Over the years, Yad Vashem has been dedicated to both commemorating those that were murdered in the Shoah, as well as educating future generations throughout Israel and the world about what took place. One of the programs that Yad Vashem has recently developed in this vein is the Bar/Bat Mitzvah program.
Left to right: Haviva Peled-Carmeli, Debbie Berman, her mother and Emma Berman
A few weeks ago, I was privileged to witness a very special Bat Mitzvah ceremony at the Yad Vashem Synagogue. Twelve-year-old Emma Berman not only participated in Yad Vashem’s Bat Mitzvah Twinning program, but Emma, her mother, and grandmother, also donated a very special artifact to Yad Vashem’s Senior Artifacts Curator, Haviva Peled-Carmeli. This special artifact is a dress that belonged to both Emma’s grandmother during the war and Emma as a little girl – a dress that has since witnessed both suffering and happiness.
Emma’s great-grandmother, Emma Salgo nee Steinberg, whom she is named after, was born to a family of 7 in Balmazuvarois, Hungary on February 20, 1914. She later married Haim Salgo and started a family of her own. Haim and Emma then moved to Budapest where their two children, Robbi and Shoshana were born.
The Salgo family lived peacefully in Budapest until 1944, when the Germans invaded Hungary. While Haim was able to escape to Switzerland and the two children were hidden in Budapest, Emma was taken to the Kaufering labor camp, a sub camp of Dachau, in Germany in November 1944.
Emma managed to keep one of her daughter’s dresses throughout the entire period she was interred at Kaufering. This red dress continuously provided Emma with strength and a glimmer of hope that her living nightmare would end and she would one day return to her family.
During the moving Bat Mitzvah ceremony recently Yad Vashem, Emma also spoke about Emma Vadnai, a young girl from Hungary murdered by the Nazis, who she was twinned with to mark the occasion. At the conclusion of the event, Emma and her mother, Debbie Berman (a project Coordinator for Yad Vashem's Shoah Victims' Names Recovery Project), donated the little dress to Yad Vashem.
Debbie explained, “Many years later, before I moved to Israel, my mother gave me her little red dress, which I have kept all these years. When my daughter Emma was a baby I dressed her in the dress.
Berman convinced her mother to donate the dress to Yad Vashem as she realized that the dress was starting to fall apart.