Hanukkah - The Festival of Lights

Before, During and After the Holocaust

Ester Veisfeiller's (Alis Goldmann) Dreidel (Spinning top)

Alis Goldmann was born in 1933 in Moravska-Ostrava to Menakhem Emanuel and Jolana. She had a brother, Shmuel, who was three years older than her. They were a traditional Jewish family, her father was a cattle trader and they were affluent.

In 1939 the family witnessed German soldiers marching past their home, and their property was looted by the Germans; as the parents were Slovakian, they moved to Bratislava. The city was ruled by the Hlinka Guard, the military arm of Hlinka's Slovak People's Party - the ruling totalitarian party - under the leadership of Jozef Tiso.  Antisemitism was rife, and decrees were issued against the Jews, who were forced to wear the yellow star. The family decided to flee once again and in 1942 arrived in Kezmarok, Menakhem-Emanuel’s birthplace, where they tried to maintain normal life. The community arranged schooling even though there were fewer than ten children.

The dreidel was cast during this period by one of the teachers in Kezmarok.

The family fled Kezmarok and hid in a farm; from there they made their way to the town of Michalovce and in 1943 returned to Kezmarok. In September 1944 the SS arrived in the town and imprisoned the family in an improvised camp. The local commanding officer tried to help the family and appointed Menakhem-Emanuel as his assistant. In November 1944 the Jews of the city were rounded up and deported to Auschwitz. Jolana left a suitcase containing the dreidel with Christian neighbors. The family was sent to Plaszow, and arrived in Auschwitz the following day. The train later reached in Ravensbrück.  Men and women were separated on the platform and Ester remained with her mother. Jolana was sent to work and Ester stayed with the children in the camp.

In February 1945 Jolana and Ester were sent to Bergen-Belsen. Starving, Ester stole beet roots from the camp kitchen in order to survive. Following the liberation of the camp by the British, many died after eating the large portions of food that they received from the soldiers.

At the end of the war Ester weighed 17kg. Her mother Jolana died on the 22nd of April 1945 in the DP camp at Bergen-Belsen. Ester was placed in an orphanage together with other children from Bergen-Belsen. She refused to go to Sweden with the other orphans from Bergen-Belsen and returned to Czechoslovakia alone; there she discovered that her father and brother were in Kezmarok. Arriving in Kezmarok, she found out that their neighbors had looked after the suitcase containing the dreidel.

Ester immigrated to Israel in 1949 together with the rest of her family.