18 September 2023
Holocaust survivor Shlomo (Szalay) Margulies passed away over the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah in his home in Israel. Shlomo is survived by his wife Shulamit, his sons Roni and Dubi, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Born in 1923 to Menashe Margulies and Bracha-Leah (Rachela) née Markel, who emigrated from Poland to Chemnitz, Germany, where they met and got married. In Germany, the family operated a textile trading business, much of which was based in Holland. As such, Menashe received a permanent visa, which allowed him to enter and exit Holland as he wished. Shlomo and his older brother, Abraham, attended German elementary schools in the mornings and a local Talmud Torah (Jewish religious day school) in the afternoons. Although initially unaffected by the Nazi rise to power, with the passage of the Nuremberg Laws and the expansion of the decrees against Jews, the family's economic situation began to deteriorate.
In October 1938, all "non-German" Jews were expelled from Germany. Menashe and Bracha-Leah managed to escape deportation and went into hiding in the house of an acquaintance. Abraham was caught and deported to Krakow. Fearing for his family's safety, Shlomo returned from Leipzig to Chemnitz, where he found his parents in hiding.
The family quickly came to the realization that they needed to leave Germany. They decided to try obtaining immigration visas to Eretz Israel (British Mandatory Palestine). On 21 March 1939, Menashe, Bracha-Leah, Abraham and Shlomo Margulies departed Germany aboard a chartered Lufthansa airplane bound for Haifa. A shipping container with their belongings, including their beloved piano, arrived shortly afterwards.
Once in Eretz Israel the Margulies family began to rebuild their lives. However, many members of their extended family who remained in Europe were murdered during the Holocaust. To commemorate those lost family members, Shlomo and his late brother Abraham filled out Pages of Testimony – symbolic tombstones for the men, women or children murdered during the Holocaust.
In 2016, the Margulies family made an extraordinary and enduring contribution to the preservation of Holocaust memory by way of donating their family's personal Holocaust-era artifacts and documents to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, in Jerusalem. This invaluable collection chronicles the life of the Margulies family in Chemnitz, Germany, and their miraculous escape months before the outbreak of the Second World War.
Amongst the treasured items bequeathed to Yad Vashem was the Margulies family's piano, which now resides as a permanent fixture in the hallowed halls of the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem. These items not only bear testimony to the harrowing tale of the Margulies family, who miraculous escaped from the clutches of Nazi Germany, culminating in the family's journey to safety aboard a specially chartered Lufthansa aircraft to Haifa in March 1939, it embodies the struggle for survival by much of German Jewry during the Holocaust. Many members of the Margulies family who remained in Germany were murdered during the Holocaust.
In January 2023, the Margulies piano assumed an emblematic role in Yad Vashem's "16 Objects," exhibition that opened in the German Bundestag in Berlin coinciding with International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January of 2023 and the 70th anniversary of Yad Vashem. This profound exhibition, which featured 16 objects connected each to one of the 16 federal states of Germany bore witness to the indomitable human spirit in the face of adversity. After the Bundestag, the exhibition was moved to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Zollverein Museum in Essen. Lastly, this October the piano will be on display in a solitary exhibition in the city of Chemnitz.
Shlomo Margulies has left behind an indelible legacy, one that shall resonate eternally with those fortunate enough to have known him, as well as with all those whom his life profoundly touched.