Israel Lichtenstein

We got to know Israel Lichtenstein as a charming, likeable and highly educated gentleman. We were immediately enchanted by his friendly smile and French accent. But although he told us his story with a lightness of touch throughout, you could sense the seriousness of a child who had to grow up too soon.

About Israel Lichtenstein

Israel Lichtenstein was born in 1932 in Paris, France, where he spent most of his childhood. In 1940, his mother sent him to a children's home in an unoccupied part of France for his protection. Israel stayed there for two years. He then returned to Paris only briefly, but had to flee again without his mother. He saw his mother again in May 1943. It was another two years before they were able to return home to Paris in 1945. After the war, Israel Lichtenstein studied medicine there and finally emigrated to Israel in 1963. There he worked in a French hospital until his retirement, later becoming its director.

To this day, he regularly organises evenings of encounters with young people to tell them about his life story and thus keep the stories and memories from the Second World War alive.

"Sometimes, if you want to save your child, you have to send them away from you."

Israel Lichtenstein

A picture to live on

The photo shows Israel Lichtenstein talking to volunteers from the French hospice. It is very important to him to pass on his story - especially to young people.

Our encounter

On the day of our meeting, he picked us up in his car at the Yad Vashem memorial and drove us to his home. We were greeted by a beautiful, bright and very stylishly furnished flat. It reflected his love of French and Jewish culture and, above all, books. In the middle of a conversation, he would sometimes get up to pick a book from his collection and quote from it. For example, a poem by Heine that he had learnt at school.

Large pictures with abstract, colourful paintings, in combination with the dancing sunspots from outside, enchanted the atmosphere in the room.

You can tell that Israel Lichtenstein loves this country, Jerusalem, and his flat overlooking the city forest with all his heart. Even if he will always be French, read French books and listen to French music: He has arrived in Israel.

Nevertheless, as he tells us, he always enjoys travelling to France regularly. He feels like a "privileged tourist" there, as he understands the culture and language like a local, but is only a temporary guest.

Just as important to him as his multifaceted life today is that young people learn about his history and understand what happened during the Second World War. For this reason, the former clinic director regularly invites volunteers to an evening of encounters, talks about his life and answers questions. After all, it is these life stories that offer young people tangible access to history. An evening with Israel Lichtenstein is something you never forget.

Author: Second Witness Sarah Hüttenberend