1,000 hear tales of courage and survival from Nazi tyranny...

Michelle Levine reads her grandmother’s emotional story

By Adam Cailler

WHEN madness displaces law and order, an atrocity such as the Holocaust takes place.

Those poignant words from Michelle Levine — granddaughter of survivor Renee Mosbacher — were heard by more than 1,000 people at Manchester’s annual Yom Hashoah event at Audacious Conferencing, Salford.

Mrs Levine’s grandmother was caught up in the Anschluss — the Nazi annexation of Austria on March 12, 1938 — when she was just eight years old.

An emotional Mrs Levine said: “Adults are supposed to protect young children. Where were the police to make this all stop?

“My grandmother and the rest of the Jewish pupils at her state school were taken out of lessons, lined up and told to go home indefinitely.

“Even now, looking at my own three children, it’s unthinkable that teachers could allow their pupils to be effectively barred from school.

“But it happened to my grandmother, and the state remained silent — its educators, at best, silent.

“And, at worst, happily proactive.”

Such action, Mrs Levine added, became accepted law.

Organised by the Yom Hashoah Committee and the Manchester Jewish Representative Council, the evening’s theme was Law and Disorder.

A few weeks after Renee Mosbacher was removed from school, her family received a visit from two SS soldiers who were looking for the men of the house.

But, thanks to a stroke of luck, her two uncles were in London on a business trip.

After the Anschluss, their wives sent them messages telling them not to return.

Mrs Levine continued: “My grandmother would recall years later seeing an elderly gentleman with a horribly swollen face after a beating from the SS.

“What did an eight-year-old girl make of such events?

“The terrifying uniformed Nazis screaming and shouting in their home, the gentle neighbour being severely beaten for being a Jew.

“To this day, she says she remembers the terror of being in the presence of such monsters. She cannot stand the sight of uniforms.”

The impact of such events on the family was devastating, Mrs Levine said.

After another visit from the SS, one of her aunts had decided that life was “too unbearable” and she and her family attempted group suicide by, ironically, turning on the gas from the kitchen oven.

Mrs Levine said: “Their young son lost his life but unbelievably, the aunt and uncle survived.

“Despite their unimaginable tragedy, they managed to escape to Israel.

“My grandmother ultimately settled in Manchester where she married and raised her family.

“She knows she was one of the lucky ones.

“Of life under the Nazis, she says there was simply no protection, often comparing herself to a leaf floating in the wind.

“Today, she has 37 grandchildren, 127 great-grandchildren and 19 great-great-grandchildren.

“I look at her and think how this once little girl — the same age as my daughter Nicole — could so easily have been another casualty of the Shoah.

“I thank God for the survival of that little nine-year-old girl so that I can stand here in honour of the six million, including members of my own family, who were slaughtered.”

Judge Lindsey Kushner introduced the event and its theme.

Survivors Sam Laskier, Icek Alterman, Susie Salomon, Leslie Kleinman, Adash Bulwa and Eva Neuman lit memorial candles.

Third generation Avrom Aronson sang Shir Hama’alot and El Ma’ale Rachamim, while Sam Gontarz read The Survivor’s Legacy and his son Robbie recited The Pledge of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Generation.

Kaddish was recited by Stuart Ferster, son of the late Holocaust survivor Chaim Ferster.

The Hale Boys’ Choir sang Vehi She’amda, while David Singer recited the pledge to remember unnamed victims.

The keynote speaker was an award-winning TV producer and director who made the shocking discovery that his grandfather was in the SS.

As a child in Scotland, Martin Davidson thought his grandfather, Bruno Langbehn, was a retired German dentist.

And it was only after his death that he discovered that Langbehn had been a member of the Nazi Party from its early days.

He had also been a member of the SS and was awarded the infamous Death’s Head Ring, decorated with carved skulls and runic signs, which was personally bestowed by Heinrich Himmler.

After unearthing his grandfather’s past, Mr Davidson wrote The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering My SS Grandfather’s Secret Past and How Hitler Seduced a Generation.

Leslie Kleinman told of coming face to face with Nazi physician Josef Mengele, who was known as the Angel of Death.

Mr Kleinman, who tells his story to school children throughout the UK, said: “When we arrived, we had to line up in front of Mengele to be examined.

“He needed workers. If he thought we were strong enough to work, we would live.

“If not, we were sent to the gas chambers.

“Most of the women and the children were killed. While waiting in the queue, another inmate told me to pretend that I was 17 rather than 14.

“It was the first time that I told a proper lie, as I’d been brought up to be honest.

“My father always told me to tell the truth if you want people to believe you.

“But I decided that a small lie to save your life was worth it. Some things you have to do.”

Both of his parents were murdered in the Holocaust.

And Mr Kleinman opened his emotional speech recalling his mother. He said: “It’s been more than 70 years and I still miss her. You always miss your mother.”

The evening ended with Debbie Greenstein telling her father Jack Aizenberg’s story.

Sadly, Mr Aizenberg is no long able to tell it himself due to ill- health.

At the age of 16, he was separated from his family who he never saw again and was taken to a slave labour camp called Kielce, 50 miles away from his hometown of Staszow, Poland.

He was then transported to Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, where he was made to work while being tortured with starvation, tiredness and loneliness.

While at Buchenwald, orders came from the SS that workers were needed at Colditz castle, an ammunition factory.

She said: “My father worked at the factory for a short time and was later moved to Theresienstadt in Czechoslavakia, from where he was finally liberated in 1945.”

Mr Aizenberg was brought to Windermere in the Lake District for treatment and recuperation.

He started a new life and created a successful luggage business with two other Holocaust survivors in Manchester.

Ms Greenstein said: “He was a man abandoned by the law, the state and all of the authorities who were supposed to care for their communities and population.

“Yet he has become an inspiration to the family he created and the legacy that lives on in all of us.

“Now he is 91 and suffering with vascular dementia. We don’t mention his experiences in the Holocaust — we want him to live in peace.

“But now the next generations have become his voice and we have to speak out.

“We must never forget what mankind is capable of.”

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