Monday, March 12, 2012

Last letter from the Holocaust

Since launching the "Gathering the Fragments" Campaign last year, fascinating stories have come to light as more than 40,000 items, documents, diaries, photographs and artworks have been collected for preservation and safekeeping from 2,600 people.  In one case, at a collection day in the northern coastal city of Netanya, an elderly gentleman brought the old tefilin (used by religious Jewish men during prayer) of his father.  His father had - against the odds - kept and used these precious items throughout the war.  In another case that same day, a woman brought photo albums full of pictures of her parents and their friends on the eve of the war.

Stories abound.   The last letters received by Otto Hershtick who was a forced laborer in Hungary, from his father, bring tears to the eyes.  "My own, my dear, don't be angry and don't feel bad:  I am writing to you my last letter," begins one written in April 1944. "On Shabbat [Saturday] afternoon they announced that Jewish are not allowed to leave their homes.  All day there were rumours that the ghetto will be established... we hoped that these were false rumours, but at 6:30 on Sunday morning, police and soldiers knocked on our door.  They stole the silver, and our last bit of money... My dear son, what awaits us in the ghetto? To starve to death? They have condemned us to death!... Dear Otto, we are all in the bedroom, Mother and your two sisters, screaming, crying.  I am writing this letter with tears in my eyes.  I hope that even if we will be killed you will manage to stay alive.  Surely there will be a new world and you will live happily.  Forget us.  May God help you on the path to happiness, from which we must leave.  My dear son, I have one request, also in the name of Mother and your sisters:  Never forget that you were born Jewish.  Remain Jewish, and in 100 years, die Jewish."

The letter continues with prayers that God will protect Otto, and information as to where the family was able to leave a few personal items.  His sisters also added a few words.  Otto's parents and sisters were murdered in Auschwitz.  Otto survived and today lives in Tel Aviv.

More stories can be seen here.

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