Rabbi Michael Melchior MK, Chairman of the Education, Culture and Sport Committee in the Knesset
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07 September 2006
"That was the last time I ever saw my mother, my younger brother Avraham and most of my family members and relatives. And these are the last words my mother said to me, as the tears poured down her cheeks: "You will survive. I am sure you will survive". That sentence is etched into my memory, and I repeated it to myself an infinite number of times in the weeks, months and years that followed".
Excerpt from Dan Melchior's new book, "I Chose Life - the Story of a Survivor", published by Yad Vashem, in which he describes how Monik - Moshe Aharon Schwarz - was separated from his family.
Monik was 15 years old when the Germans invaded Poland and brutally interrupted his everyday life in Piotrkow Trybunalski. Accompanied by his mother's parting words, and thanks both to his own resourcefulness and several miracles, Monik survived a number of concentration and labor camps: Bugaj, Warta, Buchenwald, Dora-Mittelbau, Nordhausen, and Bergen Belsen.
In 1948, after a period in a displaced persons camp, Monik managed to make his way to Denmark. There, he met Hilda, who had survived thanks to the assistance given to the Jews of Denmark by the Danish people. They married, built a wonderful life together, and are blessed with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A special gathering was recently held at Yad Vashem to mark the publication of the book. The hero of the book, Moshe Aharon "Monik" Schwarz, and the author, Mr. Dan Melchior, Monik's nephew, came especially from Denmark to take part in the gathering, which was attended by some 50 people. Other participants included relative Rabbi Michael Melchior MK, Chairman of the Education, Culture and Sport Committee in the Knesset, Prof. Dan Michman, Chief Historian of Yad Vashem, Dr. Bella Gutterman, Director of the Yad Vashem Publications Department, friends and members of the extended family - children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Chief Rabbi of Tel-Aviv Jaffa, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, also born in Piotrkow and a close friend of Monik, sent a special letter in honor of the event.
Chief Historian of Yad Vashem Prof. Dan Michman discussed his impressions of the book, and emphasized that even after reading many of the memoirs published by Yad Vashem, he still identified two unique characteristics in the book "I Chose Life":
Firstly, the prevalence of humor and self-criticism in the book, and secondly the relatively small percentage (40%) of the book spent describing the Holocaust, the other 60% describing the hero's universe post-Holocaust - the rehabilitation and rebirth, the return to life and confrontation with the past. The book also debates the subject of the Jews' strong identification with their countries of origin, both during the war and in the initial period after the Holocaust. Only after the war did the process of breaking down these barriers between Jews of different nationalities begin, as can be studied in this book by the hero's gradual acclimatization amongst the Jewish community of Denmark. At the gathering, addresses were delivered by Rabbi Michael Melchior MK, Chairman of the Education, Culture and Sport Committee in the Knesset, Mr. Dan Melchior, the book's author and Monik's nephew, Shiri Leibowitz Schwarz, Monik's eldest granddaughter, and Monik himself, who spoke very movingly.
To order the book and to receive a complete catalogue of Yad Vashem publications, please contact:
Yad Vashem Books, POB3477, Jerusalem 91034
Tel: 02-6443505, Fax: 02-6443506
Tel: 02-6443505, Fax: 02-6443506