Yad Vashem (illustration)
Dozens of children saved during the Holocaust thanks to one family's efforts came to Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority to give testimony on Monday, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
Yad Vashem takes testimonies from groups only in special cases; usually testimonies are collected on a one-to-one basis – but this is a special case.
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Esther Reiss, 72, nee Musel, was seven-years-old when the Second World War came to an end. She arrived at Yad Vashem with her three children and three grandchildren. They all wore T-shirts printed with the picture of Esther when she was a child in the orphanage of the family which rescued her – the Birenbaum family.
"My parents didn't survive the Holocaust, but I survived, and it's clear that it was because of the Birenbaum family," Esther said Monday. "That family saved hundreds of children… Hundreds came to Treblinka and Yehoshua Birenbaum simply took them into the camp's children's house. That's how he saved them."
Among others, Heni Birenbaum saved 50 children who were to be sent from the concentration camp to the death camp. She told the camp commander that the children were not Jewish because they had been born to German soldiers and Jewish mothers. She even gave him a list of names coordinated with the Dutch underground.
The commander approved the list, but the children were later sent to Theresienstadt. Those who survived were known as the "unknown children" because their Jewish past was blurred and they were given Christian identities.
Yehoshua and Heni Birenbaum lived in Berlin and were married in 1927. After Kristallnacht in 1938 they fled to the Netherlands. When the Nazis occupied the country, they were sent to the concentration camp where they were given the task of looking after the orphans.
After the war they set up an orphanage in Amsterdam, which moved to a villa in a smaller town in 1946. The orphanage became a center for Zionist activities: The children learned Hebrew and later came to Israel with Aliyat Hano'ar (the youth aliyah.)
The Birenbaum's eldest daughter, now 82, also came Monday to Yad Vashem and was deeply moved to see the children saved by her parents.
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