The Auschwitz death camp: Chaya Hollander is sent to work in the kitchen and cook for Nazi officers. They taste her food, enjoy it and ask for more. That's what saved her life. Now, several years after her death, the booklet containing the recipes which helped her survive the Holocaust has been found.
Hollander, who was born in Hungary, loved spending hours watching her mother cook in the kitchen. No one knew at the time that that is what will later save her life.
During World War II, Hollander was transferred with her parents and four siblings to the Auschwitz concentration camp. She and one of her brothers were sent to work in the kitchen, where they prepare Nazi officers' meals.
Hollander began by peeling potatoes and later went on to do the cooking, frying and baking. The Nazi officers found her dishes particularly tasty and inquired who had prepared them. Once they discovered the identity of the talented cook, Hollander basically received a life insurance, perhaps without even being aware of it.
Her brother, who did not cook so well, was not as lucky: He was shot to death in the kitchen, in front of her eyes.
"It was a terrible shock for her, but she told us later on that she knew and understood very well that if she messed up the quality of the cooking – and if the food was not tasty enough – her fate would be as bitter as her brother's," one of Hollander's family members says. "She demonstrated moral strength and continued her work with excellence."
Hollander's parents and the rest of her siblings were also murdered in Auschwitz. She was the only one from the family to survive – thanks to her cooking skills.
After the war ended she immigrated to Israel, settled in the town of Kfar Yona, got married and started a family. Over the years she prepared a booklet with the recipes she concocted in Auschwitz.
In Israel, Hollander worked for years as head of the kitchen at the Amal school in her town. This time, though vastly different, she cooked for Israeli students – doing it with all her heart. "My recipes saved my life," she told the students as she unveiled her fascinating and exciting story.
Hollander passed away several years ago at the age of 83. Her husband, Binyamin, died many years earlier. She was survived by two children, six grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.
Recently, while going through her belongings, her family members were excited to find her recipe booklet, which she had written in Hungarian. The booklet contains dozens of recipes, and now the family is looking for a chef who is fluent in Hungarian and will be able to translate it as accurately as possible. Afterwards, the family plans to publish a booklet in memory of their beloved grandmother with her special recipes.
One of Hollander's grandchildren, 34-year-old Matan Herbert of Netanya, who is married and has a baby boy, shares his grandmother's love for cooking. Today he works as the chef of an Italian restaurant called Fornello in the central town of Kadima. He says he plans to include dishes inspired by his grandmother's recipes in the restaurant's menu.
"Grandmother's fine cooking – the soups, the meatballs, the fritters – that's what kept her alive. We will create modern dishes inspired by grandmother's cooking, which reflect her past," he says.