Holocaust Survivor Celebrates 104th Birthday Surrounded by 400 Descendants

By GQ Pan

A 104-year-old Holocaust survivor fulfilled her birthday wish last week by gathering an enormous extended family of over 400 at the Western Wall of Jerusalem.

Shoshana Ovitz, who survived the Auschwitz death camp some 74 years ago, was pictured on August 7 surrounded by more than 400 of her descendants including children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the most sacred landmark for Jewish people around the world.

According to her grandson Meir Rosenstein, Ovitz was sent to the extermination camp in Auschwitz, Poland, where her mother was ripped from her and handed to Josef Mengele, the notorious Nazi doctor known for performing inhumane experiments on many of his inmates. Her mother was never seen again.

After the war, Ovitz met the man who would later become her husband, Dov Ovitz, who had lost his wife and children in the camps. They were married and moved to Haifa, Israel, where Ovitz worked as a seamstress and helped her husband run the store, explained Rosenstein.

An exterior view of The Auschwitz complex, December 8, 2004, showing the entrance gates to Auschwitz I with the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Makes One Free) overhead. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

For her milestone 104th birthday, Ovitz had but one wish. Walla, a Hebrew-language news site reported she wanted all her offspring to come together at the Western Wall for a family photo. It was certainly not an easy task to gather that many people, but her family tried their best to make her dream come true.

“We do not have an exact number, but there are probably 400 grandchildren and descendants,” Ovitz’s oldest granddaughter, Panini Friedman, told Walla.

Even 400 people, however, did not cover everyone that was supposed to show up, as Friedman said to the Israeli news outlet “we’re missing about 10 percent of them.”

“It wasn’t a simple thing to organize this rare event,” she added, saying relatives used email, phone calls, and social media messages to bring everyone back for the reunion.

Only when all of her offspring actually came together, did her grandmother realize the size of the gathering, said Friedman.

One photo from the event shows an immense crowd posing in front of Jerusalem’s Western Wall. Men, mostly dressed in black and white, can be seen standing on the right side while women, in their long, modest skirts, on the left.

In another photo that was shared on social media, Ovitz, sitting in a wheelchair, beamed a smile right into the camera while holding the hand of a little boy, possibly one of her great-grandchildren.

“Everyone was there with tears in their eyes,” Friedman said. “It was very emotional.”