Amidst the many horrors of the Holocaust, there were also miracles. One such miracle was the birth, in Auschwitz, of Angela Orosz, who recounted her story as keynote speaker at Ottawa’s Yom Hashoah community commemoration.
The event, which was held on Sunday, April 23, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre, was organized by the Shoah (Holocaust) Committee of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, under the leadership of Chair Debbie Halton-Weiss, in partnership with the Azrieli Foundation.
Cantor David Wisnia, an Auschwitz survivor, was initially scheduled to deliver the keynote address, but was unable to attend the event due to an illness.
As viewers of CTV’s documentary In Their Footsteps will recall, Orosz participated in a March of the Living trip to Poland and accompanied a group of Canadian high school students — some from Ottawa — as they visited the infamous Nazi concentration camps. Noah Hamburg, in his introduction of Angela Orosz at Sunday’s event, told the audience how much her presence had enhanced and added meaning to his experience.
Orosz was unaware of her dramatic beginnings until she happened to hear the story at age 11. She was unable to talk about her experience until she finally opened up, at age 60, to a journalist in her home in Montreal. Her parents had arrived at Auschwitz on May 25, 1944, when Orosz’ mother, Vera Bein, was three months pregnant. Orosz’ father was killed, but her mother was chosen by Dr. Josef Mengele for forced labour and horrific “experiments,” such as injections into her cervix.
Hiding the pregnancy was not difficult since Bein was badly malnourished and didn’t experience typical weight gain. The birth itself, however, was the true miracle. Alone, on the top bunk in a concentration camp, and unable to utter a sound, Bein delivered the tiny baby — who weighed just one kilogram — and had to leave her there and go to work just hours later. Angela was so small and weak that she was unable to cry, which probably saved the baby’s life. Against all odds, she lived and was liberated with her mother five weeks later.
Orosz told her story in an interview with journalist Stephanie Levitz of The Canadian Press.
Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Nimrod Barkan, whose mother’s entire family was exterminated in Lithuania, told the audience that, “The State of Israel is the Jewish people’s monument to hope and revival.”
Six survivors of the Holocaust participated in a candle lighting ceremony, each lighting one candle to represent one million victims.
Veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Israel Defence Forces participated in the March on the Colours.
The Tamir choir led the audience in the singing of O Canada and Hatikvah. The ceremony was concluded with the singing of Kel Maleh Rachamin and the recitation of Kaddish led by Cantor Daniel Benlolo, who had accompanied Orosz and the Ottawa students on the March of the Living.