May 24, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 24, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Lapid Marks Holocaust Remembrance Day at Mauthausen

On January 27, Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid visited the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Upper Austria to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Joining Lapid on this visit was Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner, and the President of the Jewish Community of Vienna, Oskar Deutsch.

During the ceremony, Lapid told his grandfather’s story. “Most people don’t know the exact point at which they transitioned from child to adult, but my father knew. He became an adult at age 12, in one night; the 19th of March,1944.” Tommy Lapid later became an Israeli political leader.

Lapid began: “At six in the morning, dad was still a child. He slept in a large bed alongside his father (my grandfather) under the big blanket. My grandfather was a fat man, and his warm breaths were a sane, soothing metronome in a world which had gone mad.” Lapid described Tommy hearing that a German soldier wanted to see the grandfather. The soldier entered the bedroom, holding a rifle, in a greenish-gray uniform, with the letters “SS” on his collar.

The SS officer said, “Doctor Lampel, please get dressed.” His grandfather asked for his bag. He clarified that there was no need to pack. Since the start of the war, every Jew in Europe had a bag ready. Lapid added: “My great-grandmother took a step or two towards the blonde soldier with his bayonet. When she got really close to him, she got down on her knees. The German was silent. She hugged his knees, clinging to his polished boots. She lifted her head, searching out his blue eyes. ‘Sir,” she said, ‘Do not forget that your mother is also waiting for you at home.’

“My grandfather bent down and lifted the blanket off my dad. Dad cried,” Lapid continued. “He hugged my dad and said the words which in one night, turned my father into a grown man: ‘My child,’ he said, ‘either I’ll see you again alive, or not.’ He never saw him again. My grandfather was sent to Auschwitz, and after that, here, to Mauthausen.

“When he arrived here, he was no longer a dad, no longer fat, no longer a person. He was a number. The Nazis went to great lengths to number their prisoners. My grandfather, like everyone at Auschwitz, had a number tattooed on his arm. The archives were organized, tens of thousands of notebooks, with careful documentation of prisoners. They did this because it allowed them to tell themselves, ‘This isn’t murder, it’s statistics.’ They weren’t killing people who did them no harm, but rather, deleting numbers from a notebook.”

Lapid stated: “I came here today to remind the world that Bela Lampel was not a number. He was my grandfather. He loved his beautiful wife. He went to football matches with his child. He loved to have an omelet at the coffee shop next to his home. He never wronged anyone. He wasn’t an important man. He didn’t hate anyone. He was simply… Jewish.

“They took him in the middle of the night and sent him from camp to camp, until he arrived here. When he arrived, the Nazis already knew that they had lost the war. The mighty machine that was the German Army had collapsed. They needed every soldier, every slice of bread, every rifle—and yet, they continued to kill Jews up until the very last moment.

“According to the records at Mauthausen, my grandfather died in April 1945. A couple of weeks later, Nazi Germany surrendered. The last significant thing the Nazis did was killing my grandfather,” Lapid said, “but dying was not the last significant thing that he did. Because my grandfather did one other thing, even after his death. He sent me here today. ‘Grenpa Bela,’ a quiet man nicknamed ‘Bela the Wise,’ sent me here today to say, on his behalf, the Jews haven’t surrendered. They’ve established a strong, free and proud Jewish state. They sent his grandson to represent them here today.”

In his remarks, Nehammer responded: “Dear Yair, I apologize on behalf of the Republic of Austria for the crimes committed here. I apologize that your grandfather was murdered here.” Lapid then said the Mourner’s Kaddish and laid a wreath on behalf of the Israeli government. Later in the tour, Lapid lit a candle in the Room of Names in memory of his grandfather, Bela Lampel, z”l, and in memory of all who perished at Mauthausen.

“The Nazis thought they were the future, and that Jews would be something you only find in a museum,” Lapid said. “Instead, the Jewish state is the future, and Mauthausen is a museum. Rest in peace, grandfather. You won.”

By Judy Berger

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles