Being a seasoned pilot, I no longer find anything to get worked up about when I take my seat in a plane, whether as pilot or passenger. But on that flight back from Poland in August 1987, I was in a highly emotional state. I was returning. in the company of my sons Moshe and Aaron, from a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, 42 years after being among the handful who left the camp alive.
In the course of the flight, I plunged into reflections, reconstructing the various chapters of my life: my childhood and youth spent contentedly in the bosom of my family in pre-World World War Two -Poland; the Soviet occupation; the German occupation and the Holocaust which, alone of my entire family, I survived. Subsequently: my studies in Czechoslovakia, my enlistment for a pilots' course in the fledgling Israeli air force, and then, after the Israel's War of Independence, discarding my uniform to found a company engaged in design, manufacture and installation of electric and electronic systems.
For 30 out of my 38 years in the electrical engineering business. I have enjoyed close business relationship with one of the Belgium's largest companies, Vynikier, which engages in development, production and marketing of electrical equipment in Israel. I founded a company I named "Ariel" for the military base in Jaffa which housed air force equipment during the early years of Israel's statehood. Ariel specializes in installing electrical systems, for foreign companies like Vynckier, as well as development and manufacture of its own equipment in Israel and overseas.
I have done well in business. I married and established a family - a daughter and two sons - who bring me great joy. But never for a single moment did I forget my roots in the Polish township of Pruzhany, or my family - parents and brother - who perished in the Holocaust; nor did I forget the struggle for survival which enabled me, as a young man, to make it through the war years, to survive my imprisonment in the ghetto and in concentration and extermination camps, forced labor and life in the murderous shadow cast by the Nazi monster.
I revisited Poland in 1987 after taking my family to Belgium, where the Vynckier management marked thirty years of cooperation by holding a festive ceremony in my honor. The company's director, Michael Steyaert, delivered an address pointing out that this was a unique occasion in the company's history, it being the first time the management had decided to honor a distributor. Turning to me, he said: "We are pleased that you and your family accepted our invitation, giving us the opportunity to show you what Belgian hospitality is like."
Hearing my praises sung by M. Steyaert - in the presence of all of the company's executives - inspired me with mixed feelings and turbulent emotions. This ceremony, and the visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, marked two periods of my life: one short but terribly tragic - the Holocaust - ; the second long, full of life, fun, joy and creativity, still continuing, interwoven with my friendship and business connections with Vynckier. It was between these extremities that I have passed my life.
From Belgium, my two sons and I proceeded, as I have noted, to Auschwitz. I wanted to show them the place where I had passed most of the war years. To my astonishment, the location had been transformed into a kind of showpiece: very green, very tranquil, with virtually nothing of the horror of the years 1941-1945.
On the plane back from Belgium to Israel, I resolved to do something I had never once contemplated since escaping the Nazi extermination camp: in response to the urgings of Auschwitz museum director Kazimierz Smolen, and his deputy, Tadeusz Iwaszko, both of whom were camp inmates during the war, I would discharge the obligation - binding upon everyone who survived the Holocaust - by bequeathing my personal testimony to future generations.
Like jurist and international businessman Samuel Pisar - whose childhood home in Bialystok bordered on the scenes of my own childhood, and who, after being cast into the Holocaust inferno at the same age as myself, arose phoenix - like from the flames to attain great success and see his book of memoirs achieve worldwide circulation - I likewise was never captivated by the notion of recording the appalling events of my youth. Like him, I do not believe that personal memoirs possess any value as a guide for others. But I consider it my duty to my children and their generation to tell the story of the Holocaust as I experienced it, so that they may learn to appreciate the independence, the freedom and the might amidst which they now live. In fulfilling that duty, I shall also discharge another obligation by forging a memorial for the members of my family. and for all the other families who perished in the Holocaust, when there was nothing to save them from the sane extermination machine constructed by Nazi Germany.
This, then, is the story of an ember plucked from the flames; a story of survival and resurrection; a story of life emerging from the ashes.