A chest full of medals at Yad Vashem

Six survivors were honored to light memorial torches at Yad Vashem, Moshe Ha-Elion, Moshe Jakubowitz, Jeannine Sebbane-Bouhanna, Max Privler, Moshe Porat, and Elka Abramovitz. A child or grandchild assisted in lighting the flames. A video recalling the harrowing experience in the Shoah was shown for each survivor. The audience sitting in the bitter cold plaza was silent during each amazing story of survival.

While each story was riveting, the story and chest full of medal’s of Max Privler stood out. His Yad Vashem biography states, “Privler was born in 1931 in the village of Mikulichin in Poland (now Ukraine) to David and Malka, the second of four children. His family owned land, factories, shops, and even a school and a synagogue.

In June 1941, the Germans occupied the region and the family’s property was confiscated. In March 1942, Gestapo men and Ukrainian police broke into Max’s family’s home and took Max and David to the police station. Malka and her younger children were sent to the Stanislawow ghetto. The next day, Max and David were brought to the forest with a group of Jews. A second before they were shot, David pushed his young son Max into the killing pit, and was shot along with the others, falling dead on top of the 11 year-old boy. One bullet lodged itself into Max’s shoulder and remained there for over 25 years. Max managed to climb out of the pit at night and fled to the home of the Boyuk-Nimchuk family, Ukrainian friends, who hid him.

One day, Max snuck into the ghetto with some food for his family and saw Malka fighting a Gestapo man, who was pulling her baby from her arms. He witnessed his mother being hanged and his baby brother murdered by the Germans.

On another occasion, Max was caught and sent to work in the family factory. After six months, the child laborers, including Max, were trucked to the forest to be executed. Max managed to flee to the adjacent forest, where he joined a group of partisans and acted as a child spy.

When Max suffered from frostbite, a passing doctor sent him with a partisan commander who was headed to Moscow for treatment. After he had recuperated, Max enlisted in the Red Army and was sent to a school training children to perform military operations. His mastery of five languages—Polish, Czech, German, Ukrainian and Russian—was an asset.

Max commanded a platoon that conducted intelligence and sabotage, and helped liberate Kraków and Auschwitz. However, he sustained serious injuries in the battles to liberate Prague. He was buried under the rubble of a building that had collapsed, with an iron rod lodged in his head. He was pulled out and hospitalized, but remained unconscious for months until he recovered.

After the war, Max lived in Ukraine. He immigrated to Israel in 1990. He remains active in the Association of Disabled Veterans of the War against Nazism as well as the commemoration of children who served in the Red Army during WWII, and is the author of several books on the subject.

Max and Muza z”l have two children, five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.”

One of Max’s grandsons, who is currently serving in the IDF, assisted him in lighting the torch.

Sharon Altshul

Posted by Sharon Altshul

Sharon Altshul is a Jerusalem-based photographer and writer. You can follow her work via her photo blog, The Real Jerusalem Streets, and on Twitter.

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