Prior to World War II, roughly 9.5 million Jews lived in Europe. At that time, this was approximately 60 percent of the Jewish population worldwide. However, only a few short years later, 6 million of those Jews were murdered—their lives ended simply because of their heritage, being heirs of the biblical patriarch Abraham.
Aside from the 6 death camps that many are familiar with… it took 40,000 camps, prisons, and other facilities located all over the nation of Germany and other occupied lands beyond to accomplish these heinous crimes.
Holocaust Remembrance Day is upon us. It’s a time set aside to reflect on the lives lost and how we will choose to live our own lives moving forward.
Will you take a moment to pause and reflect on January 27 for Holocaust Remembrance Day 2019?
As we prepare our hearts, let’s pause for a moment and hear the stories of some of the families that walked through the trenches of the Holocaust.
Born in Poland in 1925, Tchiya was born to Simcha and Fruna Perlmutter. Simcha, a professor, and Fruna, an active civic leader, raised Tichiya and her younger sister, Shulamit, in Horochow, Poland.
Imagine Tchiya’s life growing up and the influence her parents had on her. She was well cared for and encouraged to explore the world of academia and to make a difference in the community where she lived.
In 1939, Germany invaded Horochow, and their Soviet Union allies occupied the area. Tchiya was just 14 years old at the time. Her family remained in their home despite the occupation and increased anti-Semitism. It wasn’t until 1941, 3 years after the Nazi occupation, when Germany came and built a ghetto in Horochow, ultimately relocating the Perlmutter family within.
Read more about Tchiya’s family’s plan to escape and her tragic story HERE.
Joseph Gani was born in 1926 to Greek/Baltic Jews who lived in a small seaside town, Preveza, Greece, which boasted a Jewish population of approximately 300. Joseph’s father was a small textile shop owner, which allowed the Ganis a comfortable existence.
It was in Preveza that Joseph attended a public Greek school, which provided him with a good religious education. Weekly, a rabbi would visit the school for several hours and teach the Jewish students important Jewish tradition, law, and texts. Besides Joseph’s religious and academic interests, Joseph was incredibly fond of sports—particularly soccer and baseball.
Yet, this idyllic life wasn’t to last. Germany invaded Greece in 1941, and by autumn of 1943, the town of Preveza was occupied. Soon after, in March 1944, all known Jews in Preveza were sent to Auschwitz.
Joseph’s life changed in a matter of days. But Joseph didn’t go down without a fight.
Read more about how Joseph’s bravery sounded the trumpet for battle HERE.
Shmuel David Bursztyn
Shmuel David Bursztyn is a wonderful example of a Jewish man who was living a simple, happy life before his world was turned upside down.
Born in 1874, Shmuel David Bursztyn was raised in Pultusk, Poland, by loving Jewish parents. It was in this town where he met Gisha, the woman he would marry before moving to the city of Warsaw.
In Warsaw, Shmuel owned his own bakery for many years. While the living was modest… he, his wife, and their 8 children were eventually afforded the opportunity to move into a larger 2-bedroom apartment in a safe area of the city.
Read more HERE about Shmuel and His wife, Gisha, and how their simple life that was once thought to be free from Nazi war efforts was changed in the blink of an eye.
Franz Anton Ledermann
Born October 16, 1889, in Eastern Germany to Jewish parents, Franz Anton Ledermann had not only a good start but also a good life. He was able to attend Breslau University and attain a law degree, and he even went on to Geneva University in Switzerland, graduating with a Doctor of Jurisprudence. He was a highly intelligent man and successful in his practice.
At the age of 35 he married a Dutch-Jewish woman, Ilse Luise Citroen, and within a few years, they had 2 beautiful daughters, Barbara and Susanne. To look at his life, it was obvious he was prospering. After all, his law practice was flourishing, he had a large house with servants, and he had a happy life with his wife and children… but after the Nazis came to power in 1933, much would change.
Read more HERE about Franz’s successful law practice and how he was robbed of a chance to prosper when he was led to believe otherwise by his enemies.
Jozef Rapaport was born in 1899 to religious Jewish parents. Early on, his father died, and his mother struggled to provide for him and his 3 older sisters.
Yet, despite the poverty Jozef grew up in, he enrolled in a university in Prague, paying his own way through hard work—rising above his circumstances. After attending that university and obtaining a degree there, Jozef found that he wanted to expand his knowledge further, moving to Vienna temporarily to earn a Ph.D. in economics—a degree that would allow him to become a successful banker.
The Rapaports fled from Warsaw, Germany, only to be forced back there into the hands of the Nazis and survived in a room not much bigger than a closet for 2 years while in hiding.
Read more about Jozef’s life and pushing through trials HERE.
Julius Levin—commonly called Julo by those who knew him—was born on September 5, 1901, in Stettin, Germany. His Jewish family had hoped that he would become a businessman, thereby having a successful and stable life… but he loved art. It was his gift from God.
By the age of 6, Julo had managed to collect more than 3,000 pictures of varied subject matter. He was enraptured by the call God placed on his life and chose to go to art school despite his family’s disappointment. He graduated from art school in 1926.
Read more about Julo’s amazing artistic gift and his attempt to pass it on to others HERE.
Born July 1, 1914, in Vienna, Austria, Wilhelm was the first of 2 children born to Jewish parents, Josef and Ida Edelstein.
During WWI, just after Wilhelm’s birth, Josef was called to fight. During this time, Ida and Wilhelm went to live with Ida’s relatives in Prague—her hometown—in an effort to protect Wilhelm and avoid massive food shortages.
At the end of the war, Josef returned to his business in Vienna and the family reunited… Not long after, Josef and Ida had a daughter, Alice.
Life was pleasant. Wilhelm began working for his father, and despite growing anti-Semitism, they faced little opposition… but it would not last.
Wilhelm’s existence was filled with trials, but he held on to hope. Read more about his amazing perseverance HERE.
These are only a few stories of the 6 million lost…
Every life deserves to be honored and every story heard. The sad part is that so many lives that were lost during the Holocaust were disgraced, degraded, and dishonored.
Can you identify with any of the lives mentioned above?
Maybe you came from a well-off family or have a baby sister you remember protecting from a bully as a kid. Now imagine your family being ripped from the life you knew, or the bully being so big that your protection alone can’t hold up.
This is what the victims of the Holocaust endured. Something we can only begin to understand as we read their stories.
It isn’t fair. It isn’t just—but we have a chance to sow honor back into their lives and back into history this Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Plant a Tree—Honor Their Memory
Trees hold powerful symbolism in Jewish culture. In Jewish tradition, it is customary to plant a tree every time a child is born. There are numerous reasons to plant trees in Israel, but today it’s about honoring a life.
It is saddening to hear and see the emotional anguish that the Jewish people dealt with daily, for years, during the Holocaust. Many survivors alive today question why they survived when their family and friends were horrifically murdered. They deal with the ever-present battle of remorse and guilt in their minds.
When they hear of you planting trees to honor their loved ones, tears stream down their aged faces. Their eyes have seen horror, but the tears that fill them when they hear of the love you’ve shared are joyful.
We ask you to consider planting a tree in memory of a life lost in the Holocaust today. Let us never forget and always honor.
Go HERE to find out more!