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A Great Miracle Started There

Libi Astaire

It might have been Chanukah, but in 1939 Kovno, miracles seemed in short supply. Yet it was precisely during Chanukah that the seeds for a great miracle were planted in, of all places, a Kovno gourmet food shop. Mishpacha tracked down “Zalke Gelkind,” who now uses the name Solly Ganor, at his Ramat HaSharon home. Now a wizened octogenarian Solly remembers Chanukah, 1939, when his “chance” meeting with the Japanese consul-general led to the rescue of some 6,000 Jews, including the entire Mir yeshivah.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Chanukah parties come in all shapes and sizes, but very few merit to change the course of Jewish history. One party that could qualify for such a distinction is a family get-together that occurred in Kovno, Lithuania, in December 1939. Among the participants were eleven-year-old Zalke Genkind, his Japanese “uncle,” and a Polish refugee from Warsaw.

Some six months later the Japanese “uncle,” who was actually Chiune Sugihara, Japan’s consul-general in Lithuania, embarked upon one of the most audacious rescue efforts during the Holocaust — a visa-signing spree that resulted in the saving of the Mir yeshivah and some six thousand Jewish lives.

What exactly happened at that Chanukah party to inspire a Japanese diplomat to save so many Jews?

With Chanukah approaching, Mishpacha traveled to Ramat HaSharon to talk with Zalke Genkind, who now goes by the name Solly Ganor, and is one of the people who have helped tell the world about the “Japanese Schindler.”

 

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