30 July 2015
Yad Vashem mourns the recent passing of Dr. Samuel Pisar, who dedicated his life to Holocaust remembrance and was a global advocate of Human rights. A Holocaust survivor from Bialystok, Pisar survived a number of concentration camps and a death march, from which he escaped aged 16 at the end of WWII. He was the only survivor of his family: his mother Helena, father David and younger sister Frieda were all murdered by the Nazis. Pisar was later to become an accomplished author – his books, including the award-winning memoir, Of Blood and Hope, have been translated into 20 languages – and UNESCO Honorary Ambassador and Special Envoy for Holocaust Education. As a private lawyer, Pisar dealt with issues of government, multinational corporations and charitable foundations, and at the height of the cold war developed relations with Russia and China, achieving the release of many political dissidents from Soviet prions.
Together with other survivors, Samuel Pisar founded the French Society for Yad Vashem, whose first mission was to raise funds for the establishment of the Valley of the Communities. Working tirelessly for Holocaust commemoration, Pisar took an active part in events and conferences at Yad Vashem: In 2002 he participated in the International Conference on the Legacy of Holocaust Survivors, and in 2012 he closed the International Educators' Conference. In his speech, Pisar recalled some of the outstanding events of his life, and played an excerpt of his a libretto, "A Dialogue with God" from Leonard Bernstein's "Kaddish - Symphony No. 3" that was performed at Yad Vashem in 2009 as part of a special event. He said:
“For me, the performance reaches its climax when I recount a heart-wrenching lullaby about how loving, caring and merciful is our God, one my beloved grandmother used to sing to me before her voice was silenced in the ovens of Treblinka. At that moment, I feel as if I am saying Kaddish for her, for my family, for my people.”
"In the 'Kaddish' libretto, the survivor engages in a dialogue with God, beseeching the creator to guide us toward reconciliation, tolerance and solidarity on this small, divided, fragile planet," said Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev, a personal friend of Pisar for over two decades. "That work was his passion for the last decade-and-a-half of Sam Pisar's life. He would travel extensively to sing it in person. He had a great passion for the arts as well as a universal attitude and deep understanding of humankind. He will be sorely missed."