An emotional meeting took place in Poland last week when 88-year-old Mordechai Chekhnover, a survivor of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, met attorney Yoel Hadar, the grandson of a British Army rabbi who was at the camp’s liberation in 1945.
Over the past week, 160 Israeli police officers have toured Poland as part of the “Witnesses in Uniform” program. Their tour included visits to sites such as the Warsaw Ghetto and the Majdanek and Treblinka extermination camps. The program is scheduled to end on Thursday with a ceremony at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.
Polish-born Chekhnover, who as a teenager was sent to the Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany, has participated in such commemoration trips in the past, and again this year. Attorney Yoel Hadar, legal adviser for the Internal Security Ministry, who participated in the program last week, is the grandson of Rabbi Eliezer Zvi Hardman, a British Army chaplain who was with the troops when they liberated Bergen-Belsen in April 1945. After the camp was liberated, Hardman recited the traditional Jewish mourning prayer beside a mass grave of tens of thousands of Jews who had been murdered there by the Nazis. He also sang Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah,” with camp survivors, while a BBC crew filmed the event and later broadcast it throughout the world.
Hadar, who met Chekhnover by chance last week, said, “This meeting has closed a circle for me.” He said his grandfather had told him about the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, and meeting an actual survivor of the camp in Poland had been very meaningful.