Hebrew songs in the concentration camp: 6 Holocaust survivors tell their stories

These are six stories of tribulation, survival and ultimate triumph over Adolph Hitler, the Nazis and their aspirations to annihilate the Jewish people.

By: World Israel News Staff, with survivor narratives provided by Yad Vashem

Israeli will begin marking Yom HaShoah, its national Holocaust Remembrance Day, with an official opening ceremony that will take place on Wednesday evening, in Warsaw Ghetto Square, at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

During the ceremony, six Holocaust survivors will light six memorial torches in memory of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

These are their stories of tribulation, survival and ultimate triumph over Adolph Hitler, the Nazis and their aspirations to annihilate the Jewish people, as recorded by Yad Vashem.

Mirjam Lapid

Mirjam Lapid was born in 1933 in Deventer, the Netherlands, to a Zionist family. After the Netherlands was occupied, Mirjam had to wear a yellow star and was expelled from school. The Germans confiscated Jewish houses, but a notice on the door of Mirjam’s house stating that she was sick with scarlet fever deterred the occupiers from entering.

Mirjam’s father Herman Andriesse refused to put his Christian friends in jeopardy by hiding his family with them. In April 1943, they were taken to Amsterdam and two months later deported to the Westerbork detention camp. Mirjam’s oldest brother hid with the Dutch underground.

Working as a cleric in Westerbork, Herman managed to obtain a forged permit for the family to immigrate to Israel, putting them on the list of prisoners destined to be exchanged.

In January 1944, the family was sent to Bergen-Belsen and imprisoned in a sub-camp designated for prisoner exchanges. The young people in the camp conducted activities for the children and taught them songs in Hebrew. In February 1945, Herman passed away. On 9 April, the prisoners were marched to the railway station. Mirjam’s mother Batya, who was sick with typhus, was carried by Mirjam’s brother and sister.

The family was put on the “lost train.” For two weeks, they traveled around, stopping intermittently and burying the dead. On 23 April, the train’s passengers were liberated by the Red Army on the outskirts of the village of Tröbitz in eastern Germany.

A few months later, Mirjam and her family returned to the Netherlands, where she joined the Habonim youth group. She became a leader in the movement, and served as its secretary in the Netherlands. In 1950, she traveled to Jerusalem to study. When she returned, she joined an agricultural training farm near Amsterdam.

In 1953, Mirjam immigrated to Israel. There she met Aki, and the couple joined a Habonim group from South Africa at Kibbutz Tzora, central Israel. Since 1960, she has run the kibbutz’s secretariat.

Mirjam and Aki had six children and 14 grandchildren. When their late son Ran, a helicopter pilot in the Israel Air Force (IAF), was asked to fly the German chancellor during a visit to Israel, he made it contingent on Mirjam’s approval. “Nothing could be greater for me than to have my son, a pilot in the IAF, fly the German chancellor,” she said. “That is my victory.”

Shmuel Bogler

Shmuel Bogler was born in Bodrogkeresztúr, Hungary, in 1929, the youngest of Mordehai and Rajzel Bogler’s ten children. One of Shmuel’s sisters died as a young girl. Mordehai was a merchant, and Shmuel helped the family make a living.

In 1941, Mordehai was imprisoned for 18 months due to an antisemitic libel. Three of Shmuel’s brothers were forced into labor battalions. One of them was murdered in Buchenwald; the other two survived in captivity by the Red Army.

In March 1944, Germany invaded Hungary, and in the spring, immediately after Passover, the village’s Jews were deported to the Sátoraljaújhely ghetto. Shmuel and his family were taken from the ghetto to Auschwitz. His parents and three cousins were sent immediately to the gas chambers. Shmuel and his brother Chaim were sent to a labor camp near Breslau, where there were hundreds of Polish Jews. Most of the Hungarian Jews in the camp did not know Yiddish, and Shmuel and Chaim, who spoke Yiddish, became the groups’ interpreters.

On 31 January 1945, the two brothers were sent on a death march to Buchenwald, where the US Army liberated them. They returned to their village two months later, where they discovered that two of their siblings had survived, too. Another two had emigrated from Europe before the war. In May 1947, Shmuel boarded an illegal immigrant ship bound for Israel. After detention by the British in Cyprus, he eventually arrived in October 1947.

Shmuel joined the Palmach’s Religious Platoon. In December 1947, he left Tel Aviv for Jerusalem with a convoy of provisions. He fought to defend the Etzion bloc, and when the bloc fell in May 1948, he was taken prisoner by the Jordanian Legion. Shmuel joined the POW camp’s police force in Transjordan and became the second-in-command. He was responsible for distributing food and water, as well as roll calls in the camp. He studied history, geography and mathematics and played volleyball.

In April 1949, after nearly a year in captivity, Shmuel was freed and joined the Israel Police. He became an officer and worked in high-ranking capacities, including as the Southern District Deputy Commander.

Since retiring, Shmuel has worked in various public capacities, such as road accident prevention, and gives testimony on a regular basis. He volunteers in Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations Department, translating testimonies from Hungarian to Hebrew.

Shmuel and Shoshana have a son, a daughter, five granddaughters and three great-grandchildren.

Thea Friedman

Dr. Thea Friedman was born in 1924 in Chernovitz, Romania, the only child of Yosef and Yetty Kwalenberg. In June 1941, the Germans bombed the city and Thea was sent to her relatives in a nearby village. German and Romanian soldiers reached the area and began harassing the residents. Thea and her aunt fled to a nearby thicket, and after the soldiers left, Thea returned to Chernovitz, passing many dead bodies along the road.

In September 1941, a ghetto was established in Chernovitz. Some 20 people were housed in Thea’s home. In November, her family was put in an overcrowded cattle car, with no food or water, and sent on a two-day journey to Atachi. Romanian soldiers plundered the deportees’ valuables. Thea’s family crossed the Dniester River and was deported to the Mogilev-Podolski ghetto. Yosef was taken to perform forced labor, while Thea worked clerical jobs for 150 grams of bread per day.

In December 1942, Thea fled the ghetto. She crossed the frozen Dniester on foot and went back to Chernovitz. She tried in vain to find refuge among relatives and acquaintances, and ultimately hid in the house of Prof. Kalman Gronich and his wife. When she was caught in a surprise search, she tried to commit suicide by swallowing pills, but her captors had her stomach pumped. She was eventually freed with the help of a bribe paid by the Jewish community.

Late in 1943, Thea met activists from the Gordonia youth movement, and acquired a forged passport. She reached Bucharest, where she met Yoseph, her future husband. After being arrested in a police raid, she was imprisoned, but she left the jailhouse daily to work in a hospital.

In July 1944, Thea was released from jail. Romania capitulated to the Red Army a month later. In 1945, she registered for medical school in Timișoara. In 1950, she married Yoseph and began practicing medicine. Their applications to leave for Israel were repeatedly turned down.

In 1958, Thea, Yoseph and their son finally immigrated to Israel. She began working as an ophthalmologist in the Haifa Bay area, and then in various hospitals in central Israel. She is an emeritus professor of the Faculty of Ophthalmology at Tel Aviv University (TAU). Yoseph helped lay the foundations of family medicine in Israel and taught at the TAU School of Medicine.

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Thea and the late Yoseph have a son, who is also a physician, and five grandchildren.

Raul Teitelbaum

Raul-Israel Teitelbaum was born in 1931 in Prizren, Yugoslavia (today Kosovo), the only child of Dr. Josef and Paula Teitelbaum. In April 1941, the Germans and Italians invaded Yugoslavia. In the winter of 1941-1942, the Italian occupation authorities arrested Josef and sent him to a detention camp in Albania, where he was put in charge of the camp infirmary.

The Italian Army requisitioned the family’s apartment, and Raul and his mother were thrown out on the street. Their friends Dragotin and Ana Jakićopened their house to them, and Raul joined the Yugoslav underground.

In the summer of 1943, Raul and Paula moved to Albania to visit his incarcerated father. When Italy surrendered in September 1943, Albanian partisans liberated the camp where Josef was being held, and the family joined the partisans. Josef treated injured partisans and sick villagers. After a few days, the Germans went on the offensive and the partisans were forced to retreat to the mountains. With Josef suffering from stomach ulcers the family hid among villagers, but ultimately had to return to Prizren. Twelve year-old Raul rejoined the underground in the city, distributing leaflets and taking part in acts of sabotage against the Germans.

In May 1944, the Teitelbaums were caught and sent to the Sajmište concentration camp, and from there to Bergen-Belsen. On 9 April 1945, a few days before liberation, Raul, Paula and Josef were sent from Bergen-Belsen with a group of prisoners on what became known as the “lost train.” Two weeks later, the prisoners were freed by the Red Army. They were sick, and some of them died. Raul had contracted typhus, and Josef died in a Red Army hospital three days after liberation. Raul’s grandmother Ethel had died in the Terezín ghetto.

In 1949, Raul and his mother immigrated to Israel. He enlisted in the IDF and served as an artillery officer, eventually rising to the rank of major.

As a journalist, Raul has published hundreds of articles and reports about the Holocaust, Holocaust survivors, and the society and economy of Israel. He was a formulator of “Our Living Legacy” – a call by Holocaust survivors to educate towards humanitarian values, democracy, human rights and tolerance, and against racism and totalitarian ideologies. He has been active in the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel since its establishment in 1987, and is a lecturer, researcher and an initiator of a project highlighting the contribution of Holocaust survivors to the founding and development of Israel.

Raul and his late wife Aliza have two daughters and four grandchildren.

Yisaschar Dov Goldstein

Yisaschar Dov Goldstein was born in 1929 in Bratislava, Slovakia, the third of five children. His father, Moshe Shraga, was the rabbi of the Jewish community, which suffered persecution by the anti-Semitic Slovakian regime. After Germany occupied Slovakia in the summer of 1944, Dov joined the underground “Working Group,” and learned what was happening in Poland. Preparing for the worst, he built a wall in the storage room of his family home.

In the fall of 1944, Dov’s mother Chaya Feige, his infant brother Eliezer and his 12-year-old sister Buna were deported to Auschwitz and murdered. Dov and his father hid in the storage room, but the Germans found them, too. They were taken to the Sered’ concentration camp and deported to Birkenau a week later, where Moshe Shraga was murdered on arrival. Dov was transferred to a factory in a satellite camp of Buchenwald.

Dov tried to observe Jewish practice every step of the way. On Hanukkah, the prisoners made a makeshift menorah, which gave off a strong aroma. The German commander came to check the source of the smell, but a bombing raid began and the commander ran out. During Passover 1945, a Jewish prisoner acquired a handful of flour from which they made a single piece of matzah. Every prisoner in the shack received a crumb from the matzah during the Seder.

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As the Americans advanced, Dov was sent on a death march to Buchenwald. Two days after he arrived, the US Army liberated the camp. Dov had contracted typhus and was hospitalized in an infirmary, but he returned to Bratislava once he recuperated. When he arrived, he discovered that everything in his house had been stolen, except the holy books.

In August 1946, Dov boarded an illegal immigrant ship bound for Israel. After a seven-month incarceration by the British in Cyprus, and a month at the Atlit internment camp, he settled in northern Israel with a Bnei Akiva youth group. He was one of the first members of Kibbutz Ein Tzurim and fought in the War of Independence.

Dov established the Bnei Akiva yeshiva in Beer Sheva, taught Talmud and Bible for many years, and guided students and tourists around Israel. In the 1990s, he was the rabbi and kosher butcher in Košice, Slovakia. Dov continues tells his life story to young people and accompanies student trips to Poland.

Dov and Shulamit have three children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Abba Naor

Abba Naor was born in 1928 in Kovno, Lithuania. In August 1941, two months after the German invasion, the Kovno ghetto was sealed, with the family imprisoned inside. His older brother Chaim was caught looking for food and murdered at the Seventh Fort, a killing site on the outskirts of the city.

Abba and the rest of his family survived several Aktionen. When his parents were at work, Abba would practice hiding his six-year-old brother Berale in a kiln. Berale thus escaped the Children’s Aktion in March 1944, but the family was then transferred to the Stutthof labor camp in July, where they were separated. His father, Zvi-Hirsch, was taken to perform forced labor at a sub-camp of Dachau. Berale and his mother Chana were deported to Auschwitz. “The moment I saw my mother and brother heading towards the train, I realized that was it,” recalled Abba. “I could say ‘goodbye’ forever.”

Abba was put to work in construction at a satellite camp of Dachau. To this day, he has stayed in touch with fellow prisoners from the camp, childhood friends from Kovno. Early in 1945, the Germans asked for volunteers to build subterranean bunkers at the Kaufering labor camp. Mistakenly believing his father was in Kaufering, Abba volunteered. On 24 April, the prisoners were taken on a death march without food or water, in rain and snow, eating grass along the way. On 2 May, they woke up in a forest with their German overseers gone. Suddenly they saw American soldiers, who told them they were free.

A few months later, Abba and his father were reunited at a DP camp near Munich. They moved to Poland, and in 1946 he attempted to immigrate illegally to Israel. After detention by the British in Cyprus, he reached his destination in 1947. He fought in the War of Independence and later worked in the General Security Service, the Weizmann Institute and the Mossad. From 1984-1985, Abba was a proud participant in “Operation Moses,” during which some 5,000 Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel by plane and ship from refugee camps in Sudan.

Abba still delivers lectures at German schools about his experiences during the Holocaust, and participates in Dachau- and Holocaust-related ceremonies in Bavaria. He is Vice President of the World Organization of Former Prisoners of Dachau.

Abba and his late wife Lea have a son, a daughter, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.