This article was originally published on The Jerusalem Post

A special mission of IDF soldiers, Friends of the IDF (FIDF) volunteers and Holocaust survivors are scheduled to travel to Poland and Israel in May on a nine-day trip. 

The group will be embarking on the trip to survey aspects of the Holocaust until Israel independence. The mission is fittingly named, “From Holocaust to Independence.” The trip will coincide with Israeli Independence Day, which starts at sundown of May 8th until May 9th.

The 45 soldiers, 40 FIDF, and a few survivors will start in Krakow, which at one time was inhabited with more than 60,000 Jews. The trip will continue to the community’s ghetto and then to the Buczyna forest, where Nazis murdered more than 800 children. The delegation will also visit Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camps.

The group will then travel to Israel to commemorate Israel’s Memorial Day and then Independence Day.

“This historic mission will survey Jewish modern history through the eyes of those who survived the horrors of the Holocaust and those who risk their lives to defend the Jewish homeland,” said FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir. “We’ll celebrate our story of heroism – from near annihilation, to the triumph of establishing the state of Israel. When we march tall and proud through the gates of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps, together with Holocaust survivors, FIDF supporters, and 45 Israeli officers in uniform, gratefully flying the Israeli flag, we will send a clear message: that we are here, we will never forget, and we will do whatever we must do to protect our country and our people to guarantee – Never Again.”

“This mission serves as one of the last opportunities for survivors to return to Auschwitz and share its dreadful stories,” said FIDF National President Bobby Cohen. “We will walk through the gates of hell, where countless Jews suffered and perished at the hands of the Nazis. We will ensure the stories of survivors live on, safeguarded by those brave soldiers who defend and protect the state of Israel, and Jewish people around the world.”

Sophie Tajch Klisman, 89, will be one of the Holocaust survivors to join the delegation. She, along with her sister, Felicia, both survived Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and Salzwedel concentration camps. Sophie later immigrated to the Detroit area. The rest of Klisman’s family perished in the Holocaust. 

A portrait of Sophie Tajch Klisman, a Holocaust survivor from Detroit, in 2012.
A portrait of Sophie Tajch Klisman, a Holocaust survivor from Detroit, in 2012.

 

“If I look at the rest of the family, they were already adults and grown-ups and here was this child; that was just a miracle that I survived; it was meant for me to survive,” Klisman said. “I just hope in conclusion, that nobody, nobody should have to live through such terrors, such horrible conditions at such a young age, or at any age. It was a horrible experience, but I’m glad that I finally was able to tell it.”

 

 

Sophie Tajch Klisman and her sister Felicia at a displaced persons camps in Germany, circa 1947.
Sophie Tajch Klisman and her sister Felicia at a displaced persons camps in Germany, circa 1947.

Another survivor joining the trip, Gizella “Gita” Mann, 89, is now living in Israel. Mann also ended up in Auschwitz, but was originally from Hungary. After escaping death, she was taken to Sweden, and then returned to Hungary after the war, and was reunited with her sister and three brothers.

Gizella “Gita” Mann
Gizella “Gita” Mann