Goodbye to a survivor
(Photo by Steve Sisney, THE OKLAHOMAN) Oklahoma lost a living treasure today with the death of Holocaust survivor Manya Kornblit of Ponca City.
I first met Manya Kornblit in 2005, when I interviewed her for a story about the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Her sweet and gentle spirit transcended the horrors of what happened to her in that death camp. She spoke of going without food and watching as Nazis dragged her friends and family off to be killed. In a no-nonsense manner, she volunteered to show me her arm, where her Nazi captors had imprinted the letters KL, representing the German words for concentration camp.
Kornblit, 83, survived five concentration camps while nine of her family members perished. She told me that when she was freed by Russians, she was 21, 5 foot 1 and weighed 67 pounds.
It was one of the highlights of my reporting career, an honor, to meet her and her husband, Major, and hear first-hand how they triumphed and survived despite incredible odds.
Members of the Oklahoma Jewish community are in mourning, said Cathy Pettyjohn-Russell, director of Holocaust Education and Community Resources for the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City.
“We’re losing eyewitness testimony to history. That’s why it’s so important that we have our remembrance ceremonies,” Pettyjohn-Russell said.
She referred to the annual ceremony and traditional candle lighting to commemorate the 6 million Jews and 5 million additional victims who were murdered by the Nazis.
This year’s Holocaust remembrance program is 2 p.m. May 4 at Stage Center, 400 W Sheridan Ave., with Israeli Holocaust survivor Eliezer Ayalon as guest speaker.
Pettyjohn-Russell said Manya Kornblit had been a regular attendee at the remembrance program and her presence will be missed.
Kornblit is survived by her beloved husband of 63 years, Meyer; two sons, Sammy and Michael; two daughters-in-law, Diane and Joan; five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; and her brother, Chaim of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, tax-deductible contributions be made to the Respect Diversity Foundation (created by Kornblit’s son Michael and her daughter-in-law Joan), 2808 W Lexington Way, Edmond, 73012.
I’ll never forgot Kornblit’s last words to me, as we wrapped up our 2005 interview: “We remember. We were there. We are survivors.”
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