Joel Mowbray

JERUSALEM?The man telling me his life story in the back of a banquet hall was wiping tears from his eyes as a congo line of Holocaust survivors danced right behind us.

With over 1,000 survivors and family members gathered at Yadvashem, Israel?s Holocaust museum, for the 60th anniversary of the Liberation, the weeklong event featured every possible emotion, from sadness to devastation to elation.

The opening night event, at the Crown Plaza Hotel, was an obviously emotional experience for most of the survivors, many of whom had not been to Israel in over two decades. 

While tinged with the pain of remembering loved ones lost to the Holocaust, the entire week was a testament to the strength of a people who could not be wiped out by Hitler or his willing accomplices.  It was for this reason that dozens of them got up and danced around the banquet hall at the end of the first night.

Howard Kleinberg?s tale is the perfect embodiment of perseverance in the face of the greatest odds.  Every family member he knew was murdered by the Nazis, and he nearly perished as well. 

Then 18, Howard?s body had been so thoroughly ravaged that he was ready to die.  Even after Bergenbelsen had been liberated by the British, he says he no longer had the strength to live.  All that pulled him through was a 15-year-old girl who helped nurse him back to health.

As he talks about this girl, his hand is trembling as he wipes away a tear from his left eye, and then from his right.  He swallows, smiles, and says, ?You should have seen how beautiful she was.?

A few minutes later, Nancy walks up and places her hand on Howard?s shoulder.  He beams, and then shoots me a look of ?I told you so.?  Indeed he had; just before Nancy approached us, Howard had told me, ?She is still so beautiful.?

Like Howard, Nancy?s life as she knew it was destroyed.  Save for one uncle who had lived in Israel, her entire family died in the Holocaust.  A relentless optimist?with an inner spirit as ebullient as her husband?s?Nancy believes her life to be one of miracles.  Considering that Howard and Nancy celebrated 55 years of marriage this March, it?s hard to argue with her.

?Miracle? was the word on the lips of many survivors.  Whether the miracle was outlasting Hitler or living a full life and making it to a ripe old age, the passion exhibited by septuagenarians and octogenarians was inspiring.

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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