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ALEXANDER KIMEL - HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR
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MEMORIAM FOR A HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR

by Alexander Kimel


When Holocaust Survivors pass away we remember their horrible losses and experiences; we rarely recognize their struggles and sufferance after the Holocaust. I believe that the following eulogy for Dr. Trief is a good example:

MEMORIAM FOR DR. OSCAR TRIEF

We gathered here today to say good bye to Dr. Oscar Trief, a noted physician, who delivered over ten thousand babies, and a Holocaust survivor. He was an unusual man with a complex life story.

When a person dies and his "Book of Life" is closed, one obtains a panoramic view of his life, a better understanding of his struggles, failures and achievements. Now we can clarify and encapsulate our memories of Dr. Trief.

I will remember Oscar as a man that had an unusually hard life. Born in semi-fascist Poland, where a Jew could not get an education, he left for France to study medicine. In the last year of his studies his father run into economic hardships and could not support him. Left without money, Oscar did not give up his dream of becoming a doctor.

He joined a French Jewish Theater and became a part time actor. His famous song "Rosalie" is the hit song from those times. Although his meager earnings covered the tuition, he still faced starvation. He survived by eating daily a bowl of soup and a load of bread.

He had a hard life because fate imposed on him a nomadic life style of constant uprooting. After graduation, Dr. Trief could not remain in France, he returned to - Poland to a hopeless situation, soon to be engulfed in the cataclysm of the Holocaust. He miraculously survived, losing his family, his wife, his only son, and many brothers and sisters. Being a fighter, he picked up the pieces and started a new life. Never looking back.

In 1945, as soon as he rebuilt his life, he was uprooted when he left for Western Poland. One year later, the Kielce pogrom motivated him to move to Sweden. Here he stayed over eight years, to realize that in Sweden his family faces total assimilation. Not being able to accept assimilation he moved his family to the States, again facing the long cycle of settling down, internship, exams, Board certification, etc. He had a hard life, because one third of his adult life he spent in transit engaged in packing up, settling down and preparing for the next professional exam.

Oscar I remember was a trailblazer. When he moved to Sweden, he could not practice medicine. Most foreign doctors worked in factories. Oscar refused to give up medicine. He somehow received an internship, leading to training for a surgeon. Later he obtained permission to work as a substitute doctor. With his credentials and charm he always changed a two-week assignment into a two-year contract.

I will remember Oscar as a man of many talents. He was also an accomplished cantor, a master of Jewish liturgy. In 1945, immediately after the war Holocaust, survivors gathered in the ancient synagogue of Wroclaw for the Yom Kippur services, amid consternation. Nobody knew how to pray. Oscar stepped forward and gave a rousing performance. Listening to his supplications, his chants of the Hinni Heuni, El Maale Rachamim, we cried. He became an overnight sensation, a physician who moved people to tears, with his prayers. From there on Oscar became the unofficial Cantor of the congregation.

I will remember Oscar. . . . as a man of many loves. He loved his children, his eight grandchildren. Oscar loved medicine. I remember how immediately after retirement he studied for to the Board re-certification. Oscar that I remember always radiated joy of life, he loved to sing and dance, to entertain and see people laughing.

I also remember Oscar as a tenacious fighter who never complained. He did not complain getting up in the middle of nights to deliver thousands of babies. He did not complain during the last years of his life, when the debilitating sickness robbed him of his strength and increased his sufferance. He never complained but often smiled.

I will miss Oscar and always remember him as fighter, actor, singer, cantor, loving father and husband. A man who faced his trials and tribulations with a song and a smile.

Thinking about Oscar I will always remember Renee, her legendary self-sacrifice, boundless love and her inner strength of epic proportions. God Bless her and give her all the strength she needs now.


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kimel@systec.com