Eva Lavi, 78, is the youngest Holocaust survivor from Oscar Schindler's list. Marking Holocaust Memorial Day, here is her moving story:
Lavi was born in Krakow, Poland, and was 2 years old when World War II broke out. She was sent with her mother to the Krakow Ghetto and was then transferred to labor camps near Krakow, where she was picked to be on Oscar Schindler’s list.
Lavi and her mother were transferred to Auschwitz concentration camp, where they lived in horrendous conditions for several weeks.
A particular moment during this dark time stands out for Lavi:
"One day, while all the women were together in a dark building, a female Nazi officer approached my mother and told her that I was to be taken away. My mother began to cry and scream. She wouldn’t let me go. But in Auschwitz it was impossible to refuse. My mother asked her where I was being taken and the officer promised I would be going to a good place. My mother did not understand. A good place? At Auschwitz? How could that be possible? But the officer again swore to my mother that I would be taken to a good place. And indeed, they took me to a very different place inside Auschwitz.
Nobody could believe it. The place was modern and clean, a rarity at Auschwitz where everything was dirty and black. At this new place there were only well-dressed children who almost looked good. I did not understand at all where I was. I felt that I may be in paradise. There were drawings on the walls, toys, clothes. The children were obviously sad because they were alone and without parents. It was 1944 and hunger was widespread, but in this place no one starved.
One day, the Nazis called us to come to dinner. The previous days we hardly ate. A slice of bread here, a potato there. That evening, they served us dinner and we ate so much. The next morning, once again, we had a real breakfast! The Nazis were so attentive that we thought that perhaps the war was over. For lunch, we were surprised as a table was prepared and we were dressed up.
We sat as three or four smiling kind men in civilian clothes entered. Each of the men sat alongside a child. I can still remember the smell of the potatoes they served for lunch. But we ate so much the day before that I could barely stomach anything. I was not hungry at all and I began to weep. The civilian who sat next to me asked, “What is the matter dear? Are you not hungry?” And I responded that no, I was not hungry. These men were actually from the Red Cross. All of the clothes, the food, the entire place was a false display of what was happening at Auschwitz. Crematoria? They weren’t seen. Lovely, well-dressed children who felt well and weren’t hungry, that is what the Red Cross Inspectors saw".
When all the people on Schindler’s List were collected, including Lavi, officials had their doubts about such a young girl working in a factory. But Schindler explained to them that he had taught her to handle a very specific job that only her small fingers could accomplish on the weapons.
She was later transferred to a camp in Czechoslovakia, where Schindler was responsible for her, and her life became much easier. It was here that she remained until the end of World War II.
After the war, Lavi made Aliyah and immigrated to Israel, where she lived on a kibbutz. She finished school and then joined the Israel Defense Forces. She served in the Air Force and met her husband, with whom she has two children and three grandchildren. Lavi still lives in Israel today and often travels to speak about the Holocaust.
Lavi holds a special place in her heart for the Israel Defense Forces: "Having experienced the horror of the camps, of Auschwitz, all the death and fear, I am always moved when I see our army, our soldiers, and our flag. I truly love the IDF with all my heart".