Tova Adler, 84, is one of close to 200,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel. She is among the more fortunate ones: living in the Hashalom Home for the Elderly in Tel Aviv, she enjoys modern, attractive housing in a warm, supportive framework where all her needs are tended to. Hashalom is part of the Amigour network of sheltered homes, which is supported by Keren Hayesod. Large numbers of the 7,500 residents are Holocaust survivors.
But not all survivors are as lucky as Tova. Studies have revealed that one-third of the survivors live in dire poverty.
27 January – the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp - has been designated by the UN as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. But a group of evangelical Christians in Germany, appropriately called Initiative 27.Januar, have decided to do more than commemorate the dead; they have determined to take concrete action to help still-living survivors in Israel.
(from l-r) Gadi Gronich, Reinhold Robbe, Gitta Connenmann, Tova Adler, Harald Eckert, Gitta Koifman, Jacob Snir
A series of events in Germany, sponsored by Initiative 27.Januar in conjunction with Keren Hayesod-UIA, was held from 25 to 30 to January in order to raise consciousness about the plight of the survivors and create a renewed sense of responsibility for their fate. Tova flew to Germany to give first-hand testimony about her experiences and the hardships survivors undergo.
(from l-r) Anat Rajber, Smadar Wohl, Tova Adler, Gitta Koifman
The events were launched with a press conference with Tova at the Government Press Center near the Bundestag. She was featured that evening on the Tagesschau, the prime time news show, which also aired portions of Keren Hayesod’s moving film about Amigour, “On Survival and Dignity”. Articles appeared in a number of print and online newspapers including Bild, the country’s largest newspaper with the sixth-largest circulation worldwide.
(from l-r) Pastor Nehlsen, Tova Adler
Tova’s testimony aroused great public interest among Christians and Jews alike. On Holocaust Remembrance Day she spoke before a packed audience at the Apostel Petrus Church in Berlin. The following day, she appeared at the city’s Jewish community building, where the crowd, visibly moved by her words, broke into thunderous applause. Other speakers included Reinhold Robbe, President of the German-Israeli Friendship Society, who stressed that now is the time to care for the aging survivors living in Israel - and not sometime in the future. Gitta Connemann, Member of the Bundestag and Chairman of that body’s Friends of Israel, stressed the importance of Initiative 27.Januar, quoting the words of a survivor: “We managed to survive, but today we hardly manage to survive daily hardship”. Emmanuel Nachshon, Deputy Ambassador of Israel in Germany, also delivered remarks.
The central event took place at the Residenz in Munich, once the seat of government and residence of the Bavarian kings. Here too, the audience in the overflowing hall
was deeply touched by Tova’s inspiring remarks. KH representative, Yankele Snir, delivered a moving address in German. Other speakers included Dr. Ludwig Spaenle, Bavarian Minister of Education and Church Affairs; Israeli consul Tibor Shilo, and Harald Eckert, Chairman of Initiative 27.Januar, who stated: “As long as survivors live among us, the last chapter of the Shoa is still not written. It is up to us, the make the difference, up to us if this will be a chapter all about loneliness, bitterness and poverty, or a chapter all about love, responsibility and caring for others in need”.
The series of events, which was widely publicized in local newspapers, significantly strengthened the cooperation between Keren Hayesod and Christian Friends, creating a great momentum for continued collaboration.