Holo­caust sur­vivor Gena Turgel dies

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - OBITUARIES - By Danica Kirka

Gena Turgel, a Holo­caust sur­vivor who com­forted Anne Frank at the Ber­gen-belsen con­cen­tra­tion camp be­fore the young di­arist’s death and the camp’s lib­er­a­tion a month later, has died. She was 95.

Turgel died Thurs­day, Bri­tain’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, said on Twit­ter. The news trig­gered trib­utes from some of the peo­ple the Pol­ish na­tive touched in the decades she shared her World War II ex­pe­ri­ences, in­clud­ing wit­ness­ing the hor­rors of the Nazi camps at Auschwitz, Buchen­wald and Ber­gen-belsen.

Af­ter World War II, Turgel mar­ried one of Ber­gen-belsen’s Bri­tish lib­er­a­tors, Nor­man Turgel, earn­ing the nick­name “The Bride of Belsen.” Her wed­ding dress, made from para­chute silk, is part of the col­lec­tion of the Im­pe­rial War Mu­seum in London.

Turgel at­tended Bri­tain’s an­nual Holo­caust re­mem­brance two months ago in a wheel­chair with a blan­ket draped over her knees.

“My story is the story of one sur­vivor, but it is also the story of 6 mil­lion who per­ished,” she said at the event in London’s Hyde Park. “Maybe that’s why I was spared — so my testimony would serve as a me­mo­rial like that can­dle that I light, for the men, women and chil­dren who have no voice.”

Born in Krakow, Poland as Gena Goldfin­ger on Feb. 1, 1923, Turgel had to move with her fam­ily in 1941 to a Jewish ghetto with only a sack of pota­toes, some flour and a few be­long­ings. One brother was shot by the Nazi SS po­lice and an­other dis­ap­peared af­ter try­ing to es­cape, ac­cord­ing to the Holo­caust Ed­u­ca­tional Trust in London.

A sis­ter of hers was shot while try­ing to smug­gle food into a la­bor camp. In Jan­uary 1945, Turgel and her mother were forced onto a death march from Auschwitz, leav­ing her re­main­ing sis­ter be­hind.

It was in a hos­pi­tal at Ber­genbelsen, where the 22-year-old Turgel ar­rived in Fe­bru­ary, that she cared for Anne Frank as the 15-year-old girl was dy­ing from ty­phus.

“I washed her face, gave her wa­ter to drink, and I can still see that face, her hair and how she looked,” Turgel once told the BBC.

Turgel pub­lished a mem­oir, “I Light a Can­dle,” in 1987 and kept retelling her story in schools across Bri­tain un­til the end of her life.

“Gena ded­i­cated her life to shar­ing her testimony to hun­dreds of thousands in schools across the coun­try,” “Her story was dif­fi­cult to hear — and dif­fi­cult for her to tell, but no one who heard her speak will ever for­get,” Karen Pol­lock, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Holo­caust Ed­u­ca­tional Trust, said.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he met Turgel at the Hyde Park event in April and was “in­spired by her life­long com­mit­ment to ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about the hor­rors of the Holo­caust.”

“Let us hope for a bet­ter fu­ture where anti-semitism and all ha­tred should be de­mol­ished, shouldn’t be tol­er­ated,” Turgel said at the time. “And I do beg you, don’t for­get those who are less for­tu­nate than your­selves. “

She is sur­vived by her three chil­dren, as well as grand­chil­dren and great grand­chil­dren.

Paul Faith / via As­so­ci­ated Press

Holo­caust sur­vivor Gena Turgel who com­forted di­arist Anne Frank at the Ber­genbelsen con­cen­tra­tion camp months be­fore its lib­er­a­tion, has died. She was 95.

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