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Israel’s president hosts Kindertransport survivors on 85th anniversary of rescue operation

One of the survivors in attendance was forced to flee her home again, this time because of the Hamas terrorists attacks in Israel on Oct. 7.

Kindertransport and Oct. 7 survivor Mirjam Szpiro with President Isaac Herzog and first lady Michal Herzog, and chairman of the International March of the Living Shmuel Roseman, in Jerusalem on Jan. 24, 2024. Photo by Haim Zach/GPO.
Kindertransport and Oct. 7 survivor Mirjam Szpiro with President Isaac Herzog and first lady Michal Herzog, and chairman of the International March of the Living Shmuel Roseman, in Jerusalem on Jan. 24, 2024. Photo by Haim Zach/GPO.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog hosted Holocaust survivors at his residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday, including 10 Jews saved from Nazi persecution during World War II by the Kindertransport rescue operation launched 85 years ago.

The gathering took place three days before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, an annual U.N.-designated event commemorating the six million Jews and others murdered by the German Nazi regime and its accomplices.

One of the survivors attending with her family was Mirjam Szpiro, 88, who as a child was rescued from Nazi Germany in 1938 by the Kindertransport (German for “children’s transport”), which brought thousands of Jewish children to Britain in the years following the Kristallnacht pogroms of Nov. 9 and 10, 1938.

Szpiro was again evacuated from her home after the Oct. 7 massacre by Hamas terrorists in southern Israel, having to leave Kibbutz Zikim on the Gaza border.

“We had been told we had to evacuate and suddenly I had déjà vu. I was standing there, an 88-year-old woman outside her home, and I suddenly remembered the 3-year-old girl I was. I didn’t remember these things before, the emotions, but suddenly I was back there. And this is the second time I leave my house,” she said.

She added: “I hope we can return soon. The house was not damaged, and even the tree I planted in the yard two weeks before the war survived.”

Tens of thousands of Israelis were internally displaced from their homes in the south and the north following the Hamas assault and ensuing war in Gaza, which Hezbollah in Lebanon joined in support of Hamas.

The other Kindertransport survivors in attendance were Aliza Tenenbaum, Tova Gorfine, Henry Foner, Walter Bingham, professor Daniel Reis, Paul Alexander, Frieda Schalkowski, George Shefi and Barry Davis, son of the late Ruth Davis.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog and first lady Michal Herzog host Holocaust survivors at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on Jan. 24, 2024. Photo by Haim Zach/GPO.

‘This day is about educating the world’

The event was held in partnership with the International March of the Living and was also attended by first lady Michal Herzog.

“This is a truly moving event. It is moving to see survivors after 85 years, to hear the personal stories of each and every one of you, and the Zionist story of each and every one of you, but it is especially moving because of the period in which we find ourselves,” said Herzog.

“International Holocaust Memorial Day is not only about remembering the past, it is about our shared responsibility to the present and the future. We have with us survivors of the Holocaust, those who were forced from their homes and taken away from their families because of the Nazis—and to our great sorrow, were witness to the horrors of Oct. 7, and were once again, displaced from their homes,” the president continued.

“This day is about educating the whole world about the dangers of hatred and antisemitism in particular. We have seen where this can lead—and on Oct. 7, we got a terrible and painful reminder.” 

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