The very name evokes an onslaught of emotions ranging from fear and sadness to anger and rage.
Millions of innocent lives were systematically snuffed out. Children were ripped from mothers. Elderly men and women who should have been relaxing in their golden years were forced into hard labor or killed. Vulnerable people were experimented on and mercilessly tortured and killed. It is a dark and heinous mark on the history of our world.
In 1939, 24-year-old Eliahu Pietruszka was living with his family in Warsaw, Poland. When World War II erupted and the Nazis began their invasion of Poland, Eliahu fled to the Soviet Union, leaving behind his parents and twin brothers Volf and Zelig, who were nine years younger.
The rest of his family was deported from the Warsaw Ghetto to Nazi death camps. Eliahu believed all of them had been killed.
A short time later, Eliahu heard from Volf. The young teen had managed to escape!
The brothers corresponded briefly, but then more tragedy struck. Volf was sent by the Russians to a Siberian work camp. Eliahu thought it was the end for his brother.
“In my heart, I thought he was no longer alive,” he said.
Eliahu married in Russia and in 1949, thinking he had no family left, moved to Israel to start a new one. He often thought of the family he had left behind, heartbroken over the evil committed against them, but convinced they were all gone.
Decades passed. And then, a miracle.
A few weeks ago, Eliahu’s grandson, Shakhar Smorodinsky, received an email from a cousin in Canada who had been working on their family tree. She was looking at the Yad Vashem website, a database of pages of testimony which commemorate the names of the estimated 6 million Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide, when she discovered something stunning: a page of testimony written by Volf in 2005 for Eliahu, who he thought had died.
It turned out Volf survived the Soviet work camp and had settled in Magnitogorsk, an industrial city in the Ural Mountains. He spent his life working in construction and had one child, a son named Alexandre.