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From the Nazi Gallows to Israeli Hero: Max Hilowitz’s Miraculous Story of Survival

One month from now, Sarina Hilowitz of Savannah, Georgia will be celebrating her Bat Mitzvah, which she is twinning with one of our girls at the Rubin-Zeffren Children’s Home in Netanya, Israel. The sponsorship is in memory of her Zeyde whose life story is truly inspirational and miraculous.

In honor of  Yom HaZikaron – Remembrance Day for those who fought for Israel’s freedom, which starts tonight April 24th, Sarina’s father shares his father’s amazing story with us…

My dad, Max Hilowitz Z’L , was taken to a work camp, Plasow, at the approx age of 16.

This was the camp where the notorious Amon Goeth was the commandant. It was also the camp where Oscar Schindler saved close to 1,2OO Jews.

Inmates were constantly worked hard, tortured and killed. One day my dad was told by a Nazi guard to run an errand and come right back. He returned and was told to stand on a chair. A rope was put around his neck and he was asked what he wanted to say before he was to be hanged. My dad said the Shemah.

Jewish women at forced labor in the Plaszow labor camp. Photo credit: Leopold Page Photographic Collection, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives

The Nazi kicked the chair and my dad miraculously fell to the ground. The rope broke. He was told to go back to his barracks. By coincidence, I had the opportunity to examine a patient who was at the Plasow work camp from the day it was built. He told me if ever something went wrong with a hanging the inmate was hanged again.

Years ago, I asked my dad why he didn’t try and make a run for it when he was told to stand on the chair. At that point I told him “You had nothing to lose by trying and escape”. He told me that he had no will to live. He had lost most of his family during the Holocaust. Hashem saved my father. My dad had many more good things to do for klal Yisroel.

Max Hilowitz, Holocaust survivor, while in the Israel Defense Force

He had the opportunity to take revenge on the Nazis multiple times by the end of the war, then volunteer for the Israeli Defense Forces in 1948. In that year on Yom Kippur he pulled his friend to safety after his friend was shot and lying in the battlefield under a barrage of Syrian gunfire. My dad ran onto the battlefield under heavy fire and put his friend on his shoulder and made it to shelter. Last year when my father’s platoon sergeant from the 1948 war, came to pay a shiva call for my father, the first thing he said was “your father saved Shmilicks’s life”.

With all that my father survived and accomplished he was very well liked by all, from his name Meir in Hebrew, he gave off light to all that met him. He is survived by two sons, and three grandchildren, Joshua, Sarina and Ava. He was a wonderful man. We all miss him so much.

Max's son Jeff with his daughter, and Lev LaLev Bat Mitzvah girl, Sarina

2 comments

  1. Gary Levin MD

    Mazel Tov Hilowitz’s And now you are in our homeland on Aliyah..God Bless you All !

    To Jeff, one of my closest friends…hope to see you again.

    Gary

    1. Thanks for your comment! We’ll forward on the message; hopefully you can all visit together with the girls at the Home in Israel soon!

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