At Auschwitz march, survivor Bella Haim commemorates hostage grandson killed in Gaza

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

Bella Haim tours the Auschwitz-1 former Nazi camp in Poland on May 6, 2024. (Canaan Lidor/Times of Israel)
Bella Haim tours the Auschwitz-1 former Nazi camp in Poland on May 6, 2024. (Canaan Lidor/Times of Israel)

AUSCHWITZ — At the age of 86, Bella Haim walks briskly between the red-brick barracks of the Auschwitz-1 camp in Poland. It’s her first visit to a Holocaust commemoration site anywhere in Europe, which she left for Israel as a child survivor of the genocide.

“I never felt any need to come to a place like this, but then October 7 happened,” Haim tells The Times of Israel ahead of the annual March of the Living commemoration event at the former Nazi camp on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. Thousands of Jews march here to commemorate the genocide.

Her thoughts, she says, are with her grandson, Yotam, a hostage who was killed accidentally by Israeli troops in Gaza along with two other Israelis who escaped captivity there after being abducted by terrorists on October 7.

Yotam, who was taken from Kibbutz Kfar Aza, spoke with her as terrorists were raiding the kibbutz, where they killed dozens of members, she recalls: “He told me he can smell smoke and it transported me back to thinking about the Holocaust. The smell of Jewish homes burning.”

Yotam Haim (Courtesy)

Haim, who was born in Poland in 1938 and settled in Kibbutz Gvulot in Israel’s south, near the Gaza Strip, in 1951, says she is at Auschwitz to make a statement,.

“I’m here to show we are alive, we have risen from the Holocaust and we will rise again from October 7,” she says.

Haim is among several Holocaust survivors who are participating in the march and whose lives were directly impacted by the October 7 onslaught, along with Berlin-born Judith Tzamir from Kibbutz Mefalsim near Gaza and Danit Gabbai, who was born in Marrakech, Morocco, and whose son and daughter and their children survived the onslaughts in Re’im and Zikim, respectively.

Most Popular