On May 1st, the Germans brought explosives to the mines in which we were working, and decided to force all the prisoners into the mines and to blow us up deep underground. On May 5th, the camp commander ordered all the inmates to go down into the mines. We all cried “We won’t go down into the mines!” The SS, seeing the end of the war on the horizon, fled. That same day, the leadership of the underground operating in the camp decided to put 52 prisoners, who had collaborated with the Germans, on trial. They were sentenced to death.
On May 8th, Nazi Germany surrendered. Those left alive survived due to chance, luck or friends. I was saved by friends. Our families were murdered, our property was stolen, and we were left alone – sick and lonely. We were free, but only then did we comprehend the enormity of the tragedy that had befallen us.
The victory over the brutal German killing machine occurred thanks to the joint efforts of the USSR, the USA, Great Britain and other countries. We survivors salute the soldiers in the Allied forces, we salute our Jewish brethren who fought in the Red Army, and in all the armies that fought against the Nazis, and we salute the partisans and resistance fighters. Were it not for the Allied victory, we would not be here today.
After the liberation from the death camps, ghettos and hiding places, and after the murder of six million of our brethren, most survivors made Aliyah, making their way from Europe to the shores of Eretz Israel. Once here, they took part in the struggle to establish the State; amongst them were sole survivors of entire families, who were then killed on the battlefield in the War of Independence. We contributed to the State’s establishment and development in every field: agriculture, economy, security, science, education and academia, law, industry and culture.
We rebuilt our lives, and contributed to society everywhere we went, in Israel and overseas. Several Holocaust survivors even became Nobel Prize laureates. Survivors were the driving force behind Holocaust remembrance, commemoration, documentation and research. We did our utmost to build new lives for ourselves, but also to remember and never to forget.
In May 1945, when we were “reborn”, most of us were 18-28 years old. The generation of our parents and grandparents had been murdered, as had the generation of the children. Sixty years have passed, but the wound has not healed – and perhaps it hurts more now and has reopened in our old age. On Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day we all remember the words of the poetess Zelda: “Unto every person there is a name”. We must remember that those who stayed alive also have names.
It is the State of Israel’s duty to remember not only our murdered brothers and sisters, but also the survivors, and to ensure that they are able to grow old with dignity.