Category Archive: SURVIVOR STORIES

Chaim Ferster, survivor of 8 Nazi concentration camps, dies at 94

Screen-Shot-2017-02-07-at-3.10.24-PM(JTA) — Chaim Ferster, a Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivor who spent time in eight concentration camps, has died.

Ferster died Monday in Manchester, England, from pneumonia and a kidney infection, surrounded by his three sons and other family members, the BBC reported. He was 94.

He was born in Sosnowiec, Poland, in an Orthodox Jewish family. In 1943, the Nazis forced him to leave his home, and he spent time in concentration camps in Germany and Poland, including Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Ferster, his sister Manya and a cousin were the only members of their family to survive the Holocaust. Manya is now 92.

After World War II, Ferster moved to England, where he found work repairing sewing machines. He later set up “a series of successful businesses,” according to the BBC.

Ferster lectured about the Holocaust in schools and colleges.

“His greatest fear was that people would forget the horrors of the Holocaust,” his son Stuart told the BBC.

On Monday, the Greater Manchester Police shared a video of Ferster playing the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah,” on the violin during a Jan. 27 visit to its headquarters on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

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Elderly survivors return to Auschwitz, 72 years after liberation

German FM says death camp’s name stands for entire Nazi ‘murder machinery’ that remains part of his country’s history

Poland-Auschwitz-Anni_HoroWARSAW, Poland (AP) — Dozens of Auschwitz survivors placed wreaths and flowers Friday at the infamous execution wall of the former German death camp, paying homage to the victims of Adolf Hitler’s regime exactly 72 years after the camp’s liberation.

Jan. 27, the anniversary of the day that the Soviet army liberated the camp in German-occupied Poland in 1945, is recognized as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and commemorative events were also being held across Europe and Israel.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the term “Auschwitz” stands for all the death camps and the entire Nazi “persecution and murder machinery” that remained part of Germany’s history.

He said that while Germany cannot change or undo what happened, the country has a continued obligation to commemorate the genocide, honor the memory of the victims and take responsibility for the crimes.

Noting the political instability in the world today, Steinmeier, said that “history should be a lesson, warning and incentive all at the same time. There can and should be no end to remembrance,” he said.

Steinmeier’s statement came hours before he was due to hand over the post of foreign minister to the current economy minister, Sigmar Gabriel.

Elderly survivors at Auschwitz, which today is a memorial site and museum, paid homage to those killed by wearing striped scarves reminiscent of the garb prisoners once wore there.

They walked slowly beneath the notorious gate with the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Will Set You Free) and made their way as a group to the execution wall, where they lit candles and prayed.

Janina Malec, a Polish survivor whose parents were killed at the execution wall, told the PAP news agency that “as long as I live I will come here,” describing her yearly visit as a “pilgrimage.”

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For Holocaust’s loneliest survivors, young Israelis are a lifeline

Thousands of volunteers help ensure some ‘good feelings’ for the 160,000-strong community of survivors in Israel, the world’s largest

Israel-Lonely-Survivo_Horo-1AP — Surrounded by more than 100 fellow Holocaust survivors and young volunteers, a blind Ernest Weiner sat in his wheelchair with a puffy crown on his head as the crowd sang happy birthday and showered him with hugs and greetings.

Widowed and childless, 92-year-old Weiner lives alone and the cheerful gathering offered him one of life’s most valuable commodities — company.

As home to the world’s largest survivor community, Israel is grappling to serve the needs of thousands of people like Weiner who are living out their final days alone. Various government bodies and private organizations chip in to offer material, psychological and medical support to the survivors, still scarred by the horrors they experienced 70 years ago. But all agree that the greatest burden late in their lives is loneliness.

“It’s not pleasant to be alone,” Weiner said in his apartment south of Tel Aviv. “It gives a good feeling” to have people visit.

Some 160,000 elderly survivors remain in Israel, with a similar number worldwide. In Israel, about half receive special government stipends, but a third still live under the poverty line, well above the national 20 percent poverty rate.

That’s where the nonprofit sector gets involved. The Association for Immediate Help for Holocaust Survivors was established nine years ago for the purpose of aiding survivors anywhere in Israel, at a moment’s notice. Run solely on donations, it currently has some 8,000 volunteers around the country.

They help survivors with everything from legal assistance to paying their bills, buying their groceries to driving them to doctor appointments. Several times a year, they throw parties that become a highlight on survivors’ calendars.

The care continues even after death. The association’s modest office currently houses a number of orphaned dogs and cats left behind by their owners.

“Morally, not just as Jews but as people of the world, we must help them finish their life in dignity without them having to beg for warm food,” said Tamara More, the association’s voluntary CEO. “These are people whose lives were robbed from them because of the world’s silence, and we all have an obligation to give them something back in the little time they have left.”

Six million Jews were killed by German Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust, wiping out a third of world Jewry. Israel’s main Holocaust memorial day is in the spring — marking the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising — while the United Nations designated Jan. 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorating the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in 1945.

As the senior adviser to former finance minister Yair Lapid, Naama Schultz spearheaded the ministry’s efforts to boost previously paltry funding to those who survived camps and ghettos. Besides a monthly stipend, the state also provides expanded health care, free medication and discounts on various living expenses.

But Schultz said money couldn’t address their emotional needs. Many survivors kept their pasts to themselves for decades, often alienating even the people closest to them due to their trauma. Only in their final years are many finally ready to open up, and often then there is no one around.

“There is always more you can give them, but what they really want most is someone to just be with them,” she said.

Plenty of organizations try to answer that need by matching soldiers and students with survivors. One highly publicized initiative offered university students rent-free accommodations in return for living with lonely survivors and keeping them company.

Noga Rotman, a 32-year-old computer science student, said she decided to get involved several years ago when her grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, became ill.

“I couldn’t help but think about those who didn’t have that,” she said, amid the balloons and flowers at Weiner’s party, which was attended by dozens who were inspired to come by a Facebook post. “Anytime we have something like this, you just see how much it means to them.”

Weiner said he especially appreciated the company of youngsters. As for fellow survivors, he had mixed feelings.

“On the one hand, it feels good to have all these people. On the other hand it reminds you of such tough times,” he said. “Happy it can’t be, because it was not happy times, but it is nice to have someone listen.”

When the Nazis invaded his native Austria, Weiner and his sister fled to Holland while their parents stayed behind and died of illness. The rest of the family perished.

After the Nazis occupied Holland, they were placed in the Westerbork transit camp, from where his sister was sent to her death in Auschwitz.

Thanks to his work as an electrician, Weiner got to know the camp well and estimates he escaped deportation about 15 times, once after he was placed on a train for Auschwitz. But the harsh conditions took their toll. In the course of his work, he got so many electric shocks that it caused heart damage, and an accident blinded his right eye. Diabetes later deprived him of sight in his left eye and confined him to a wheelchair.

Now that his wife is gone, Weiner has a caregiver who stays with him and another who visits daily. But the volunteers who arrive several times a week provide most of the conversation.

At the party, children handed him drawings. Soldiers and scouts gave gifts, and there was even a surprise visit from Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli — who heard Weiner was a fan and stopped by to snap some pictures with him.

But the most moving moment was when a Dutch-speaking volunteer whom he has grown close to leaned in to let him know she was there. He teared up, and then she did too.

“The fact that he is glad, that brings me joy,” said Liel Van Aalderink, 22. “I don’t do really much extraordinary. I just give him attention and talk to him because he is alone in the world.”

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Wiped out ‘in the blink of an eye’: Only 35 Jews survived from a 2,000-year-old Greek community

A new film from co-producer and director duo Lawrence Russo and Larry Confino documents the WWII decimation of the Jews of Kastoria

allegraconfinocaleveliaou-2-e1480017017376-965x543LOS ANGELES — For the descendants of the Sephardic Jewish community of the idyllic town of Kastoria, Greece, the northern region of West Macedonia inspires memories of picturesque limestone mountains, Byzantine churches, Ottoman architecture, and thriving fur and fishing economies.

It’s a land that has traded hands many times — Norman, Greek, Bulgarian, Byzantine Turkish. In fact, so diverse was this town that it attracted many different ethnic groups, including Jews.

However, during World War II, the previously quiet community, a home for the distinctive Romaniote Jews who settled there 2,000 years before, was extensively damaged and the Jewish population nearly wiped out. Just 35 of the original population survived; it had originally numbered at 900.

A new documentary, “Trezoros: The Lost Jews of Kastoria,” chronicles the history of that Sephardic community and documents the destruction of a minority population — one of many communities that had existed in Greece prior to WWII.

In October 1940, Greece was invaded by Axis forces. Initially, under Italian occupation, the Jewish community remained safe. But after Mussolini fell from power, the Nazis seized control of the town, and 763 Kastorian Jews were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Through never-before-seen archival footage, executive producer and director Lawrence Russo and co-director and producer Larry Confino tell the story of a vibrant community that has slowly faded from the consciousness of so many around the world — Jews and non-Jews alike. For the filmmakers, the story is personal, as their families have direct ties to Greece.

“We want the film to educate people,” said Confino. “We want people to feel something, so they feel the sense of loss. There’s a treasure trove of elderly people in my house. There are people that we take for granted. I would hope this film encourages people to gather their oral histories. They may not make a film, but it’s important to know where you come from and know your history.”

“Trezoros: The Lost Jews of Kastoria” is told by Jewish survivors of Kastoria, with interviews filmed on location in Kastoria, Thessaloniki, Athens, Tzur Moshe, Tel Aviv, Miami, Los Angeles, and New York. (“Trezoros” is a Ladino term of endearment meaning “Treasures.”)

This is no amateur documentary: Director Russo co-founded the independent studio The Shooting Gallery (“Laws of Gravity,” “Sling Blade”) and directed the Emmy nominated PBS short film showcase “ShortCuts.” Confino is the founder of Synapse Productions and executive director of ImageRescue, Inc.

Based in New York for over 25 years, Confino has produced documentaries and commercial projects on a multitude of subjects for production companies around the world.

In advance of the film’s release, Russo and Confino sat down in Los Angeles with The Times of Israel.

What do you hope to achieve with this documentary?

Russo: We want to bring awareness that there were Jews in Greece. Not only were they there, but they had been part of some of the oldest communities in the world. In almost the blink of an eye during WWII, that was taken away.

Why cover this issue now and what makes it deserving of a documentary?

Confino: We felt a sense of honor to tell the story, along with a sense of responsibility. If we don’t capture it now, when will be able to? We prepared to interview any of the 35 who survived. A couple of people didn’t want to talk about what happened to them, but most of them did. We really needed to capture the oral histories.

How did you fill in missing details that the survivors could not help with?

Confino: At a certain point, we realized that there were certain facets of the story that weren’t there. We were lucky enough to meet a gentleman from Kastoria. He introduced us to Greek Orthodox people who were children at the time, but still had some vivid memories.

Your mother, Lena Russo, is an important part of this documentary and tells much of the story. How did your parents’ experience persuade you to work on this film?

Russo: I grew up with most of those stories. As a kid, I always wondered why I didn’t have grandparents. As I got old and learned about the history, it made an impact. I felt a responsibility to tell their stories. In 1996, there was a monument dedication to the Jews who were killed in WWII, as depicted in the film. At that point, I got together with some of the survivors and realized there’s something here to make a documentary.

Can you tell us about the personal connection you have to the town of Kastoria?

Confino: In the documentary, you see the Confino store. That belonged to my great-grand uncle. My great-grandfather’s brother stayed in the town — some of the Confino family came to the United States, but many stayed. Literally everyone in my family who stayed was lost in the Holocaust.

How did you go about locating survivors? How long did that process take?

Russo: Two of the 35 survivors were my parents. Two more are my uncle and aunt. These are a rare group of people who survived experiences during the war in Greece. They knew everyone else who was alive because they kept in touch.

Do you have plans to partner with any Jewish and Holocaust remembrance museums?

Confino: We realize we’re capturing a portion of WWII history that needs to be seen by the general public. It’s a corner of the Holocaust that should be seen. We’re hoping for partnerships. We’re getting requests from the town of Kastoria to incorporate it into the history curriculum in high schools. This outreach is part of our main objectives. We will also be screening it in Tzur Moshe in Israel, which, as the story goes but needs to be verified, is named in honor of a Kastoria resident.

What were the survivors like?

Confino: The takeaway from meeting them, across the board, is their incredible mental strength. These are people who were determined to survive and are very inspirational. The two sisters, Hanna Kamhi Saady and Solika Kahmi Elias, live down in Florida. You can make a film just about them — about any of these people.

What about other people interviewed for background, such as members of the Christian community?

Confino: Interestingly, we found some of them in the United States only after going to Kastoria. We had to go to Greece to find out about this guy who lives in Bay Ridge in Brooklyn. He had a very vivid memory of his childhood. One of the things he told us was that he witnessed how the Nazis rounded up people in the Jewish community. He was in his backyard, and he describes it as an eyewitness. Even though he hadn’t lived there in 50 years, he had very vivid memories of that time.

We found another in Jackson Heights in Queens, New York, and wouldn’t have known about him had we not gone to Greece. Ultimately, it took four trips to Greece to arrange for interviews, film shooting, and more.

Do you see any parallels with what has happened to the Jews during WWII and the conflicts of today that have put communities like the Yazidis in Iraq and others at risk?

Russo: Unfortunately, genocide is an ongoing thing. There is always some part of the world where people are trying to oppress a group of people based on their ethnic background. As far as the film states anything, it’s a reflection of one of the larger examples of genocide.

How do you educate your kids about this topic?

Confino: In the case of this project, I felt like my kids were a little too young to know what I was working on in the beginning. I consciously didn’t involve them. My kids have only seen the film recently. There’s a certain amount of pride in where I come from. That’s something I hope to pass along to my kids. If the Holocaust had not occurred, we’d be traveling back to Greece to visit relatives. Instead, we’re doing what we can to preserve the memories of victims.

The film will run in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Music Hall from November 25 to December 1, 2016. Visit www.trezoros.com about upcoming dates in other cities.

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The banker who used Nazis to help save Jews

Friedrich Carl von Oppenheim used bureaucratic and legal channels to make a difference in WWII.

oppenheimA year prior to the start of the Second World War, prominent banker Baron Friedrich Carl von Oppenheim convinced two of his friends, the Jewish owners of a metal factory, to move their families and their metal operation to Amsterdam from Cologne.

Even though their firm was taken over by von Oppenheim’s bank during the war, the Lissauer and Griessman families lived and worked in Amsterdam in relative peace during the first few months of the war. But as the long arm of the Nazis began to reach all of Western Europe, they were in grave danger of being deported and sent to concentration camps.

On September 7, 1940, an official Nazi bus escorted by two German military vehicles commanded by Nazi officers arrived at the Lissauers’ house, and the two families – 11 people in total – boarded the bus. They drove them through occupied Belgium and France, and finally the Nazis reached their final destination at the Spanish border, dropping off the two families and returning home. Once in Spain, the Lissauers and Griessmans took a train to Portugal and traveled to Brazil via ship.

“Basically, they were escorted to freedom by Nazis. How was this possible?” von Oppenheim’s grandson, Florian von Oppenheim, asked at a memorial in the Israeli Consulate in Shanghai in 2015.

He explained that through his grandfather’s high-level connections with the German Central Bank von Oppenheim was able to get them exit visas, convincing them that the only way the metal company would be able to pay back their massive loans was through frozen funds they had in the United States.

“This was all an elaborate ploy and the funds were never sent to Germany,” he said.

After saving the lives of the two families, von Oppenheim continued to work to save the lives of more people, demonstrating to the Nazi authorities that the metal company was crucial for the German war effort, and its workers – almost exclusively Jewish refugees, most of whom had no experience at all in the metal business – needed to remain in the vicinity of the metal operation.

The ploy worked for a few years, but only a dozen were able to survive. And as von Oppenheim continued in his efforts, the Gestapo caught up with him, framing him and throwing him in jail on charges of treason with a death sentence over his head. He managed to survive in prison, being freed by the Americans before the Nazis could execute him. After the war he returned to the banking business, and he died in 1978.

“My grandfather had done his best to help persecuted Jews,” Florian von Oppenheim said. “Using bureaucratic and legal channels on an international level he helped many Jews.”

But not only did von Oppenheim perform acts of kindness during the war, his legacy lives on in a Holocaust education fund. Today, the Baron Friedrich Carl von Oppenheim Chair for the Study of Racism, Antisemitism, and the Holocaust, founded and funded by the von Oppenheim family of Cologne, annually awards two or three postdoctoral fellowship grants.

“Whenever I reflect on my grandfather’s actions, he helped save 11 lives from two families,” said Florian von Oppenheim. “This is a drop in the ocean compared to the six million who were murdered. But for those 11 individuals and their descendants – it’s everything.”

On October 10, 1996, Yad Vashem recognized Baron Friedrich von Oppenheim as Righteous Among the Nations.

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Father of Nobel physics winner fled to UK from the Nazis

J. Michael Kosterlitz, one of trio awarded the prize, is son of German Jews; his dad, biochemist Hans Walter Kosterlitz, left Berlin in 1934, then brought his mother to safety

kosterlitzSTOCKHOLM, Sweden — British scientists David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz won the Nobel Physics Prize on Tuesday for revealing the secrets of exotic matter, the Nobel jury said. Kosterlitz is the son of German Jews who came to Britain in the 1930s to escape the Nazis.

“This year’s laureates opened the door on an unknown world where matter can assume strange states. They have used advanced mathematical methods to study unusual phases, or states, of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids or thin magnetic films,” the jury said.

“Thanks to their pioneering work, the hunt is now on for new and exotic phases of matter,” it added.

The laureates will share the eight million Swedish kronor (around $931,000 or 834,000 euros) prize sum.

Thouless won one-half of the prize, while Haldane and Hosterlitz share the other half.

The jury said their pioneering work “has boosted frontline research in condensed matter physics, not least because of the hope that topological materials could be used in new generations of electronics and superconductors, or in future quantum computers.”

Kosterlitz is the son of German Jewish immigrants. His father, Hans Walter Kosterlitz, was a pioneer in biochemistry.

Hans Walter Kosterlitz fled to Scotland in 1934, after he was barred from his work at a Berlin hospital following the rise of the Nazis. He later arranged for his mother, brother and future wife Hannah to join him in Britain.

Topology, in which the three laureates specialize, is a branch of mathematics that investigates physical properties of matter and space that remain unchanged under deforming forces, including stretching.

It holds exceptional promise for quantum computing and tiny quantum devices as topological states can transport energy and information without overheating, unlike traditional quantum mechanics.

“They demonstrated that superconductivity could occur at low temperatures and also explained the mechanism, phase transition, that makes superconductivity disappear at higher temperatures,” the jury noted.

Thors Hans Hansson, a member of the Nobel Committee for Physics, resorted to the use of pastries in attempting to explain the winners’ complex work. “The concept of topology may not be familiar to you,” he said at a press conference in Stockholm. “I have a cinnamon bun, I have a bagel and a Swedish pretzel with two holes. Now for us these things are different. One is sweet one is salty, they are different shapes. But if you are a topologist there is only one thing that is really interesting with these things. This thing (the bun) has no holes, the bagel has one holes, the pretzel has two holes.”

In the 1980s, Thouless was able to explain a previous experiment with very thin electrically conducting layers in which conductance was precisely measured as integer steps.

“He showed that these integers were topological in their nature. At around the same time, Duncan Haldane discovered how topological concepts can be used to understand the properties of chains of small magnets found in some materials.”

Kosterlitz, a dual UK-US citizen, said he got the news of the Nobel win in a parking garage while heading to lunch in Helsinki.

“I’m a little bit dazzled. I’m still trying to take it in,” he told AP.

While most people are familiar with objects in three dimensions, the Nobel laureates analyzed materials so thin they have only two dimensions, or even one.

Scientists had once been skeptical that any interesting atomic-scale behavior takes place in these settings, but the Nobel laureates proved them wrong, said Phillip Schewe, a physicist and writer at the University of Maryland in College Park.

For example, Kosterlitz and Thouless showed that, against expectations, two-dimensional materials could conduct electricity without any loss to resistance. That property is called superconductivity.

Kosterlitz said he was in his 20s at the time and that his “complete ignorance” was an advantage in challenging the established science.

“I didn’t have any preconceived ideas,” he said. “I was young and stupid enough to take it on.”

Their analysis relied on topology, which is the mathematical study of properties that don’t change when objects are distorted. A doughnut and a coffee cup are equivalent topologically because they each have exactly one hole. In topology, properties change only in whole steps; you can’t have half a hole.

Nobel committee member David Haviland said this year’s prize was more about theoretical discoveries even though they may result in practical applications.

“Topology is a very abstract branch of mathematics which isn’t used so frequently in physics,” Haviland said. “But these theoreticians have come up with a description of these materials using topological ideas, which have proven very fruitful and has led to a lot of ongoing research about material properties.”

Haldane said the award-winning research is just starting to have practical applications.

“The big hope is that some of these new materials could lead to quantum computers and other new technology,” he said.

Kosterlitz was not so sure.

“I’ve been waiting for my desktop quantum computer for years, but it’s still showing no signs of appearing,” he said. “At the risk of making a bad mistake, I would say that this quantum computation stuff is a long way from being practical.”

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Kiev’s last survivor of Nazi ‘path to death’ revisits Babi Yar 75 years on

Ahead of official memorials commemorating the murder of 34,00 Jews, Raisa Maistrenko recalls her slain family and her non-Jewish grandmother’s lifesaving bravery

 KIEV, Ukraine (AFP) — “We were gathered here, and sent along ‘the path to death,’” says Raisa Maistrenko, pointing to a Kiev ravine that 75 years ago witnessed one of the worst atrocities of World War II.

Maistrenko was only three when the Nazis, helped by local collaborators, slaughtered 34,000 Jews — mostly elderly, women and children — on September 29-30, 1941, as Hitler’s forces advanced toward Moscow on the eastern front.

Maistrenko is the Ukrainian capital’s last survivor of the 29 people who managed to escape execution, either by falling into the ravine before they were shot in the back, to lie on top of thousands of corpses and later flee, or wearing crosses to hide their true religion.

The 78-year-old’s 18 relatives never returned from Babi Yar — a site that unnervingly stands next to Kiev’s main TV tower and is rarely mentioned by modern locals.

Cart in hand


After entering Kiev, Nazi troops told the nearly 200,000 Jews who made up a quarter of the city’s population to pack up their documents, money and warm clothes and go to the ravine or face death.

“All the Jews decided to go because they thought they would be evacuated by train as the railway station was nearby. Nobody could possibly assume there would be a mass execution,” Maistrenko says in slow, hushed tones.

Her father had been drafted into the Soviet army and she lived with her mother in her grandparents’ apartment.

Her grandfather Meer decided that the family should follow the Nazis’ orders and led the death march to Babi Yar with his old cart packed with belongings in hand.

Maistrenko’s non-Jewish grandmother Tanya volunteered to accompany her granddaughter — and eventually saved her life.

Noise and horrible screams could be heard as the mournful procession approached the grave site that was tightly-cordoned by Nazi soldiers — after getting in, there was no way out.

Perhaps already knowing their fate in advance, “my mom and her sister still kept their mother going because she had sore legs,” Maistrenko says.

“But my granny, she held me firmly in her arms and did not let go,” Maistrenko recalled next to the Babi Yar Menorah, a sacred Jewish candelabrum that was installed at the site of executions.

‘Don’t look back’


“At some point, we found ourselves separated from the rest of the family. The troops were beating us with batons to drive us to the place where the shots were being fired,” Maistrenko says, her eyes welling with tears.

Furious and struck with horror, grandmother Tanya began shouting “I am Russian!” and clinging Maistrenko with both hands.

“A soldier tried to hit me with a rifle butt, but my granny shielded me with her shoulder and fell to the ground together with me,” Maistrenko recalls.

The grandmother then stood up, kept crossing herself and shouting “I am Russian” while pushing through the flood of future victims and the armed Nazis troops and Ukrainian auxiliaries.

“We heard the shooting behind us, but granny — she kept holding me — did not look back and kept running until she fell exhausted among the graves in a nearby cemetery.”

Maistrenko said they hid there until sunset before finding their way back home under the cover of darkness.

There, to their relief and eventual survival, no one reported them to the Nazis.

“There were two big houses in our courtyard filled with multi-national families, but all were very friendly to each other,” Maistrenko said.

“When the raids occurred, we took shelter in the basement,” she added, until the Soviet army retook Kiev in November 1943.

As part of events marking 75 years since the mass murders, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will meet his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko at the administration building Tuesday, ahead of an official memorial at the site Thursday.

“Over this visit we will commemorate the past, but we will look to the future,” Rivlin said before departing on Monday.

Others attending will include the presidents of Germany, Hungary and the European Union’s Donald Tusk, as well as a 100-strong delegation from the World Jewish Congress in New York.

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Holocaust survivor reunited with son of her saviour

Mala Tribich was 14 when Dr Rosensaft saved her life through an act of kindness and 70-years on, she continues to pay tribute

tribich-rosensaftA Holocaust survivor has spoken of her joy at being reunited with the son of the doctor whom she credits with saving her life.

Mala Tribich was a 14-year-old Jewish prisoner at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in World War Two when Dr Hadassah Bimko Rosensaft provided her with safe haven in a children’s barracks.

Dr Bimko risked Nazi retribution by allowing Ms Tribich into the children’s area despite being too old.

Without her act of kindness, Ms Tribich said the squalid conditions of the adult section of the death camp would have ensured she did not survive to see the end of the war.

The doctor – herself a Jewish prisoner who had arrived at Bergen-Belsen after being detained in Auschwitz – had created an area to care for children in the camp and attempted to barter provisions for the young captives.

Ms Tribich and her five-year-old cousin Anne had visited her when they heard of the place and initially she only agreed to take Anne.

But, seeing the distress the separation would cause the young child, she allowed her older cousin to join her.

At an event in central London, which had received the endorsement of Prime Minister Theresa May, she met Dr Bimko’s son Menachem Rosensaft. Mr Rosensaft was himself born in Bergen-Belsen’s displaced persons camp in 1948.

The pair were pictured embracing emotionally at the dinner hosted by the Holocaust Educational Trust.

Ms Tribich said: “When in Bergen-Belsen, by chance I heard that there was a children’s barracks somewhere in the camp and I immediately set out with my young cousin Anne to find it.

“Arriving there I was interviewed by the woman in charge, Dr Bimko. She explained that while they were overcrowded she would take Anne but I was too old. Anne, who was so anxious and terrified of losing me, refused to stay.

“At that point Dr Bimko agreed to take us both. Although Anne and I subsequently became very ill with typhus this act of kindness undoubtedly saved our lives. Dr Bimko was Menachem’s mother.

“That is why it is so special and so emotional for me to be welcoming him here today. I have never forgotten her, or that act of kindness that saved me and Anne.”

After the closure of the camp 66 years ago, Ms Tribich was taken to hospital with typhus, which she had contracted while being kept there.

She has spent the years since the war sharing her story in schools across the country through the Holocaust Educational Trust.

The Prime Minister wrote that the Trust had done “pioneering work” which turned “words into actions” when it comes to preserving the memory of those killed in the Holocaust.

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