After the Holocaust, many survivors decided to call Israel their home. In addition to immigrating to an unknown land, they made the heroic decision to take responsibility for the defense of the new and fledgling State of Israel. These are the inspiring stories of three individuals who decided to embrace life despite the hardships, and paved the way for their future success and growth in their new home.
Elazar Shafrir (Spiegel)
Elazar Shafrir was born to a Zionist family in Krakow, Poland in 1924. Following the German occupation of Poland, his parents and sister were murdered. He and his friend, Yehiel Stiener, were placed in the Plaszow concentration camp where they repaired guard towers. The Stiener family had a Polish aid named Anna Katchrowska who provided packages to Elazar and Yehiel, and promised to help them if they found a way to escape from the camp.
The two friends worked together to slip through the barbed wire and flee the camp. Anna was true to her word, and through her connections with the Polish underground she managed to obtain temporary documents for the two young men in order to reach Hungary. With the help of the Jewish Agency, Elazar received a visa to immigrate to the Land of Israel through Istanbul.
Upon his arrival, Elazar began studying chemistry at the Hebrew University. However, his studies were cut short when he decided to fight in Israel’s War of Independence after the United Nations vote on the partition plan in 1947. He joined the Haganah’s Moriah Battalion and was involved in many key battles for Jerusalem including Ramat Rachel, San Simon, and the Kastel. He also fought in the difficult battles for Gush Etzion.
Once there was a lull in the fighting, Elazar found out that Yehiel had been killed in the war. He went to pay his last respects to Yehiel’s girlfriend, Aviva, and eventually went on to marry her. They started a family and named their first son after Yehiel.
After the war, Shafrir finished his studies for a doctorate and later was appointed as a professor at the Hadassah medical school. He went on to found the Diabetes Research Center in the faculty of medicine, participated in numerous scientific conferences, and gained international recognition in his field.
Israel Alfred Glück
Israel Alfred Glück was born in Vienna, Austria in 1921. After the German annexation of Austria in 1938, he and fellow members of the Mizrachi youth movement left for agricultural training in Germany. From there, he decided to make his way to Denmark for an unpaid apprenticeship on a farm.
In 1943, Israel hoped to arrive to the Land of Israel but he was caught between Switzerland and Germany. He was deported to Auschwitz, and from there was sent to the sub-camp of Jaworzno. After the Soviet bombing of the camp in February 1945, Israel was sent on a death march to Blechhammer, Gross-Rosen and Buchenwald.
Following the liberation, Israel spent some time in the Bergen-Belsen displaced persons (DP) camp. In 1946, he boarded the ship Tel Hai and immigrated to the Land of Israel. During the War of Independence, he served as an intelligence NCO in the Alexandroni Brigade, which was made up of people who previously fought for the Allies or for paramilitary organizations before the establishment of the State of Israel.
After the war, Israel became a leading industrial designer and was considered an innovator in the field. He passed away in 2007.
Moshe Sanbar was born in Kecskemét, Hungary in 1926. His high school studies were cut short following the Nazi occupation of the country. Shortly after, Moshe who had always been very active in a variety of sports, discovered that Jewish athletes were being removed from sports teams. He then decided to start a Jewish national soccer league.
In 1944, Moshe was drafted into the Forced Labor Battalions of the Hungarian army. He was later deported to the Dachau and Mühldorf-Waldlager concentration camps. He was liberated in 1945 by the American military.
In 1948, he immigrated to the Land of Israel and decided to participate in the War of Independence despite the fact that he did not have any previous training. He fought in the battle for Latrun, and was badly wounded. He had to wait for hours until a unit could retrieve him, and had to confront jackals as well as the possibility of the Arab Legion discovering his location. He managed to fight off the jackals and eventually was rescued by another unit. Describing his time fighting for the State of Israel, he said that “we already knew what death was. And in retrospect with regard to this thing we volunteered to come and fight for the establishment of the state. This didn’t happen to us…we instigated it, we chose it.”
He studied economics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and afterwards served as Budgeting Director in the Ministry of Finance, Economic Advisor to the Finance Minister, Acting Minister of Trade and Industry and Governor of the Bank of Israel between 1971-1976. In private industry, he was the chairman of Solel Boneh, Zelon, Bank Leumi and Africa-Israel.
Moshe regarded the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces as essential ways in which to defend Jews. He was active on behalf of Holocaust survivors, and served as chairman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany.
The rebirth of the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland following the tragedy of the Holocaust is one of the most remarkable stories in the annals of history. These individuals who experienced the horrors of the Holocaust were able to pick themselves up and not only survive, but to thrive as defenders of the Jewish State and as members of society.