Israel remembers Holocaust under coronavirus restrictions

Israelis commemorating Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) in Israel, April 21, 2020 (Photo: Facebook)

This year more than ever Israelis are focused on Holocaust survivors on Yom HaShoah as they are among the demographic under greatest threat from the coronavirus pandemic.

With most of the country still under isolation orders — especially the elderly — Holocaust Remembrance Day was marked in Israel for the first time through prerecorded televised and live digital ceremonies rather than by public gatherings.

One of the most somber days on the calendar, Yom HaShoah, is observed normally through solemn events at different locations around Israel and at former concentration camps in Europe where survivors share their stories.

According to Israeli news, 12 Holocaust survivors are among the 182 Israelis who have died from the coronavirus.

But for survivors of the systematic murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis leading up to and during World War II, this time of fear and isolation was no comparison to their wartime experiences.

“It’s not easy, but we do it to stay alive,” said 88-year-old Berthe Badehi, who hid from the Nazis as a child during World War II. “One thing I learned during the war was how to take care of myself.”

For Dov Landau, 92, who lost his entire family but survived Auschwitz and several other death camps, “One has nothing to do with the other.”

“This could never compare to the five years I went through in the Holocaust. This is a temporary disease that will pass,” Landau said.

Aviva Blum-Wachs, 87, survived the Nazi invasion of Warsaw, and said Israel’s lockdown during the pandemic is completely different.

“We were closed in the ghetto. We had no food, no telephone. There was horrible fear of what was outside,” she said. “There is nothing to be afraid of now. We just have to stay home.”

Israel’s first coronavirus fatality, 88-year-old Aryeh Even, escaped the Nazis in World War II in Hungary. Some 180,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel.

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