Over the past few years, 82-year-old Shlomo Ronen has contacted a few Tel Aviv high schools requesting to come and speak to students about the Holocaust
in general, and specifically about his own, personal story.
He suggested speaking to the students about the way in which he evaded the Nazis within occupied Europe and did not ask the schools for anything in return, save a ride to and from his lectures.
However, his offer went unanswered and no one from any of the schools called him back. "Maybe they don't want me to tell them how a Jewish woman strangled her baby with her own hands so that it won't cry and reveal our (hiding) place," said Ronen.
In his opinion, they did not answer him for fear of hearing about the atrocities or due to a lack of desire to deal with what they seemingly do not have to. While being interviewed, he refused to detail what he endured from the moment the Nazis occupied his town of Trembowla, Galicia.
'All they know is Auschwitz.' Ronen (Photo: Yaron Brener)
However, a detailed account of his story appears in the book he wrote and published on the internet in Hebrew and English, "Tlebanowka Hill of Death," which tells of the Nazi
invasion of his town, the collapse of his family, life in the ghetto and his escape to the forests.
"The Holocaust is a lot more than today's adolescents can take," he said. "They simply don't want to hear. I endured horrible things there, horrible."
Photo: Yaron Brener
Ronen believes that today's youth is uninterested in this subject but that it must be part of all mandatory studies. "The Holocaust must be studied just like the Bible is studied. It must be passed down from father to son for thousands of years," he told Ynet.
Ronen lives in a one-room apartment with three cats and shares a kitchen with his neighbor. He receives a weekly food package from the Association of Immediate Help for Holocaust Survivors, which lasts him a week. The association also sends him food for the cats he is raising, because otherwise "he will simply give his food to (the cats) and remain hungry without saying a word," said one of the association's volunteers.
The volunteers are virtually the only people who call him. He hasn't spoken to his family for a long time. One son died of diabetes two years ago and his two daughters became religious and take orders from the rabbi who forbids them to speak to their father. Even his 13 grandchildren do not call to say, "grandpa, how are you?" or wish him a happy holiday.
Ronen is not angry or embittered, he simply would like to utilize the time he has left to share his experiences and teach youth about the Holocaust. According to him "all they know about the Holocaust is Auschwitz and the Warsaw Ghetto
and that is just because they need to learn about it for their matriculation exams.
"I want to tell them face to face…what we endured. We walked naked through the forests, we cleared piles of corpses, we were hungry and not like the programs you see on television, in which you are told that a million and a half children in Israel
are hungry. That's hungry? Do you know what hunger is? Turn off the television already. I am already old and sick, but whoever wants to come to me, to talk, to listen – my door is open and I am the best host in the world," said Ronen.
The Association of Immediate Help for Holocaust Survivors, which assists Shlomo and many other Holocaust survivors, is in need of volunteers, food, medicine and gas. They can be contacted at: 03-5257888 or on Facebook.