Holocaust survivor Ephraim Mol, who was scheduled to recite the “El Maleh Rahamim” prayer at the Yad Vashem Yom Hashoah ceremony but suffered a stroke the day before, died on Friday aged 85.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his condolences at the news of Mol’s death and recalled meeting him in the lead-up to his planned appearance at Tuesday’s memorial event.
“We ask to send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Rachel and their children. May his memory be a blessing,” Netanyahu said.
Mol was born on March 8, 1938, in Brussels, Belgium. In 1942, two years after the Nazi invasion, his family attempted to flee to Switzerland via Besançon, France, according to Yad Vashem.
The Gestapo caught the family and arrested his parents, and Mol was taken by French police to be cared for in a monastery in the city of Besançon while his parents began their journey through the Drancy Transit Camp to Auschwitz.
Mol was later adopted by the French Jewish Weil family and lived with them in Paris. But as the persecution against French Jewry reached its peak he was hidden in an apartment until the country’s liberation in 1944 by Lucie Cartier, who was recognized as a righteous among the nations by Yad Vashem in 1971.
After the fall of the Nazis, Mol went on to fight for France in the Algerian War, then in 1960, immigrated to Israel, and settled in Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu in northern Israel.
He later married Rachel, who he had met while serving in Algeria. The couple had four children and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Yad Vashem said.