Amnon Zilbershpitz survived the horrors of the Nazi genocide only to lose his life four years later during Israel's War of Independence. In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, two Israeli artists decided to document Zilbershpitz's tragic life in a short, animated film.
The animated short was produced as part of the "Face. Day. Memorial", a project that turns the memories of fallen Israeli soldiers - including Holocaust survivors - into animated stories, which are being showcased by the Beit Avi Chai cultural center in Jerusalem.
Zilbershpitz was born in 1924 to a wealthy family of five, in the northern Transylvania city of Sargasso in Romania. After Germany and Italy’s victories in the area, Nazi-occupied Hungary received control over the region, where strict anti-Semitic laws were imposed.
The Jewish population in the region was placed in local synagogues, stripped of their valuables and forced to wear the infamous, yellow “Jude” badge. Like all the region’s Jews, Amnon and his family were transferred to one of the ghettos before being eventually deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland.
Upon his arrival, Amnon was separated from his parents and siblings, whom he never saw again and who were murdered at the death camp. Amonon was later sent to a labor camp, a move which eventually saved his life.
After the liberation of death camps by the Red Army, Amnon made his way to newborn State of Israel in 1946. His first stop in the Promised Land was Kibbutz Dorot - located in southern Israel - where he eventually met a woman who would become his fiancé, Sarah Novoplansky.
Amnon's happiness, however, was short-lived. In 1948, the War of Independence broke out 24-year-old Amnon was drafted to the Givati Brigade, where he was part of the brigade’s 52nd Battalion, which was sent to occupy Beit Guvrin - a site captured by Jordanian forces and the Egyptian army.
During one of the battles, Amnon was killed by a bullet that hit his neck, while he was protecting his comrades who were operating a machine gun.
Years later, Sarah recounted that she had heard the news of her fiance's death accidentaly.
"No one bothered to inform me that Amnon had fallen in battle," she said. "No one thought of looking for his girlfriend. Back then, I remember I went to a seminar and someone passed by me and did not say hello. Then I noticed that all the girls are standing there silently. It was then that I realized something bad had happened.”
Amnon’s story is now immortalized via a short, animated film “She’erit (Remnant)”, which was created by artists Shimon Engel and Ofer Winter from the Dov Abramson Studio.
"Beyond what [Amnon] looked like, we did not know much about him," Winter admits. "We knew that he spoke several languages, that he met Sarah, came to the kibbutz, met some veterans there and was a new immigrant. We could only imagine how a person feels in such a situation," he added.
"The research [on Amnon] that was available to us was light on information, because there was no one to talk to about Amnon," Engel said. "We went back to historical images from that time-period in Europe: the ghetto, the kibbutz, and from there we asked for visual elements.”
The circumstances of Amnon's death are tragic, but there were nearly 150 other Holocaust survivors with a similar fate. They remained the last surviving members of their respective families, experienced firsthand the horrors of the Holocaust, and upon arrival in Israel, enlisted in the army - where they perished protecting their new home.
Information regarding Amnon was provided by “The Last Remnant” project, which seeks to commemorate Holocaust survivors who immigrated to Israel and were killed as soldiers without any family.
The project was the initiative of Yehuda Sternfeld, himself a survivor of the Lodz ghetto and the Auschwitz camp, whose entire family perished in the Holocaust.