Tomorrow, as we celebrate the final days of Passover, we also mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen.
Holocaust survivor Masha Greenbaum (née Ralsky) was among the 60,000 inmates liberated by the British army on April 15, 1945. Born in Slobodka, Lithuania in 1927, Masha survived the Kovno Ghetto, the Narva labor camp in Estonia, and the Stutthof and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps in Germany. Just a few weeks before liberation, Masha recalls sitting with her mother, sister, and fellow prisoners in Bergen-Belsen as they tried to recite the Passover Seder from memory.
When it was time to sing “Avadim Hayinu,” they were stricken with silence. How could they rejoice, “Once we were slaves, now we are free” when, at that very moment, they themselves were enslaved? Yet, despite the tragic irony, they mustered the strength to sing in the hopes that one day, they would be free.
A few weeks later, Masha developed typhus and was sent to the infirmary. She awoke in the hospital to the sound of a man’s voice coming from the camp’s loudspeaker. He was reciting the Havdalah prayer, which marks the end of Shabbat. Masha thought she was hallucinating or had died, but in reality, the camp had been liberated one week earlier. The man on the loudspeaker was Avraham Greenbaum, one of four Jews serving as chaplains in the British Army, and Masha’s future husband.
After the war, Masha and Avraham lived in Mexico, London, and finally Israel. Masha received her master’s degree and became an accomplished writer. She has dedicated her life to educating people about the Holocaust and served as a guide at Yad Vashem.
Pictured is Masha with her granddaughter Daniella in Jerusalem, 2017.
Photo: Daniella Greenbaum Davis
Source: American Society for Yad Vashem