In the week of HMD 2023 I was privileged to have been able to share the stories of four Slovak Jewish Survivors (Gerta Vrbova, Sara Kraus-Lefkovitz, Trude Silman and Gertrud Friedmann) in the in the AJR Refugee Voices Archive at Belsize Square Synagogue the annual HMD commemoration by the Association for Jewish Refugees. Above is a photograph of His Excellency Róbert Ondrejcsák (right), the Slovak ambassador in the UK, who talked about the importance of Holocaust remembrance in Slovakia, Michael Newman, Chief executive of the AJR (left) and Dr Bea Lewkowicz, Director, AJR Refugee Voices testimony Archive (middle).
I talked in more detail about the story of my mother Dr Gertrud Friedmann and how she, her parents, and her sister Edith assumed false identities and managed to stay alive from 1942-1945, when more than 70,000 Jews were deported from Slovakia and murdered. Gertrud and her family were in Zilina in 1944, when, just after her 15th birthday in April, she was asked to bring food to two men who were sheltered in the Jewish Old Age Home. She did not know that the two men, Fredi Wetzler and Rudi Vrba had escaped from Auschwitz to warn the world. But she did recall that when she entered the room the two men looked at her in amazement and said: There are still Jewish children here? After the war, Fredi married my mother’s cousin Eta and became the witness at her wedding in 1964 to my father Josef Lewkowicz, who had survived six concentration camps. The photo above is of their wedding, and you can see Fredi Wetzler on the right.
On this HMD 2023 I remember the bravery of Fredi and Rudi and I remember the bravery of all Holocaust survivors, who built new lives after the war, whose lives were radically changed through the trauma and losses they experienced, and who continue to talk to the world about these experiences in order to make it ‘a better world’.