A prisoner's jacket from Auschwitz, a food bowl from Treblinka, metal pins worn by the Jewish ghetto police, hundreds of postcards from concentration camps and a yellow patch – these are just some of the items exhibited by Holocaust surviving couple Yaakov and Irena Wodzislawski, who have dedicated their lives and private home to the commemoration of the mass slaughter of Jews by the Nazis during World War II.
The two were recently informed that they had won a lifetime achievement award on behalf of Yad Vashem,
Holocaust memorial museum and archive, but Yaakov died several days later and will not get to hold the prize in his hands.
The couple turned their entire four-story private home in the city of Ariel into a Holocaust memorial museum dedicated to testimonies, which contains hundreds of items they collected.
Thousands of teenagers and soldiers have visited the place on a daily basis. With a smile on their faces, the couple would invite them into their home and tell them about their experiences during the Holocaust, using pictures and letters of Jews from concentration camps to demonstrate their stories. At the end of the emotional lectures, they would serve their listeners drinks and cookies.
About a month ago, they were officially recognized for their unusual work and were informed that they had won a prize for excellence in the field of Holocaust studies on behalf of Yad Vashem. But Yaakov, who came up with the idea to set up a private museum, passed away several days after receiving the news.
Irena Wodzislawski received the prize from Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies on behalf of her husband.
"I miss him very much," she said. "He was sick for a long time and was informed of the prize just several days before he passed away. He told me it was a little too late.
I vowed to continue his work, and the house will remain open and serve as a museum for children who will arrive to see what we all experienced."
"We chose to honor the Wodzislawski couple, who sought to devote their lives and home out of a sense of mission," said Sarit Hoch-Markovitz, director of teacher training at Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies. "We regret the fact that Yaakov could not make it to the ceremony."