October 28th 2013, Hannah Wilson, Holocaust Studies MA Program
“There is no one who is richer or happier than I am”- Yizhak Livnat
Yesterday evening, Holocaust survivor Yizhak Livnat came to the University of Haifa to tell his story and share his experiences with my Holocaust Studies class. I can tell you, it was one of the most emotional and humbling experiences of my adult life. Though I have read countless interviews in books, in documentaries or in films, this was the first time I have ever had the honour and privilege of hearing a survivor testimony in person. To be sitting in a room and hearing only his words, his recollection and his narrative of such unimaginable events is just an extraordinary experience. And Yizhak is nothing short of an extraordinary man.
Yizhak was 14 years old when he was sent to the Birkenau death camp in Poland from his home town in Hungary. Separated from his family, he shared with us the details of three specific times he had been saved during his time being moved from one camp to another. He spoke of his complex relationship with his identity and religion, and his continuing friendship with a young Greek boy whom he had met hiding in Birkenau. Most tragically of all, Yizhak intimately described the tragic tale of being reunited with his father, only to lose him to illness just two weeks after being liberated.
It was evident that this was a very difficult and painful part of life for Yizhak to put into words for us. But he did so with such eloquence, such modesty and such emotion. It was a privilege and an honour. Yizhak ended his testimony by telling us how happy he is, how rich he felt and how settled he and subsequent generations of his family are here in Israel. For me, this was probably the most inspiring part of all.
I tried through my many tears to thank him, and to tell him how much his story meant to me within my life and my studies. Finding it hard to speak, he took my hand and hugged me. I hope Yizhak knows how special he is, how grateful I am and how this experience will stay with me forever.