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Michael Rozen

Shifra Zaydel-forgotten Heroine of Holocaust

(Chronicle of one life)


Chapter one. Hostel for Elderly Repatriates on the Shores of the Haifa Bay

Chapter two. Shifra, Khesya and "Money of Auschwitz"

Chapter three. Terrible road through death

Chapter four. An unexpected meeting

Chapter five. A bit of human happiness

Chapter six. Sad end



Chapter one. Hostel for Elderly Repatriates on the Shores of the Haifa Bay

In a small Israeli town, Kiryat-Yam, on the shores of the Haifa Bay, there is a multi-story shelter for elderly repatriates,

The hostel was built with funds from the American millionaire Feinberg. His bust adorns the lobby of the building. Residents of this shelter, elderly couples and lonely old people who do not have the opportunity to maintain their own apartment. They huddle in 15-meter rooms and exist on a small allowance.

The hostel was built many years ago. Initially, its inhabitants were lonely old men and old women who miraculously survived the Catastrophe. They were lonely, because all their family members died in the camps and ghettos. Years went by. The prisoners of the ghettos and concentration camps gradually went into a "better world." They were quietly buried, and new tenants came to their place.

After the start of mass repatriation from the former USSR, the hostel was settled by the elderly couples of “Rusim”. (So in Israel they call repatriates from the former USSR). These couples, for the most part, were not alone. They had adult children and grandchildren. However, the “kids” of these old people chose to leave their parents in the care of the Israeli state, while they themselves went further to the countries of the West, looking for a better fate. Some of these “kids” remained in Israel, but preferred to love their parents “at a distance”, because housing fees in Israel grew and grew every year, and in the Hostel for repatriate’s old men, the room charge was moderate.

Chapter two. Shifra, Khesya and "Money of Auschwitz"

Shifra Zaydel was one of the last tenants of the Hostel, which really were the real victims of the Holocaust. She went through all the horrors of the Kaunas ghetto and miraculously survived. My acquaintance with Shifra happened under strange circumstances. On a hot July afternoon, I walked through a stunted park located not far from the polyclinic, which in Israel is called “Kupat kholim Klalit” (general polyclinic). Because of the heat, the park was deserted. Suddenly I saw a neatly dressed old woman sitting alone on a bench, in the sun itself, with her head down. I helped her up and sat her on a bench in the shade. She, barely moving her tongue, told me that she had come from the clinic after the procedures and her legs suddenly “buckled up” and she literally fell on the bench. I realized that the elderly woman is in a critical condition, and called an ambulance, which in Israel is called Magen-David . For about a month, Shifra lay in the Rambam hospital in Haifa. In addition to a severe heart attack, she had fractures and bruises. The treatment at the hospital did not bring Shifra much relief. She found it very difficult to serve herself. While social workers search a person to serve the Shifra, in Hebrew the person call “metapelet”. I helped to Shifra, in shopping and helped her in cleaning the room.

I was surprised why social workers, serving the hostel, do not show proper wish when solving this problem. After all, she is a “prisoner of the ghetto” and even she was sent congratulatory telegrams in the holidays. I did not want to ask Shifra, but she herself told me about it.

Shifra at the Hostel was a close friend Khesya. They talked among themselves in Hebrew. They came from Zionist families and studied Hebrew in childhood. The old women went to the Ashkenazi synagogue, (the synagogue of European Jews) where they prayed and commemorated their loved ones who died in the fire of the Holocaust. They were of the same age, and their fate had much in common, although they lived, before Israel, in various parts of Europe. Shifra in Lithuania, and Khesya in Hungary. Khesya also miraculously survived the Catastrophe. Shifra and Khesya, after the war, created families and had a happy family life. Over time, they remained widows and repatriated to Israel.

Shifra repatriated to Israel alone, her adopted son remained in Lithuania. Khesya arrived in Israel with an adult son and an adult daughter with a family. However, for some reason, the children of Khesya did not like life in Israel, and they went further to Canada. Mother was left at the hostel, temporarily. It is known that nothing is more permanent than temporary.

Khesya’s children in Canada lived good. Probably, they were sometimes tormented by conscience, and they sent out “dear mother” for birthdays and Jewish holidays a hundred - two hundreds of dollars. Khesya was actually did not need this money. She, for health reasons, could only eat vegetables and dairy products, and this was benefit was enough. She, as a prisoner of a concentration camp, received housing, social services and medicine almost free of charge. With time, Khesya’s health condition deteriorated, and the number of dollars received from children increased, and amounted to a round sum. Khesya had an idea, which she shared only with her friend Shifra.

The family where Khesya was born was large and friendly, she had beloved parents, several brothers, sisters, a grandmother and grandfather, and even an elderly great-grandfather. They all burned in the furnaces of Auschwitz in 1944. Khesya survived only because she was sent to a labor camp. She decided to keep the memory of her family in Israel. She told Shifra about this decision. The essence of this decision was that when she dies, not a regular gravestone should be installed on her grave, but a stela. On this stela, besides the name of Khesya, the names of all her relatives who died in Auschwitz should be written in Hebrew. She and Shifra went together to a minister in Hevrat Kadisha (Hevrat Kadisha is a religious organization that runs all the cemeteries and graves of Jews in Israel). The attendant approved such desires of Khesya, and even named the approximate amount that such a monument would cost. Khesya made a balance of her savings. It turned out that there will be enough dollars.

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