Berta Akselrad received this pencil from her classmates in the Christian school that she attended, to mark the holiday of Saint Barbara.
"I came to school that day, 6 December, a very cold month. The classroom was decorated with beautiful drawings that my friends had made for me. A friend presented me with a box with small a key. I still have it today. I only opened the box when I returned home. I was very excited…"
Berta Axelrad was born in Krosno, Poland in 1932. After the Germans occupied Krosno, Berta's parents found a hiding place for her with a Christian family. She was hidden in their home until she was transferred to another hiding place under the floor of a sawmill where she was forced to lie flat without moving for hours at a time.
Berta's parents were murdered in the Holocaust, and Berta remained with the family that saved her. After the war, 13-year-old Berta was finally able to go to school. Out of a desire to fit in, Berta decided to convert to Christianity. At her baptism she chose the name Barbara, after Saint Barbara, hence the gifts on her patron saint's holiday.
Berta's brother Abraham was the only other member of the family to survive. A year after the war, Abraham discovered that his sister was alive. He tried to persuade her to leave her adopted family, but both Berta and her new family refused. Abraham didn't give up and took the case to court where they ruled that Berta was to be transferred to a children's home. From there she was sent to France and later immigrated to Israel.
Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection
Donated by Batya (Akselrad) Eisenstein, Kiryat Ono, Israel