In 1944 at the Auschwitz death camp, 50 young men were miraculously saved from the gas chamber on Simchat Torah, the celebratory Jewish holiday that marks both the beginning and ending of the annual cycle of Torah readings. After being stripped and prepared to march to the showers with hundreds of others, at the last minute they were selected for forced labour.
The “Auschwitz 50” were the subject of a 2011 column about Mordechai Eldar, an Israeli hoping to locate others like himself dramatically saved that day, who may have survived the war and perhaps are even living still.
Unfortunately, that column proved fruitless. But a guest article elsewhere that mentioned Eldar’s rescue and search for others recently resulted in two emails within a week of each other.
Isaac Schwimmer, a 39-year-old resident of the Brooklyn, New York, neighbourhood of Borough Park, mentioned his paternal grandfather, Chaim, who lives a few blocks away and was one of the 50 saved. And Harry Ullman wrote from London to tell of a friend nearby, Hershel Herskovic, also among the 50.
My telephone conversation with Isaac Schwimmer then uncovered yet another living person who had survived the selection: Volvish Greenwald, the grandfather of the brother-in-law of Schwimmer’s wife.
When the initial column appeared in 2011, Eldar, of Herzliya, had already established contact with fellow Israelis David Leitner and Nachum Hoch, and had met Mordechai Linder shortly before Linder died in 2011. And in his email, Ullman mentioned a Manchester, England, resident he had known, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Weiss, another Auschwitz 50 survivor, who had died in 2013.
That makes eight of the 50 who have been identified: six living and two now deceased.