Survivors voice their concern over the rise of antisemitism

Holocaust survivors reflect on the October 7 effect


Harry Olmer

The events of the past three months since October 7 have weighed heavily on the mind of 93-year old Auschwitz survivor Yisroel Abelesz.

“I’m very much worried. I can’t sleep because of it, because of the fate of Israel and the fate of the Jews generally,” he said after attending a ceremony to mark Holocaust Memorial Day at Jewish Care’s Holocaust Survivors Centre in Golders Green on Tuesday.

He can remember the day he arrived at Auschwitz after being deported from Hungary and coming face to face with the notorious Dr Mengele in the selection process.

“He asked me how old I was. I said, ‘I am 14 and today is my birthday.’ He gave me a big smile and he sent me among the living.”

The “unexplainable” surge in antisemitism in recent times has come as a shock to him.

“I spoke in schools, in communities and I took people to Auschwitz to show it to them.

“I felt over the years that antisemitism is the past,” he said. The whole world is against Israel, he felt.

Another survivor originally from Hungary, Susan Pollack, also 93, who was also sent to Auschwitz and was later liberated from Bergen-Belsen, was conscious too of the growth in antisemitism.

If only people “studied what history teaches us and appreciate what Judaism has taught to the world – to be kind and helpful and to be decent to each other”, she sighed.

She said she is “absolutely heartbroken” about recent events, in particular “why the democratic nations don’t help to subdue Hamas”.

And it was time, she said, that people looked at themselves and asked: “How would I behave under the circumstances of the Israelis, and the children murdered and still being held?”

But it was only when people were attacked themselves, she felt, that “they will speak up and say enough is enough of this message of hate”.

Harry Olmer, 96, who grew up in Silesia and endured five years of slave labour at Theresienstadt, was still in mourning for his wife, Margaret, a Kindertransport refugee from Austria, who died aged 93, just ten days earlier.

He said the situation post-October 7 has been “absolutely terrible” and the presence of antisemitism in Britain and across the world was “worrying”.

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