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Eva Lavi  

The Youngest Schindler’s List Survivor

Eva Lavi’s earliest memories are of the Holocaust.

She remembers how her mother made her hide outside in below-zero weather, clutching a standing pipe, as Nazis searched her home in Poland. She remembers her father telling her to swallow a spoonful of cyanide — better than death at the hands of the Nazis — only to have her mother object at the last minute. She remembers seeing her twin cousins shot to death as they ran up a hill at a labor camp.

Lavi was 2 years old when Nazi Germany took over her hometown of Krakow in September 1939. Now 80, she wants to make sure her stories aren’t lost after she’s gone.

Lavi is the youngest survivor to have been on Schindler’s list, the Jews saved by German industrialist Oskar Schindler and immortalized in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film. Lavi was put in a ghetto in Poland with her family immediately after the Nazi takeover, transferred to a labor camp and then to Auschwitz.

After being saved by Schindler, who sheltered hundreds of Jews who worked in his kitchen goods and armament factories, Lavi lived a quiet life in Israel. She served in the army, lived on a kibbutz, worked as an administrative assistant and raised a family. She remembers the early years in Israel when survivors were disparaged as weak and passive. But as interest in the Holocaust increased, she became more vocal in recounting her experience. Now she speaks to groups at Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust authority, and travels to Poland every year with a group of high school students.

Lavi also feels a sense of urgency in telling her story because she thinks the world hasn’t gotten better since she was liberated. There are groups that still seek to annihilate Jews and other minorities, she says.

As the Holocaust survivor population shrinks — Lavi was born just two years before the war — she sounds conflicted about how best to perpetuate Holocaust memory. On the one hand, she acknowledges that survivors’ stories are extensively documented. On the other hand, she knows nothing is more powerful than a firsthand account.

One way to transmit the experience, she says, is movies. She’s grateful for the research work that Spielberg did while making “Schindler’s List,” which won the Academy Award for best picture. One scene featuring her as a child, she says, is mostly accurate: Nazis separated her from her mother, but Schindler saved her by telling the guards he needed her small fingers to operate machinery. She believes that movie and those that have followed play a positive role in educating people about what happened — even if some are fictional.

After decades of telling her story around the world, Lavi says addressing the United Nations gave her a sense of closure. For years she has carried guilt for surviving where so many perished. But with this speech, she said, she achieved something to justify her life.

News


Youngest Schindler's List Survivor Eva Lavi Addresses U.N. | Time

Speaking at the United Nations Holocaust Memorial Ceremony on Wednesday, Eva Lavi shared the story of how Oskar Schindler saved her life.

Remarks by Mrs. Eva Lavi My name is Eva Lavi. I was born in ...

My name is Eva Lavi. I was born in Krakow, Poland. When the Second World War started, I was 2 years old, when it finished I was 8. There was no childhood for ...

Youngest person saved by Oskar Schindler: 'I feel guilty that I survived'

Holocaust survivor honored Eva Lavi honored in ceremony that also acknowledges the legendary Oskar Schindler; Eric Shawn reports. UNITED NATIONS – Eva ...

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