A survivor of the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp, now living in London, will have a Zoom meeting next week with the children of an American GI who liberated her – and gave her a small gift of hope.
Lily Ebert, 90, survived the Holocaust and routinely spoke about her experiences, but she had never shown the German banknote given to her by an American Jewish GI soldier, which featured messages of kindness.
It wasn’t until her 16-year-old great-grandson, Dov Forman, wanted to document her experiences that she decided to share the inspirational messages – a move which led to a viral post and a scheduled virtual meeting with the soldier’s family.
‘First person who was kind’
Ebert was 14 when she and her family were taken from their home in Bonyhád, Hungary to Auschwitz. Whilst Ebert and her two sisters were selected to work, her mother, sister and a brother perished in the death camps.
“Auschwitz was a hell. Auschwitz was really a factory of death,” she told CNN. “The killing went on all the time… I hope nothing similar will ever happen again,” she added.
In April 1945, when she was 16, she was on a death march – when people were made to walk and left to die along the way – with two of her sisters after spending four months in a slave labor munitions factory in Altenburg, eastern Germany.
“We were liberated after a few days walking without food, without water, without shoes,” Ebert said, adding that they were “half dead.”
“When they liberated us, we wanted only to get in somewhere, sit down and sleep and we were so hungry and thirsty,” she said. “We were still afraid.”
But she recalls a soldier who wrote touching messages on a banknote and gave it to her. The note was inscribed with “a start to a new life” and “good luck and happiness.”
“He was the first person who was kind and wasn’t an enemy,” she said.
When she showed it to her great-grandson, Forman decided to post it on social media. The post went viral, gaining almost 15,000 likes in three days.
Forman told CNN that he wanted to share the banknote because “not that many people had seen the kindness of the liberators, and they too… they had to live with the horrors they saw.”
He posted the image on Twitter and joked with his great-grandmother that he would find the soldier in 24 hours.
Within that time, replies started flooding in, telling him that the American Jewish GI soldier must have been Private Hyman Schulman.
Schulman had written “assistant to Chaplain Schachter” on the bottom of the note and many responders found him through his position.
The former soldier from Brooklyn, New York, died seven years ago and his wife also died recently, Forman discovered.
Both Forman and Ebert said they were sad that they could not meet the man whose kind gesture had meant so much to Ebert, but they have found Schulman’s children and will meet them virtually next week.
“It means so much that we can now connect with the family,” Ebert said.
After being liberated, Ebert went to Switzerland. She lived in Israel, where she married and had three children, before moving to London in 1967.