Holocaust survivors’ daughter tells hopeful, haunting family story

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Iris Tzafrir, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, spoke to students about her family history and the importance of ending racism and discrimination to prevent acts of genocide. (Submitted photo)

Iris Tzafrir, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, spoke to students about her family history and the importance of ending racism and discrimination to prevent acts of genocide. (Submitted photo)

Iris Tzafrir’s story is one of family, hope and an unexpected reunion 70 years in the making.

Tzafrir is the daughter of two survivors of the Holocaust, of the camps at Auschwitz. She visited Hopkins High School March 21 to share a message of healing and history with students.
“I was in sixth or seventh grade when I realized my father never left a crumb on his plate,” she began, to a packed auditorium full of students. “The Holocaust happened more than 70 years ago. That may seem very far away. You may think “What does it have to do with me?” Unfortunately, the events still matter today. Genocide is still happening today.”

Tzafrir grew up in a small agricultural community in Israel. Along with her three siblings, she and her parents were the only family she knew growing up, as so many other family members were lost during the war. Six million people, including 1.5 million children, were killed in concentration camps and ghettos from 1941 to 1945, among them Tzafrir’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

“When World War II ended it was just the beginning of coming to terms with what happened to the survivors,” Tzafrir said. “The implications of genocide go on forever.”

Through childhood and early adulthood, Tzafrir would encounter the shared tragedy of her family in the smallest everyday moments, ordinary celebrations such as birthdays and holidays shadowed with grief for loved ones lost. The legacy of genocide lingered like a ghost in their home — from the dinner table to the children’s bedrooms, the family’s lives were threaded with whispers of a painful history still very much a reality.

“When I was a teenager, I didn’t want to learn very much of their story. It was too much pain, and I didn’t want to get close to it,” Tzafrir said.

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