The pledge to “never forget” takes on a special meaning for certain Holocaust survivors because they only have faded memories, or none at all, of parents they lost as young children.
When her parents, Pipha and Zvi Herschman, were murdered in Nazi-occupied Poland, Leah Nebenzahl was a girl.
As the adopted daughter of a Christian couple, the Jewish girl, saved by a priest who put her in an orphanage run by nuns, survived World War Two.
On Wednesday, the survivors of the Holocaust are marking the 76th anniversary of the Soviet troops’ liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.
The stories and pictures of Jewish young people, some of them orphans like Leah, who were put in seven children’s homes for survivors in post-war Europe, are part of a new online exhibition by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, “My Lost Childhood.”
In Israel, the United States, Canada, Latin America and other countries, many were reunited with relatives and went on to live their lives.
Nebenzahl held up a photograph of herself as a baby in her Jerusalem home. After her birth in 1942, her mother sent it to the infant’s grandmother.
“She signs as if she was me: ‘Leah Herschman’ – and that’s how I learned my name that was given to me by my parents. This is the only source. That’s why this is a historic photograph,” she said.
Another photograph shows a woman clutching a baby.
“There is no doubt that I am the baby, and I assume that the woman who holds me is my mother, but it’s not very clear because nothing was written (on the back of the photo),” she said.
Leah’s aunt discovered, after the war, that her sister had given birth.
After Leah was briefly placed in one of the children’s homes featured in the Yad Vashem exhibit, the aunt won a court custody dispute against the adoptive parents in Poland and took the child to Israel in 1949.
Nebenzahl, now a great-grandmother, faces new threats from a coronavirus pandemic that has especially threatened the elderly.
But she said she was always keeping fast to the slogan of her life – “to turn darkness into light and bitter into sweet.”