Photo by Eitan Elhadez-Barak/TPS on 5 May, 2024

Survivor Pnina Hefer Lights Torch at Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day Ceremony

Memorial Events By TPS   •   5 May, 2024

Jerusalem, 5 May, 2024 (TPS) -- Israel began its annual observance of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day at 8 PM Sunday night with a special ceremony held at Yad Vashem – the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. Each year, during the official ceremony that opens the 24 hour period of national mourning, six torches, representing the six million murdered Jews, are lit by Holocaust survivors.

The personal stories of the torch lighters reflect the central theme chosen by Yad Vashem for Holocaust Remembrance Day and their individual experiences are portrayed in short films screened during the ceremony.

Seen here lighting one of the torches is 94-year-old survivor Pnina Hefer, who was was born in the village of Nuşfalǎu in Romania and had twenty brothers and sisters. Her father Anshel Asher Weiss was the community rabbi, and the family lived next to the synagogue. The Weiss family had a Zionist outlook and spoke Hebrew. Pnina’s parents encouraged her to learn foreign languages and acquire general knowledge in addition to her Torah studies.

In 1940, Hungary gained control of the area, and when the Germans entered Hungary in March 1944, the Jews were subjected to abuse and restrictive decrees.

In late 1944, Pnina and her sister Bluma were sent to perform forced labor at an ammunition factory in Salzwedel and were liberated by US soldiers on April 14, 1945.

The sisters traveled to Yugoslavia and boarded the Ma’apilim (illegal immigrants) vessel “Knesset Israel” in November 1946. The British captured the boat and threw the girls’ precious prayer book into the sea. A photograph of the two girls arguing with the British was published in a newspaper, and Pnina and Bluma were recognized by two of their brothers, who had survived and had already immigrated to Eretz Israel.
(Personal story of Pnina Hefer provided by Yad Vashem.)

Yad Vashem Jerusalem, Sunday May 5, 2024.
Photo by Eitan Elhadez-Barak/TPS