Every year, life in Israel stops for two minutes in memory of Holocaust — the murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators. The goal of a new online exhibition of the Holocaust Museum in Israel is to tell the personal stories of the victims.
“Dear Rosie, I’m glad you got our message. How are you doing? All the best. A whole. Mother.”
This letter is the last Rosie Ushkowitz received from his mother Bertha.
“At the beginning and at the end of each letter she wrote: “be Sure to keep an eye on health,” says Rosie of Ushkowitz.
“Each story is unique. Our online exhibition is primarily a way to honor the memory of victims and to return them their names, and human dignity,” says Jon Kubo, curator of the new exhibition, “Last letters from the Holocaust: 1943”.
“These letters were selected because they are very intimate, very personal and unique. Because the handwriting of one person differs from another. And these letters can be found tear stains on it as those who wrote them, and those who receive them,” continues Jon Cobo.
When you read these letters from mothers, fathers, children, what’s going on in your heart?
“Sometimes it is torn. Sometimes I cry,” says Yona Kobo.
Was there censorship?
“Not always. I think that was more self-censorship” — meets Kobo.
Kobo has provided us with a rare opportunity to see the enormous archives of Yad Vashem, where I saw some of these letters.
“And here is the letter I wrote a girl— shows Kobo. She was almost 12 years old. Her name was Regina Folkenflik, and she lived in Eastern Poland. Hid from yourself a Christian home. The parents thought that they will be able to save her — giving into a good family. But still the girl was shot. The rest of the family survived. Her brother, who is now 84 years old, donated the letter to Yad Vashem. It is in Polish. The girl wrote: “Dear mom, dad and dear David. (It’s her brother). Mom, be healthy. Don’t get upset. Mother, forgive me, please, what little writing”.
And here’s another one.
“This letter was written by 19-year-old girl Rosetta Bomblet. She was an active member of the underground movement in Paris. She helped save other Jewish children. Her family went into hiding in a village near Paris, and Rosetta writes here in French: “I live for the day when we’ll be together again”. Her entire family, except for the Rosettes, and older sister Sarah, survived and immigrated to Israel. Rosetta and sent to Auschwitz. There, in the camp, and killed her,” she continues.
What about families Yona Kobo?
“My mother was born in Germany. She was in the ghetto, in the labor camp. And she had had a very long “death March” — walked 800 kilometers. My father survived Auschwitz. They met after the war. When I was 35 years old, the father decided to tell me your secret. He was a widower when he met my mom. His first wife and daughter he lost in Belgium. Only recently I found the name of his daughter,” she says.
This online exhibition is just one of many in Yad Vashem, the main collection of documents on the Holocaust in the world.
“This is one of the main missions of Yad Vashem is to gather in one place all the documents, all the evidence about the fate of the Jews during the Holocaust. This was the first desire of the survivors of the Holocaust in the first day after the war — says Dr. Haim Gertner, head of the archive of Yad Vashem. — We are aware that the Nazis planned not only to kill Jews, but also sought to destroy, to erase any understanding and knowledge about who they are and what happened to them. That is why Yad Vashem as one of its main tasks consider the collection of all these little parts of a huge “puzzle” of our joint history.”
More than two hundred million pages of documents include testimonies, the stories of survivors, photographs and other personal items.
“Seven years ago, we launched a nationwide campaign. We called her “to pick up the pieces”. We have already met with about 11 thousand persons in the last seven years we donated more than 124 thousand pieces and collections,” says Haim Gertner.
How many today remain survivors who have seen it all and experienced?
“Yes, and survivors of the Holocaust believe Yad Vashem “home” for their things. They say that they will be kept forever. — says Haim Gertner. For example, the shirt gave us on the first day of the campaign seven years ago, a woman from tel Aviv. This jacket her sister. So, of course, it was hard to part with this thing.”
The name “Yad Vashem” is taken from the Bible. It means “a memorial and a name”.
“For the past several decades, Yad Vashem seeks to tell the stories of people during the Holocaust. It was ordinary people who lived in Europe and in other places. They had their own life. They have had children. They had dreams. Now they can tell us about how they managed to survive in those years, in those impossible times, continues Haim Gertner. Each year Yad Vashem is about a million visitors. About 10 thousand of them every year, visit our reading room. But last year more than 19 million people around the world, Jews and non-Jews, to use our databases in the Internet.”
You are all so go, learn, explore. Not tiring you? I think this should somehow affect your heart.
“I am the son of Holocaust survivors — meets Haim Gertner. — I consider myself a “teacher”. Our mission is to educate a new generation. This awareness gives us strength, and then coming up with ideas about how to talk about these events to future generations.”