“On this Yom Hashoah it is even more important to listen to Holocaust survivors sitting alone in their homes and leverage every means of technology at our disposal to make sure their voices and memories are heard,” Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Isaac Herzog said.
Courtesy Israel Government Press Office
While official in-person ceremonies are canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak, The Jewish Agency for Israel will host a special virtual Yom HaShoah event, bringing Jews around the world together to hear from Holocaust survivor Leah Hason.
Her heartbreaking story will be presented on the organization’s Facebook page and will be broadcast in eight languages as part of The Jewish Agency’s Shlichut Institute program, together with the “Zikaron BaSalon” (Memories in the Living Room) Project.
The broadcast will conclude with a somber song from Israeli singer-songwriter Harel Skaat. At the end of the program, Jewish Agency shlichim (emissaries) will hold virtual discussions with their respective communities to discuss the emotional story.
Hason’s testimony will be broadcast on Facebook live in Hebrew with French subtitles on Holocaust Remembrance Day Eve (Monday) at 21:00 PM IST. Then on Tuesday, the testimony will be broadcast at 20:00 EDT on The Jewish Agency’s English page with Spanish subtitles.
Additionally, as part of the Shlichut Institute program, Jewish Agency shlichim will present the video to their respective communities where it will be translated to Portuguese, Russian, Italian and Greek so world Jewry can appreciate Hasson’s words in their native languages.
Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog noted that considering today’s climate of isolation – especially among the elderly – hearing testimonies from Holocaust survivors is more important than ever.
“With physical face-to-face encounters put on hold for now, on this Yom Hashoah it is even more important to listen to Holocaust survivors sitting alone in their homes and leverage every means of technology at our disposal to make sure their voices and memories are heard,” Herzog said.
“As we lose more and more Holocaust survivors each year, it is our responsibility to convey the memory of the Holocaust and continue to tell their story from generation to generation,” he added.
Of all the members of her immediate family, only Hason and her mother were able to escape Nazi brutality.
“We were the only ones who survived. Everyone else was murdered. It was an avalanche of death – I saw huge puddles of blood around me. We waited until they were satisfied that no Jew was left alive and it was only then I realized – I no longer have a cousin,” she recalled.
Hason was only four years old when her father was taken to a concentration camp where he was murdered. Then, together with her mother, the two managed to escape the Jewish ghettos and hid in both a pig barn and desolate forests until the war was over.
They were finally rescued by the Russian army in 1945. Hason and her mother then spent three years as refugees until they finally were able to make Aliyah in 1948 and settled in Kibbutz Mizra in Northern Israel.
In the broadcast, Herzog will also share his own personal connection to the Holocaust. He will discuss how his father (and Israel’s sixth president), Chaim Herzog, was a combat officer in the British Army during WWII. As a young man, the elder Herzog was one of the first soldiers to set foot in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and liberate those imprisoned there.
“My father often repeated his experience and how he came face to face with survivors in the camp,” Herzog said. “To this day, I still remember his words vividly and when I meet Holocaust survivors, many of whom are now living their last days alone in nursing homes, I recall his harrowing experience in Bergen-Belsen.”
“Zikaron BaSalon” is a social initiative that allows Holocaust survivors to share their stories with subsequent generations from the comfort of a living room. Often, a joint discussion follows the survivor’s testimony.
The founder of the initiative, Adi Altschuler, who also launched the Krembo Wings youth movement, was selected to be one of the torch lighters in this year’s Independence Day ceremony.