Samuel „Igo” Willenberg’s memorial service

Hundreds paid the last respect to the Great Hero of the Holocaust survivors generation.

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President of the State of Israel Reuven Rivlin eulogizing Samuel „Igo” Willenberg  /  Anna Chylak/Jewish Historical Institute

Samuel „Igo” Willenberg was laid to rest in little cemetery in Udim, a village where Igo built a house for his family. Countless friends came to paid him the last tribute, as well as family members, official guests and youth. President of the State of Israel Reuven Rivlin was the first to address the mourners. He spoke about Samuel heartiness, admiration and pride. Rivlin mentioned how he had met Willenberg in Poland, where they had traveled for the inauguration of the Museum of Polish Jews POLIN Jewish Museum in Warsaw. Samuel Willenberg told him then: „In Israel I am an ordinary man, in Poland I am a hero”. Israeli president referred to this conversation by saying:

- Samuel, I came here today to tell you – you are a hero. And what a hero, Samuel. You are a symbol of heroism. A symbol for an entire generation of Holocaust survivors. Heroes. Strong and courageous people. Invincible. Optimistic. Who survived the destruction and could grow once again. Who experienced the horror and chose life — the president said.

On behalf of the president of the Republic of Poland Andrzej Duda Ambassador to Israel Jacek Chodorowicz eulogised Samuel Willenberg saying: 

- We are paying our respect to the great Polish and Isreali patriot. An outstanding Man, symbol of the struggle for the dignity of mankind. He denied to acknowledge the triumph of the evil. He was a great friend of Poland and the Poles. We will miss vey much his wise and measures judgements. Now, us, the living, have the responsibility to take care of the Samuel Willenberg’s legacy. As the president of the Republic of Poland I bow to the Great Witness of the Era.

Later during the ceremony Samuel Willenberg was praised by his co-workers, friends from the community of Jews from Częstochowa, and, eventually, „Igo’s” grandchildren shared their moving testimony of love towards late grandfather.

Despite the distance of 2 thousand kilometers and tens of years of live separating Samuel from the country of his birth, his funeral was very Polish. It was „Igo’s” wish to be buried in a coffin. Not just any coffin made with plain boards, but rather a solid one with brass handles, just like they are made in Poland. His friends and guests from Poland decorated it with floral tributes. It was probably the reason why the only tune played close to the end of the memorial, soldiers’ song „A heart in a backpack” which lyrics say: „It escaped from young chest...” didn’t seem exotic at all. This inconspicuous song played in the warmth of spring sunlight on rural cemetery gained symbolic meaning: we were saying farewell to Samuel, and ub His chest always beat a young heart with great apetite for life!

On behalf of the Jewish Historical Institute the last respect to Samuel Wallenberg was paid by Anna Chylak who was responsible for organising yearly celebrations of the anniversary of the Treblinka prisoners’ revolt on 2nd August.


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