Hanna & Mordechai – short stories of a long life

Fanny 1888-1942
Fanny 1888-1942

Part I – Fanny’s deportation

 This is the story of Hanna and Mordechai’s life. A story that thousands of people share: Shoah survivors, they arrived in Israel where they built their family and life.

We have heard this story so many times that we may not see anymore its details as a tragedy or, sometimes, a miracle. For some of us, we take time only once a year to read or hear these stories when there is nothing else to do, on Yom HaShoah.

The goal of this project is definitely to perpetuate Hanna & Mordechai extraordinary life and souvenirs (and not only from the Shoah) but also by commemorating all these episodes of their life maybe to make us think what brought us back to Israel, how a small act can change a life and so the entire world and finally, given our people history, which role can we ourselves play in order to honor it.

Hanna’s parents were living a great life in Slovakia (Slovak Republic) before the war: full of travel, culture and other leisure.  That is the reason why Hanna’s mom asked her older sister, Fanny, for some help with her two daughters – Madeleine and Hanna.  Fanny at that time was a widow and her only daughter, Lilly who just get married left Slovakia to Palestine (Israel). Fanny wanted to join her there, but Lilly told her mother that the economic situation was too difficult, and she should better stay in Slovakia. Therefore, as destiny wanted it, Fanny stayed and quickly became a kind of nanny for Hanna and her sister, living at their home and helping with household chores.

One night at the beginning of the war, while Hanna’s parents were out, Nazi officers knocked on the door and Fanny opened it followed by the two little girls. They took Fanny and put her in their van. Hanna’ sister, Madeleine, ran after the officers and told them to take her too, that she did not want to leave her aunt. They did not see any inconvenient, and at that very moment a neighbor went out and told the Nazi officers to leave the child because she was the daughter of Emile Schwartz – Hanna’s father had protection because he was a customs officer on the trains of Slovakia, and as his skills were needed, he and his family were not to be deported- at least at the beginning of the war.

Thus, Hanna’s sister was saved, and her aunt Fanny died in an extermination camp. Out of six siblings, five sisters and one brother, only two sisters survived the Shoah: Hanna’s mother and her sister Carolina. The latter, as Hanna’s family, came to Israel and was killed in a terror attack in Mishmar Ayalon.

For years, the trauma of Fanny’ deportation story woke Hanna up at nights and made her cry in silence, even in Israel, after she became herself a mom. She did not even speak about it with her husband in the first decade of their marriage. Like lots of survivors, expressing the souvenirs out loud is sometimes too difficult to bear. And so, they bury them deep down, the worst thing to do. Mordechai told me about his friend who never spoke about what happened to him during the Shoah and then one day, when he was 70 years old, he started talking about it, how as a kid he and his family were hiding in the woods, literally living with bodies around them. After he started talking, he never stopped crying.

We all want the best for our kids, we all want to protect them, and surely if we were parents at that time we would have preferred them to survive, make their Aliyah and build a family here in Israel. But this too has a price, the price of living with these memories.

About the Author
French and Israeli from birth I arrived to Israel 15 years ago. Since then, I work in Capital Markets and Wealth Management. Beside Finance, I have a passion for our social situation which is very complex, but like Churchill said: To improve is to change...so I will do my best to make my words lead to change.
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