My Family's History
in the Holocaust
Photos Left to Right
Shalom Schachna and Bluma Wallach
Genya and Menachem Mendel
Zula and Marion
Some of you heard me speak in past Tikkunim about different subjects.
This time it is different.
I was born in Haifa to Esther & Dr. Naftali Herz Luft. First generation "Sabra" in my family. I have an older brother Yoram married to Nili for 61 years, living on Mount Carmel in Haifa.
My father was the youngest of three children. He had an older brother and sister. His brother died at the age of 22 from Meningitis after graduating from university. His sister Yulia got married and moved to Vienna.
My mother was the eldest of five children. She had one brother Alter Chiel and three sisters, Zosha, Genya and Regina-Rivka.
My parents grew up in Lwow - Lemberg in Poland which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before WW1. Lwow is now called Lviv and is part of the Ukraine since the end of WW2.
My father came from a line of Torah scholars and commentators, the Taz Rabbi David ben Shmuel Halevi Segal who wrote commentary to the Torah and Talmud by the name of Magen David, Chacham Zvi and his son the Ya'avetz Rabbi Ya'acov Emden.
After finishing high school in Lwow my father moved to Vienna, where his sister lived and continued his university studies there.
In those days universities would accept only ten percent of Jews. It is called Numerus Clausus (closed numbers) Countries legislating limitations on the admission of Jewish students, at various times, have included: Austria, Canada, Hungary, Imperial Russia, Iraq, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, United States, Vichy France, and Yugoslavia among others. For this reason Jews moved around to other countries in order to receive a university place.
My mother was born into a rich and influential family. Her father Shalom Shachna co-owned a Liquor factory. They supplied the Tzar of Russia and imported Palwin wine for passover. He represented the Jewish Community in Lwow's City Council was the leader of Agudat Israel in Lwow and a follower of the Boyana Rebbe.
After graduating from Lwow University with a degree in Polish History and Literature my mother was introduced to my father who was visiting
his parents in Lwow. They married in two ceremonies: one in the Leopoldstadtempel in Vienna. The most beautiful synagogue accommodating
4000 people. It was built by the architect Ludwig Forster who also designed the Dohani Synagogue in Budapest and other synagogues in Europe.
The other ceremony took place in Lwow for those who couldn't attend in Vienna. The synagogue was burnt down on Kristallnacht on 10th November 1938.
My father who spoke seven languages graduated with two PhD's in Economics and international relations and a Law degree. In 1933 Hitler came to power. Life has changed the Nazis began to implement antisemitic policies.
My mother who came from a wealthy family took the initiative and decided to invest in Palestine.
My parents were ardent Zionists. My mother decided to buy a plot of land and have a building built in Haifa, which had a port and a future.
She was already well traveled accompanying her father on his business trips.
In March 1938 after the Anshluss (annexation) of Austria to Germany my father was sacked from his position as a trustee of the biggest
national bank in Austria and was made to clean windows on the fifth floor without a harness. When applying for a visa to leave for Israel
he was beaten up badly and needed hospitalization.
My parents managed to escape to Switzerland in September 1938 after bribing the guards on the train, arriving in Israel a month later.
Unfortunately most of the rest of their families found the same fate as six million other Jews.
Yulia and Avraham my paternal grandfather, who by now was a widower, were taken to Belzec extermination camp. Yulia's daughter Annie survived and with her husband Otto, both medical doctors, made it to the USA.
Shalom or as he was known as Shulem my grandfather was taken away with other prominent Jews to Russia. He died on the way. My grandmother Bluma whom I am named after, was shot in the street when she witnessed her only son Dr. Alter Chiel being shot after someone revealed that he was a Jew. The priest who hid him was shot too.
My mother's sisters, Zosha was killed with her two children Marion and Zula Her husband Oscar survived and made it to the US. Genya was killed with her husband Menachem Mendel. Their only son Levi survived and brought to Israel by The Jewish Agency in April 1948 just days before the State of Israel was founded. He lives in Beer Sheva with his wife Gila and has eight grandchildren.
Regina survived the war on a false identity only to be run over and killed in 1978 on a zebra crossing in Haifa on the Carmel opposite her home. She was the only aunt I knew. I was very close to her.
In May 2021 I was contacted by an Historian called Harald who found my mother's name in a book. Being in a digital age he managed to truck me down.
He acquired my grandfather's factory in Lwow and turned it into an Art Centre. This happened before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.
He dedicated part of the centre to my grandfather, found more information about my mother's family. We met and he informs me from time to time of new details that he recovers.
I came across the connection to your family through a book by Eliyana Adler, "Survival on the margins" (publ. 2020), where it says: "In July 1942 Ester Luft of Jerusalem wrote to the Polish government-in-exile seeking information about her brother Szulim Wallach, arrested in Lviv by the NKVD The Russian Secret Police and not heard from since".
According to this, your grandfather was taken by the Soviets (after 1939) .
In one of the articles it is written that my grandfather's employees in honour of my parents marriage collected money for sixty meals for homeless
people in Lwow.
At the end of the year I received another piece of news.
"I have a nice surprise at the end of the year: I just bought at an auction in Tel Aviv a letter written by your grandfather on an official paper from “my” factory, “Jozef Kronik and Son”. It will go to our exhibition which we are planning to open next year. We are very excited:
He paid a $100 dollars for a Yiddish written letter which he had to translate into English.
It is my greatest victory that Hitler didn't succeed
Shalom Schachna & Bluma Wallach have 28 great, great grandchildren.
Thank you for listening.
Chag Sameach & Shabbat Shalom!