The lone wagon that stands on the railway tracks inside Birkenau is not empty. It is filled with memories of all the souls it transported to this dark place.
Inside, there is also a prayer bag which holds a ‘Talis’ and a pair of ‘Tefillin’. They used to belong to Mr. Hugo Hillel Zwi Lowy and is now a symbol of the spiritual resistance that took place during the Holocaust.
It is right at this location and train car – that Mr. Lowy resisted an order to give up his tefilin, 69 years ago. As a result, guards bludgeoned him to his knees, but he held on to his bag. As the guards kicked his bloodied body to the ground, he held on to his bag of talit and tefilin – and died.
Hugo’s son, businessman, philanthropist and Holocaust survivor Frank Lowy will deliver a keynote address tomorrow.
As a boy, Lowy managed to escape the Nazis. Almost 50 years later, his story of faith and resistance was revealed by a man who was on the train to Auschwitz-Birkenau with his father in 1944. Hugo endured blow after blow rather than obeying an order to give up his prayer bag, which contained his tallit and tefillin.
After a long search, the Lowy family located a wagon that had been used to transport Hungarian Jews and in 2009 brought it to Auschwitz-Birkenau where it was dedicated to the memory of Hungary’s half-a-million victims. Inside, it holds a blue prayer bag as a symbol of one man’s willingness to pay the ultimate price for his faith.
The wagon, as well as Hugo’s story, will play a central role both in MOTL’s educational efforts and during the commemorative ceremony to be held on the grounds of Auschwitz-Birkenau on April 8. “I was very pleased to be invited to deliver a keynote address at the March of the Living ceremony in Birkenau this year,” Lowy told The AJN. “It is a particularly significant invitation because my father was taken to Birkenau in 1944 and never returned.
“I was 13 when my father disappeared. Now I am 82 and have the opportunity of honouring him in the place where we now know he drew his last breath.”