Today is the fast of the 10th of Tevet, the day we say a general kaddish for all Holocaust victims whose yahrzeit, date of death, is unknown. This week I heard two stories about the generation born after the Holocaust:
Yosef Rakover was a doctor with the partisans who fought in the Liptshan Forests of Belarus during World War II. While in his hideout, he heard that Nazis had entered the area and were killing every Jew they found. Rather than be murdered, Rakover together with his wife and son injected themselves with heavy doses of morphine and passed out. His wife and son died of an overdose while Rakover was rendered unconscious and thrown onto a pile of corpses.
The partisans found and miraculously resuscitated him. Rakover then continued to treat and perform surgery on the partisan forces. He met Sonia, a nurse who had also lost her spouse and son during the war. Rakover and Sonia survived, married, and came on aliyah.
One of their daughters is Professor Galia Rahav, head of the department of infectious diseases at Tel HaShomer Hospital. She participated in the torch lighting ceremony during Independence Day this past year in honor of the medical teams fighting the coronavirus.
In the Jewish community of Thessaloniki, Greece, there were 60,000 Jews before World War II. More than 50,000 of them were murdered by the Nazis. The Bourla family was among those that survived and after the war a son, Avraham, was born.
He grew up, became a doctor, and moved from Greece to the United States. Today Avraham (Albert) is the CEO of Pfizer, the first drug company to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus.
The children of Holocaust survivors and, by extension, all of us, have inherited a mission to save lives, to bring blessings to the world.
• Translation by Yehoshua Siskin