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Surviving the Holocaust

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Surviving the Holocaust

Anna Maxell Levin-Ware (Fresno Bee)Like the aging World War II military veterans who liberated them, large numbers of Holocaust survivors have been dying in recent years.

Most published obituaries identify each of them simply as “a Holocaust survivor.” The family of the late Anna Maxell Levin-Ware shared much more about her Holocaust experience and her nearly 90 years on the planet in the obit that ran in the Fresno (California) Bee.

The Polish-born daughter of Russian Jews was 17, when the Nazis invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. According to the obit, she was not sent to the Krakow Ghetto with her family because of her marriage in 1940 to Janos Fenyo, a young Jewish Hungarian and because Germany and Hungary were allies at the time.

When Germany nullified their alliance and marched into Hungary, the Fenyos were arrested, the obit said. Finally they wound up at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Anna was made to sew German uniforms.

She also spent time at Auschwitz/Birkenau. While a prisoner, Anna had some traumatic encounter with the infamous Dr. Mengele, according to the obit.

All Anna's immediate family, her husband and in-laws perished in the Holocaust. Anna was the only survivor.

The obituary provides details of her victorious multifaceted post-Holocaust life in America.

She found inspiration in her Holocaust experiences for her thesis project for her master’s degree in fine art, the obit said. As a prisoner, one's enamel bowl was the source of life--lose it and one did not get fed. Ann set about to create a series of unique bowls that had no utility--only beauty.

Her family wrote that she had regarded herself as a "radical feminist." But in reality she was much more; she was a woman who accepted no boundaries.

The obit also includes a profound comment this remarkable woman made three months before her death: "You wonder how I smile when there is so much misery and sadness? I just don't look at the bad things; I look for the good and I can always smile."


This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She was the director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers before she passed away in 2015.