The or­phan’s tale

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY LEON SY­MONS

THE POIGNANT story of a small dap­per man of 84 has been cap­ti­vat­ing Jewish and non-Jewish chil­dren at the Jewish Mu­seum in Cam­den, North Lon­don, this week.

In 1930, six-year-old Itzchak Belfer was placed in a War­saw or­phan­age run by Jewish pae­di­a­tri­cian Janusz Kor­czak. He re­mained there un­til 1938. Dr Kor­czak and the chil­dren went into the War­saw Ghetto af­ter the Nazis in­vaded and, de­spite op­por­tu­ni­ties to es­cape, he ac­com­pa­nied some 200 to Tre­blinka con­cen­tra­tion camp, where they were all mur­dered in 1942.

As part of its HMD con­tri­bu­tion, the mu­seum is run­ning an ex­hi­bi­tion, Cham­pion Of The Child, about Dr Kor­czak’s life.

“My fa­ther died when I was four and my fam­ily was very poor,” Mr Belfer told the JC. “I was one of five chil­dren and we all lived in one room. My mother took me to the or­phan­age and I stayed. But this was not like the sort of or­phan­age peo­ple imag­ine. Dr Kor­czak was a won­der­ful man and ev­ery­one had only happy mem­o­ries. The chil­dren did ev­ery job ex­cept cook­ing and laun­dry but we were happy to do so. We had a far bet­ter life than many oth­ers.” As an ex­am­ple, he re­called that when he said he wanted to paint, “I was given a room that was my own stu­dio”.

Mr Belfer and a fel­low or­phan es­caped from Poland in 1940. They walked to Rus­sia, where he worked in a coalmine for a year be­fore join­ing the Rus­sian army. He tried to reach Pales­tine in 1946 but was sent to Cyprus, where he re­mained un­til 1949, when he set­tled in Is­rael.

Yitzchak Belfer with one of his paint­ings at the Jewish Mu­seum

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.