Ben-Zion Hadar, a Holocaust survivor who is known as the youngest member of a group of kids who sold cigarettes in Warsaw in order to survive the Holocaust, died on Sunday at the age of 84.
Ben-Zion’s story came to prominence thanks to the book “The Cigarette Sellers of Three Crosses Square” by Joseph Ziemian, which details the story of the six-year-old and his friends trying to stay alive in Nazi-occupied Warsaw by peddling cigarettes in the city’s Three Crosses Square.
Hadar, who was recently hospitalized at Hillel Yaffe Hospital in Hadera, was laid to rest on Sunday afternoon in Zichron Yaakov cemetery. He is survived by a wife Orit, two sons and a daughter.
Ben-Zion was born in Warsaw in 1936 and managed to escape the city's infamous ghetto when he was just six years old. Alone, Ben-Zion managed to flee to a house of a Polish woman he knew.
It was there that six-year-old Hadar met the group of kids who would become his new family.
In order to survive, the group decided to refrain from speaking Yiddish to each other, and to sell cigarettes near the headquarters of the local Gestapo in Warsaw, believing none would suspect a group of Jewish kids would hide right under the nose of the occupying Nazi regime.
The story of Ben-Zion and his friends was immortalized by the author of the “The Cigarette Sellers of Three Crosses Square” by Joseph Ziemian, who was a member of the Jewish Underground in Poland, and met the group peddling their wares in the square.
In an interview with Channel 12 TV last year, hadar said that life in the days of the war seemed to him like an adventure.
"I understood everything at the age of six, when I fled the ghetto. I think I understood more than the adults who deceived themselves that they could be saved. There was only death there."
Prof. Havi Dreifuss, a Holocaust historian at Tel Aviv University, said: "The survival of a group of Jewish children in central Warsaw, which was full of German soldiers, was made possible not only by the daring of those children, but also by their impressive solidarity, which was expressed in their concern for the late Ben-Zion who was the youngest of the group."
Zvi Ziv, a close friend of Hadar, said that he maintained close contact with some of the members of the group as they scattered around the world after the war.
One of the boys, Peretz (Powell) Hochman, passed away in 2013. The group's leader, Ignaz Milchberg, nicknamed "Bitchik" (bull) emigrated to Canada after the war, where he died in 2014.