What Stella’s Birth Means (“We Beat Hitler” – Part 2)

Last week’s Family Legacy Planning post continued exploring the importance of preserving and passing down a family heritage. The focus was on the significance of the birth of my oldest grandchild, Stella. On both sides of her family, Stella descends from ancestors who miraculously escaped death in the Holocaust. Stella’s birth symbolizes victory over Hitler’s evil attempt to kill all the world’s Jews. Hitler killed one-third of the world’s Jews, but he didn’t win. Stella is living proof.

The last two weeks’ emails told stories of survival of two of Stella’s ancestors on her mother’s side, my “Zaidy” Eliezer Weinstock from Ukraine (who lost an eye in a Russian pogrom) and my grandfather Meyer Oberstein from Poland (who escaped a Russian firing squad as a young boy). Today, we turn to survival stories of ancestors on Stella’s father’s side, my son-in-law Dr. Ira Savetsky.

Ira’s grandmother Miriam Feuerstein was viciously uprooted from her girlhood home in Czechoslovakia and transported, along with her parents, to Auschwitz, the most infamous of Nazi concentration camps. One of her brothers, Yitzchak, was shot into a ditch when the Nazis wiped out the town. Another brother Adolf was taken to a Hungarian forced labor camp, and later to Mauthausen concentration camp. Miriam’s job at Auschwitz was to sort the clothing of those who had been burned alive in gas chambers. She discovered the tragic fate of her parents when she found her mother’s monogrammed handkerchief among the pile.

Miraculously, Miriam survived, coming out of Auschwitz at 72 lbs. She was able to find her brother Adolf, who had also miraculously survived. All their remaining family had been murdered. Miriam and Adolf immigrated to America and started a life in New York. For yet another miracle, Miriam recovered and later gave birth to a daughter Aliza (Ira’s mother) and a son Elliot. Aliza had 4 children. To help keep the memories alive, Aliza named one of her daughters Miriam, after her mother, and she gave her son Ira the Hebrew name of Yitzchak (the Hebrew name for Issac), after her uncle.

As I retell this story of survival, I realize the power of personalizing the horrors of the Holocaust and war. It’s hard to absorb statistics, like the killing of six million Jews, but this story reminds us that those were six million individual lives. As my dear friend Todd Healy responded to my email about Zaidy, “Thanks for personalizing it for so many of us who don’t have the connections to the tragedies that you do!” These are people, someone’s parents, sisters, brothers, children. They are not just numbers.

Ira’s family affectionately called their Uncle Adolf, “Unkie.” Unkie was like a grandfather to Ira. Thankfully, Unkie lived a long and productive life in America. On his deathbed, he reflected on the families he and his sister Miriam created, who were surrounding his bedside. Looking at them with awareness that each descendant of Holocaust survivors represents the continuation of the Jewish people, these were Unkie’s dying words: “We beat Hitler!”

As the attached photo of Unkie holding his great-great-niece Stella proves, indeed we did beat Hitler! Stella’s life has a purpose. Look into Stella’s eyes—there is hope for the world. Each of our lives has a purpose. As we discover our “why”—why we’re here, may that motivate us to each live a more purposeful and meaningful life.

Marvin E. Blum

Holocaust survivor Adolf Feuerstein (“Unkie”) holding his great-great-niece Stella Savetsky (Marvin Blum’s granddaughter). Stella is living proof of Unkie’s dying words: “We Beat Hitler!”