In Israel, Yom HaShoah is not just a day of memorials, ceremonies, sirens, and stopped traffic. It's also a day to listen to the stories of those who survived. There are not many Holocaust survivors still living, and every year there are fewer. Meanwhile, we often fall into the trap, however grim, of focusing on the statistics, how many were killed in each concentration camp, each city, each country.
But just one survivor story can make us powerfully comprehend the experience of the Holocaust. The Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museums both have first-person testimonials to view.
Here are a few notable stories published by Israeli newspapers in the past day:
Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid (from his speech at the ceremony in Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot, the Ghetto Fighters' Kibbutz, via Yediot Achronoth)
"It was the winter of 1945 and Budapest was under attack with the Russians nearing. My father lived in a ghetto basement with 600 other people. At this point they are surviving off of dead horses they would find in the streets."
Esther Sky, 92, who has donated NIS 1.3 million, the largest donation in Israel's history, to the Baruch Padeh Medical Center - Poriya Hospital in Tiberias (Jerusalem Post)
"They marched her entire family into the market square and shot them... Sky was spared the fate of her family and relocated to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Upon her arrival to the camp... she was stripped down and made to stand in the cold until icicles formed in her hair—in order to show what happens to those who would disobey orders."
Former Shin Bet chief and Minister Avi Dichter (Israel Hayom)
"My mother raised her hand without a word of warning and slapped my across my face... and said, 'Don't you ever dare comb your hair like that. Only Hitler combed his hair that way.'
'Who is Hitler?' I asked naively.... Who is Hitler?!' she said...' Hitler was responsible for the fact that you don't have grandparents or aunts and uncles or a family like the other children.'"