Holocaust survivors and descendants gathered at Caulfield Shule last week for the annual Buchenwald Ball.
“The Buchenwald Boys”, as they affectionately refer to one another, Salek Roth, Joe Szwarcberg, Szaja Chaskiel and Jack Unikoski, came together for the 77th Buchenwald Ball with more than 100 relatives and friends to dance, eat, sing and commemorate those who are no longer here.
The Ball has been held for more than 65 years and acts as a celebration of their liberation from the Buchenwald concentration camp in Weimar, Germany.
After the camp was liberated in 1945, more than 60 former prisoners from the largest concentration camp in the German Reich settled in Australia.
It was around 1955 when the Ball began as an opulent evening celebration. The event is now a luncheon and an annual opportunity for lifelong friends to catch up.
On April 11, the survivors and their families gathered at the Buchenwald monument and in the shtibel at the Springvale Chevra Kadisha Cemetery, where they said Kaddish for their families who were murdered in the Holocaust, and placed stones on the monument.
Anita Frayman, daughter of “Buchenwald Boy” Joe Kaufman, who died last year aged 94, said, “During this annual ceremony, the Boys tell the stories of their horrific suffering and miraculous survival.
Now, their children and grandchildren continue to tell and retell the Boys’ stories so that, for generations to come, we will know what happened to them.
“The Buchenwald Boys danced because their constant focus was always on life. They danced so that we, their children, will not forget. Now, the second, third and fourth generations continue the tradition of commemorating their fathers’ suffering, mourning the deep loss of families, while celebrating their fathers’ survival and in their own continuity.”
Buchenwald Boy Szaja Chaskiel told The AJN, “I would never have believed in those dark days of Buchenwald, 77 years ago, that I would even survive, let alone live to commemorate, sing, dance and drink with our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.”
Chaskiel, now 92, moved to Melbourne in 1949 without any family. The “Buchenwald Boys” acted as brothers to him.
Chaskiel’s daughter Sandi Rapoport said that “they call [the Ball] their birthday”.
“There were four survivors there standing tall and proud drinking a L’chaim to the fact that they were there with their children and grandchildren,” she said.
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