Margit Buchhalter Feldman was fifteen years old when her family was murdered at Auschwitz. She lied about her age, telling the Nazis she was eighteen, and was assigned to forced labor rather than being killed in the gas chambers.
She was born in Budapest on June 12, 1929, the same birth date as Anne Frank. She and her two parents were imprisoned in 1944 before they were taken to Auschwitz. She said in a 2016 documentary, “You were put into a barrack, where people died. The straw that you laid down was full of whatever came out of their bodies . . . It didn’t take twenty-four hours for your body to get covered with lice.”
By the time she was liberated by the British in 1945, Feldman was suffering from pneumonia and pleurisy and was injured by an explosion set by the Germans who were trying to destroy the camp. She moved to the US in 1947 when she learned she had an aunt living in New York and became an X-ray technician.
She was married in 1953 and had a son and a daughter, each of whom was named for her parents. Years later, she began telling children her story to educate them about the Holocaust.
Feldman explained in a 2017 interview: “It is important for me to remember that six million of my fellow Jews were slaughtered, and a million and a half of those victims were children. I am here and I firmly believe it is because God wanted me to survive and be here and tell the free world what an uncaring world did to its fellow human beings.”
Her son is now a doctor working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic in New Jersey. Her husband, Harvey, is hospitalized for COVID-19.
On Tuesday, one day before the seventy-fifth anniversary of her liberation, Margit Buchhalter Feldman died of complications from COVID-19. She was ninety years old.
Choosing a legacy that matters
Those of us who did not experience the Holocaust cannot truly understand its horrors.
I have led more than thirty study tours to Israel; each time I visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, I am shocked and grieved once again. To me, those who survived and have told the world their stories are some of our greatest heroes.
They remind us that we cannot always choose what happens to us, but we can always choose how we respond to what happens to us.
Joseph shocked his brothers when he forgave them and assured them, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Peter and John astonished the Sanhedrin with their boldness in proclaiming the gospel to them (Acts 4:13). Stephen asked God to forgive the men who were stoning him to death (Acts 7:60), following the example of our Savior from the cross (Luke 23:34).
None of us chose to be in this pandemic, but each of us can choose how we respond to it. We can give our needs to our Father and trust him for his surpassing peace (Philippians 4:6–7). We can find ways to share his love with someone who is hurting today (John 13:14–15). We can reflect the light of Jesus in the darkness of these days (Matthew 5:14–16).
In short, we can respond to the pandemic in ways for which we wish to be remembered when it is over.
What will you do today that will be important tomorrow?