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Holocaust Remembrance Day

75 ago today Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, was liberated by the Red Army.
And thus this day is the day we observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The Holocaust is deeply embedded in Israeli culture.
From the time we are children we hear the stories at home and in school through plays, songs and memorial days.
We hear hundreds of stories from people who survived,
but hearing those stories makes me think about the stories that we did not get to hear,
and in my family this day combines with the birthday of my grandfather,
Mordechai-David Brav, who was born January 26, 1905.

He was born in the city Gorlice in east Poland.
His mother died at a young age and his father upon returning from the First World War opened a bakery.
Being the oldest male in the family and the only one who knew how to read and do math,
my grandfather was in charge of sales and managing the books, all this at the age of 12.

He married and had two daughters.

When the Nazis came to town they put him in charge of distributing flour and bread to the Jewish community.
After being questioned by Nazi soldiers he decided to flee town.
He hid his wife and children in a nearby village and he and his brother fled to the Soviet Union.
There he was caught by police and spent the rest of the war in one of Stalin’s work camps.

In 1945 all Polish citizens were freed from camps and my grandfather returned to Gorlice to find out that out of the 3300 Jews who lived in his town,
less than 200 survived, not including his mother, wife, daughters, sister and her children.
He started gathering those who survived to help them move to Israel –
a thing that was still illegal in Poland.
He himself moved to a town called Wałbrzych where he opened a very successful bakery and married again,
this time to my grandmother Chaya, and in 1948 they had a son, my father.

In 1953 the Communists in Poland nationalized his bakery and he had to switch work.
In 1956 Jews were allowed to leave Poland, so he, Chaya and my father moved to Israel.
Not long after he passed away.

I never got to meet my grandfather but his life story is part of who I am.
On this day I think about my grandfather who I am named after.
I think of all the hardships he had to overcome,
I think about all the family I never met,
And I think of all the untold stories of the Holocaust.