of Kin Memorial, commemorating the Holocaust survivors who fought and fell during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.

The assembly was attended by Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan as well as Education Ministry Director-General Shmuel Aboav and representatives of Yad Vashem and the World Zionist Organization.

Aboav said that "Yesterday we hung our heads in memory of the six million murdered in Europe. Today we stand by those survivors of the inferno who chose with great bravery to fight for the independence of our state.

"From the ashes of the destruction we established a new foundation. The state of Israel arose during the fierce fighting of the War of Independence and has suffered a series of wars. When the flag is brought to half mast, we will recount the story of those brave IDF soldiers who were the last remnants of their families. When the flag is raised back on the eve of Independence Day, we will tell the story of a nation which arose to life."

During the course of the activities, 4000 students from all over the country visited the graves of the Last of Kin, learned their stories and marched in their memory. Ceremonies took place at the Kiryat Anavim, Nahariya,Negba and Rehovot military cemeteries. 2000 more took place in the main ceremony at Mount Herzl military cemetery.