Hostage families mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day: ‘Never again is now’

Descendants of Holocaust survivors whose family members were kidnapped to Gaza gather virtually to discuss the similarities they see between Nazi and Hamas atrocities

Relatives and supporters of the Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip by  Hamas attend a protest calling for their release outside the Knesset, in Jerusalem, Jan. 22, 2024. Hebrew on the hands with fake blood reads, 'Time is running out.' (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
Relatives and supporters of the Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas attend a protest calling for their release outside the Knesset, in Jerusalem, Jan. 22, 2024. Hebrew on the hands with fake blood reads, 'Time is running out.' (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

On the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Hostage Families Forum and Jerusalem-based nonprofit media group MediaCentral teamed up to hold a special Zoom event, in which three family members of hostages discussed what they argued were the similarities between the horrific events of October 7 and the atrocities of the Holocaust.

The speakers on Friday were either Holocaust survivors or descendants of survivors, whose family members had been kidnapped on October 7, when Hamas terrorists invaded Israel’s south, killing some 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages.

Michael Kuperstein, 82, a survivor and the grandfather of Bar Kuperstein, 22, who was kidnapped from the Supernova music festival in Re’im, spoke at length about what he said were the striking similarities between the Nazis and Hamas. He labeled both as fascist entities and expressed his deep disappointment in the international community, specifically the International Court of Justice, for not doing more to address the Hamas threat.

Bar was among the staff working at the party, where he also volunteered as a paramedic. His grandmother managed to reach him by phone shortly after the start of the barrage of rockets that signaled the start of the attack, and Bar said they were starting to leave the premises. This was the last contact the family had with him.

Witnesses later said that when the shooting began, instead of fleeing for his life, Bar chose to help treat and evacuate the wounded. His aunt later found a video released by Hamas showing Bar lying on the ground with his hands tied behind his back. The family has not received any sign of life since.

Yosef Avi Yair Engel, the son of two Holocaust survivors and grandfather to released hostage Ofir Engel, 17, said he wished to reframe the conversation about the Israel-Hamas war around Hamas atrocities rather than the current state of the Gaza Strip.

(L-R) Ora Rubenstein and Michael Kuperstein, Yosef Engel, Yosi Shnaider. All came together virtually on January 26, 2023 to spread awareness of their relatives who are being held hostage in Gaza on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Screenshot via MediaCentral)

“We ask [everyone] all over the world,” Engel said, “think about the seventh of October. Don’t think only about what started on the eighth of October. The seventh of October was, for me, especially… a day of Holocaust. One day of Holocaust.”

Michael Kuperstein (courtesy).

Engel added: “When journalists ask me about the children in Gaza, they are focusing on the eighth of October and forgetting what happened on the seventh of October.

His grandson Ofir was kidnapped from his girlfriend’s home in Kibbutz Be’eri along with his girlfriend’s father Yossi Sharabi (53). The two were held hostage together until Ofir’s release after 54 days. On January 16, it was announced that Yossi had been murdered by Hamas after 102 days in captivity. His brother Eli Sharabi remains in captivity.

Ofir Engel (middle), pictured a few days after his release from Hamas captivity on November 29, 2023; his girlfriend, Yuval Sharabi, is at left. (Courtesy)

All representatives of the Hostage Family Forum agreed that the slogan “Never Again is Now” was more pertinent than ever.

Another participant was Yosi Shnaider, a grandson of Holocaust survivors and cousin of Shiri Bibas, 32, who was kidnapped from her home in Kibbutz Nir Oz with her two young sons, Ariel, 4, and Kfir, who was only 9 months old. The family remains in Gaza. Shnaider told the story of his grandmother’s escape from the Nazis and drew attention to the effects that the Holocaust had on those who survived it, expressing concern for the effects captivity is having on his loved ones.

Kfir Bibas and his mother Shiri Bibas, who were abducted to Gaza by Hamas terrorists, along with Kfir’s brother Ariel and father Yarden, from Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7, 2023 (Courtesy)

“A lot of the people that came back from the Holocaust — you can see that they were different… there are a lot of things they carried on their shoulders,” he said.

Shnaider said Kfir and the rest of the family would likely suffer from permanent health damage even if they were released today, particularly the young children who are still in the early stages of growth and development.

Kfir Bibas is the youngest hostage in captivity. His 1st birthday was marked on January 18 across the country and abroad in various somber ceremonies. The father, Yarden Bibas (34), was kidnapped separately from his entire family. Shiri’s parents, Margit Shnaider Silberman and Yosi Silberman, were killed during the massacre.

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