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October 26, 2022 3:37 pm

Halina Silber, Holocaust Survivor Saved by Oskar Schindler, Dies at Age 93

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Daniela Lavender, Sir Ben Kingsley, Halina Silber, Mushka Efune and Dovid Efune at the 6th annual Algemeiner gala in New York City, Sept. 27, 2019. Photo: PMC / Sean Zanni for The Algemeiner.

Helen “Halina” Silber, who attributed surviving the Holocaust to being transferred from Auschwitz to an ammunition and enamelware factory owned by the German industrialist, Oskar Schindler, died on Tuesday. She was 93.

Born in 1929, Silber and family fled their home in a rural area of Kraków, Poland, to a ghetto in Słomniki when she was just ten years old. After hearing that the Nazis would relocate Jews living there, Silber’s mother told her to travel alone back to Kraków and voluntarily join the Płaszów labor camp, where her siblings were already interned. She never saw her mother again.

“I saw endless rows and rows of barbed wire. I could smell the stench of burning flesh,” she described arriving at Auschwitz to members of the Young Israel Shomrai Emunah synagogue in 2019. “I felt to myself; there is no more room here for hope. There is no room here for miracles.”

Not having identification papers delayed Silber’s registration at Płaszów, but she was eventually assigned to laundry duty. Later, she was selected by the camp’s Gestapo officers to work in Schindler’s factory.

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“My job was to carry the heavy pots and pans to the oven to bake in the enamel,” she told the audience at Young Israel. “The heat and weight were unbearable. I didn’t believe I would survive for very long.”

After observing Silber’s plight, Schindler reassigned her to cleaning the factory’s offices. When it was closed in 1944, Schindler, delivering what became memorialized as “Schindler’s List,” ensured his workers’ transfer to another factory he owned in Brünnlitz. By the time the missive arrived at Auschwitz in the hands of his secretary, Hilde Albrecht, Silber and three hundred other women had endured several weeks at Auschwitz.

Silber said she was No. 16 on Schindler’s List. Speaking in 2015 at a Holocaust Remembrance Day event at a Maryland school, she described Schindler as one of “three miracles” that saved her life, with the other two being her reassignment to cleaning offices and her escape from the Słomniki ghetto.

“You are the last generation to hear of our suffering and the miracles by which we survived the Holocaust,” she said. “Many of the Holocaust survivors have already passed away and so, when the rest of us will be gone, we hope that you will keep reminding the world of our past.”

In 2019, Silber appeared at The Algemeiner’s J100 Gala in New York City to present actor Sir Ben Kingsley with the “Warrior for Truth” award,” which honored his portrayal of Itzhak Stern in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film, “Schindler’s List.” The Oscar-winning production told the story of the more than 1,200 Jews who, like Silber, were employed by Schindler at his enamelware factory, saving them from death.

Survived by two of her children and nine grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Silber spent the final years of her life speaking to groups about the lessons of her long and remarkable life.

Services commemorating the life of Halina Silber will be held on October 28, 12pm, at Sol Levinson’s Chapel in Pikesville, Maryland.

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