My True Hero

By Solly Ganor

January 2003

I think that every person in Israel watched the Space Shuttle Columbia blast off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. We watched with trepidation and anxiety, but above all with pride, as the graceful white shuttle lifted off into the blue Florida sky, trailing a white plume behind it. For us Israelis, it was a special flight, because our own astronaut, Colonel Ilan Ramon was the first Israeli to enter space.

For a short while we allowed ourselves to forget our problems and differences, even the coming elections, and were united in hailing Colonel Ilan Ramon as our hero. But for me, there was another hero: someone that was hardly mentioned in the Israeli media. If it weren't for an American TV station, which briefly stated that Colonel Ilan Ramon's mother was an Auschwitz survivor, I too would have been ignorant of the fact.

Most of us who weren't there would be baffled why I would call her a hero, this Holocaust survivor from Auschwitz. I will tell you why.

After the collapse of Hitler's Reich and our liberation in early May of 1945, I served in the US army as an interpreter. I was fortunate enough to have learned English during the war, a language that very few survivors spoke.

I served in a unit that was attached to the CIC, (Army Intelligence). All eleven men, beside myself, were American service men, who knew a second language besides their native English. Our job was to find Nazis and SS men hiding among the displaced persons in the DP camps all over the American Zone of occupation.

However, we also visited other camps where only Jews lived, including Feldafing, and Fherenwald. For a while I was the interpreter for a Colonel Woodhouse who was attached to our unit. Colonel Woodhouse was an English psychiatrist who was sent to evaluate the mental state of the Jewish concentration camp survivors.

I will never forget his official evaluation. He didn't keep it a secret and I was able to read it. "I came to the conclusion that the trauma caused to Jewish inmates of concentration camps was unprecedented in its severity and that they would never be able to live normal lives, get married and have children. "I have known patients who were subjected to traumas that weren't even a fraction of the trauma the Jews were subjected to and they were psychologically disabled for life. Therefore, I see no hope for them."

Well, Colonel Woodhouse, allow me to introduce you to Mrs. Ramon, a Auschwitz survivor, who not only got married and brought children to this world, but brought up a son that anyone in the world would be proud of to call as his own, despite your prognosis. Perhaps, from the medical point of few he was right, but he didn't count on the spirit of the survivors. When we were liberated we stood before the world almost naked, bereft of all possessions, clad in a prisoner's striped uniform and wooden clogs. We owned nothing, not even underwear, socks or a handkerchief. We were thin like skeletons, all skin and bones. My schooling was interrupted when I was twelve, and I was subjected to brutalities that mankind has never known. I was liberated from the Nazis, but what next?

So I stood before a world I considered hostile, age seventeen, and I had to make my way through it. And yet I did it and I did it well.

I don't know Mrs. Ramon, but today when I watched her son taking off into space, I am sure that she did more than well. Therefore, Mrs. Ramon, I salute you. You too are my hero.


TBAB thanks Solly for giving his permission to reprint this story which originally appeared on

The tragic death of the astronauts when the Space Shuttle exploded on 2/1/03, makes this story even more tender.

There are 1000s of stories of heroes who risked their own lives to save others during the Holocaust years. Go to to view some of them. Listed by country, each button has stories that touch the heart and remind us of what can be when we live with compassion, courage and morality.


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