Monday, June 16, 2008

Warsaw Ghetto fighter dies at 92

Stephan Grayek, one of the last survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, died over the weekend. He was 92.

During the Nazi era Grayek took advantage of his Aryan features to move with relative ease in and out of the ghetto, fighting against the Nazis with both Jews and Poles. Grayek's wartime exploits were recorded in his book, Shelosha Yemin Krav (Three Days of Battle).

Eli Zborowski, chairman of the American and International Societies for Yad Vashem and vice president of the World Federation of Polish Jews, wrote in a condolence notice in the Hebrew press that he had lost his mentor and close friend. He referred to Grayek as the "commander and hero of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and worldwide leader of Holocaust survivors."

Grayek, who was the founder of the World Organization of Partisans, Underground Fighters, Ghetto Rebels and Camp Inmates - the first body to focus public attention on the needs of Holocaust survivors - swore in 1943 to fight anti-Semitism for as long as he lived. He frequently led groups of Holocaust survivors accompanied by the children and grandchildren of survivors on journeys of memory in Poland. For many years he lobbied tirelessly for a Jewish museum pavilion in Auschwitz and against the establishment of a Catholic convent there. He declared in 1989 that no convent would go up in the largest Jewish graveyard in the world.

In a Jerusalem Post interview 20 years ago, Grayek was asked why he had not experienced the trauma so common among many Holocaust survivors? He answered: "Perhaps, because like other people in the resistance, I fought back."

Grayek was buried on Sunday at the Herzliya Cemetery. He is survived by his daughter, Ora, his son, Yitzhak, grandchildren and a great granddaughter.

(Source: The Jerusalem Post)

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