The Story of Yisrael Abslesz 1930-
Yisrael Abelesz, one of six children, was born in 1930 in Kapuvar, Hungary to an Orthodox, middle-class, and loving family. They lived a simple, yet comfortable life.
Before the war, he took pride in being Jewish and Hungarian and saw the two parts of his identity as the most wonderful combination. Antisemitism was not a regular concern. This changed when the Nazis occupied Hungary in March 1944. Overnight, restrictions curtailing Jewish freedoms were announced with the result being frequent harassment. Soon after, the Jews were confined to ‘Jewish houses’: Jewish-owned properties which the owner was forced to share with other families from surrounding towns and villages. Two weeks later, they were deported to Auschwitz. It was July 1944 and Yisrael was 14 years old.
From July 1944 until January 1945, Yisrael survived a number of selections for the gas chambers, daily life in Birkenau and the infamous death march until he was liberated by the Russians. After the war, he was reunited with three of his brothers and his sister and they rebuilt their lives. His parents and younger brother had been gassed on arrival at Auschwitz.
Yisrael moved to the UK in 1949 and married Judit, also a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, and they had four children. He is involved in the restoration of neglected Jewish cemeteries in Hungary.
His story is told by his granddaughter, Avital Menahem (née Mendelsohn) using audio testimony of Yisrael and a selection of photos to preserve his legacy and to share his message that we must treat everyone, regardless of
perceived differences, with dignity and respect, to create a positive society where every individual is valued and can contribute.
Presented by Avital Menahem
Avital studied English Literature at Queen Mary, University of London and is an English teacher at Beth Jacob Grammar School. Prior to this, she was an Account Executive at a PR agency working with a diverse range of clients, including charities, technology start-ups and consumer brands. In her free time, Avital enjoys spending time with her husband and baby daughter.
Her grandfather, Yisrael Abelesz, survived Auschwitz Birkenau and was liberated at age 14 by the Russian forces. Avital is honoured to share his story of survival, hope and rebuilding and is immensely proud of his positive attitude and appreciation for life. These are values she hopes to pass onto her own growing family. By telling his story, she believes she is continuing his legacy and not only educating but encouraging meaningful discussion about how to best relate to others to create a kinder, respectful, and forgiving world.