Keren Hayesod and the Shoa: remembering Dr. Markus Spiegel z"l   

on  18/04/2012 
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Remembering Dr. Markus (Mordechai) Spiegel, KH Chairman of Krakow and Galicia (1886-1940)

 

 Dr. Spiegel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Markus (Mordechai) Spiegel​

 

 

A lawyer by profession, Dr. Spiegel was a leading Zionist activist in the important Jewish community of Krakow, Poland, for many years. As part of his activities, he served as editor of the Zionist newspaper Nowy Dziennik (The New Daily) but first and foremost, he was the head of the Keren Hayesod offices in Krakow, fundraising in the entire region and maintaining close contact with KH headquarters in Jerusalem. He was a delegate to the 19th Zionist Congress in Lucerne, Switzerland (1935),  and in 1938, he visited Eretz-Israel at the invitation of then KH head, Dr. Arthur Hantke. During this visit, he met with leaders such as Leib Yaffe and Arthur Ruppin, and expressed his desire to make aliyah together with his family.  His friends, however, convinced him to remain in Krakow to continue his important work. 

On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland and the Jews' fate changed irremediably. Dr. Spiegel was arrested by the Gestapo in December 1939, together with other public figures.  He was sent from jail to jail until the summer of 1940, when he was transferred to the Auschwitz concentration camp, which was not yet an extermination camp.  Initially, he was allowed to send a short letter to his family once a month, but his situation deteriorated.  All KH efforts to get him out of Poland with an aliyah certificate failed, and on Dec. 4, 1940, his wife received a telegram in German stating: "Your husband has died of a stroke".  A person who had been imprisoned with Dr. Spiegel later told the family that hard labor and the freezing weather were the real reasons of his death. 

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From right to left: Dr. Markus Spiegel, his wife Rosa, their son Lotek (now Prof. Eleazar Shafrir) and their daughter Ora 

His wife, Rosa, did not survive either. After being sent to the Krakow ghetto, she perished in the Belzec extermination camp in 1942, at the age of 45.

Their daughter, Ora, born in 1930, was killed in the Krakow ghetto in 1943, at the age of 13.
 
Their son, Eleazar (Lotek), managed to escape from the Plaszow concentration camp together with a friend, thanks to the help of the Christian former housekeeper of the latter’s family. Eleazar managed to reach Hungary and then Istanbul, from where he immigrated to what was then Mandatory Palestine.  After arriving in Jerusalem, he met with KH leaders and was awarded a Keren Hayesod scholarship to begin chemistry studies at the Hebrew University. He eventually joined the faculty of the Hadassah Medical School, where he was appointed professor. He later founded the Center for Diabetes Research at the Medical School, and gained international recognition in his field of expertise, under his Hebraicized name,  Prof. Eleazar Shafrir.
Prof. Shafrir and his son, Uri, were guests of  honour at the ceremony at KH headquarters in Jerusalem on Thursday, April 19, Yom Hashoa ("Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day"), where the memory of Dr. Spiegel and other KH leaders who were murdered in the Holocaust was honoured.
 
(Prof. Shafrir z"l passed away in November2016)
 
Based on Prof. Eleazar Shafrir's memoirs: "The Story of My Life, from Jerozolimska to Jerusalem" and other documents kindly provided by him
 
 
 

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