Reuven Bronzberg and Sarah Zamir

A Profile of two Holocaust Survivors

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Posted on: 
7 Jun 2011
Reuven Bronzberg and Sarah Zamir

When he was only six years, Reuven Bronzberg recalls that Joseph Mengele paid a visit to the beleaguered Warsaw Ghetto. That day, he witnessed the evil Nazi doctor rip a new-born Jewish infant apart with his bare hands. Such are Reuven’s childhood memories.

Soon after, the rest of Reuven’s family were deported and he suddenly found himself all alone. He fled before the Warsaw ghetto uprising and was taken in by some partisans operating in the Polish forests. They quickly put him to use.

The partisans were planning to bomb a nearby train station on a line where Jews were being transported to concentration camps. They tied a pistol to Reuven’s hand and taped his finger on the trigger, to make sure he would fire it properly. Then he was told to walk up to an unsuspecting German guard and shoot.

“I raised the gun, pulled my finger back and started running. I did not stay around to see if he was shot”, said Reuven. “But I heard an explosion and that meant no more trains for a while.”

This was all too heavy for young Reuven, so he was hidden with a Christian woman in the basement of her farm house.

“I was eight years old and finally had the first taste of real milk in my life”, he recalled. “Without that lady, I would have died. I owe my life to her and to God.”

He spent months on end in the basement, cooped up with ducks and other farm animals and sleeping in a pile of hay until the end of the war.

Even with Germany defeated, Reuven experienced hostility against Jewish refugees in post-war Poland. Still only eleven years old and on his own, he survived by taking food handouts from the Joint Distribution Committee and selling it on the black market. Somehow, the JDC was also able to locate his parents alive in a Soviet camp in faraway Siberia and they were reunited.

Reuven made aliyah to Israel on a ship from Italy in 1948 and immediately joined the fight against Egyptian forces at Yad Mordechai, near Ashdod.

Today, Reuven is 78, retired, and lives in Haifa near the survivor’s home. He comes daily to eat lunch and be with fellow survivors. He was recently given a joyous bar mitzvah ceremony at the home’s synagogue – some 65 years late. He hopes to soon become a full-fledged resident of the Haifa Home.

Sarah Zamir
Haifa Home resident Sarah Zamir was born under the name Ilse Böhm in January 1928 near Breslau, Germany (part of Poland today). Sarah’s family were observant Jews and her father worked as an attorney.

In 1939, Sarah, her parents, her brother, her grandmother and one of her aunts fled Nazi persecution for Belgium. They arrived in Antwerp as refugees, and thus were not allowed to work. They were even arrested for a while. With hostilities already declared against Hitler’s regime, Sarah’s father was transferred to a camp in southern France because he had fought on the German side in World War I. Sarah never saw him again.

The German army invaded Belgium in May 1940, and Sarah and other local Jews were eventually put into forced labour camps. One could survive in these camps, Sarah recalls, but there was little food and many workers starved to death.

She was 14 years old when her family was finally deported. Her mother and brother later died in a concentration camp, most likely in Auschwitz. But Sarah had been hidden by Belgian Catholics who helped her secure a new identity. She had blonde hair and blue eyes, making it easier for her to pose as a non-Jew. But she was always afraid of being ‘discovered’, especially after her foster family began receiving hate mail warning, “We know you are hiding a Jewish girl!”

So Sarah was enrolled in a private boarding school for girls, where she remained until the Germans were driven out of Belgium in autumn of 1944.

As the Second World War came to an end, Sarah was still only a teenager and decided to stay on with her Catholic foster family and work in their business. But some of the fellow workers were anti-Semitic and berated her host family for helping Jews. The Catholic family offered to adopt Sarah but she did not want to change religions. So some Jewish friends advised her to move to Eretz Israel.

Sarah registered for aliya and arrived in Mandate Palestine in late 1945 as part of a Zionist youth group. In 1953, Sarah married Asher Zamir. Before he passed away, the couple had six children, numerous grandchildren, plus four great grandchildren at last count.

At least once a month, family members now come to visit Sarah in the Haifa Home for Holocaust survivors. She moved into the home because her small retirement and widow’s pensions could not meet all her living expenses and medical bills.

Sarah is quite comfortable and happy to be living at the Haifa Home. “The most important thing is to have people around you and that you get help”, she says.

The special ICEJ AID project to renovate and expand the Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors is still on-going, so please consider what you can give to help further enlarge the survivors’ facility and cover its operating costs. To make your best donation today, please CLICK HERE!


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