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Shlomo Liberman

Shlomo Liberman.jpeg

February 20, 2020


  This week we will be sharing our conversation with Mr. Shlomo Liberman.

  Mr. Liberman is the child of Holocaust survivors who met and married in Sweden after World War II. He was born in Sweden in 1948 and moved to Israel in 1978 where he worked at the Israel Motorola office in both the engineering and marketing departments. He also spent several years working in Hong Kong for Motorola in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, before returning to Israel. After retiring from his long career with Motorola he completed a degree in Creative Writing. In 2018 he published a book about his parents as holocaust survivors and his own experiences as their child, titled Lost Memories and New Beginnings: Unearthing family secrets from the Holocaust. He is also a volunteer editor of ESRA magazine in Israel, a magazine printed for English speaking residents in Israel.

  He is married and in a blended family with 9 children, 4 his own and 5 are his second wife’s, and 17 grandchildren. He and his wife Judit have been travelling since December on a trip around the world which started with a Bar Mitzvah in Philadelphia and continuing with stops in Australia, New Zealand, Bali, Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, and ending here in Japan before they return to Israel this week. Each stop on their trip was chosen so that they would be able to spend Shabbat at a Chabad House. Mr. Liberman was surprised to find one even in Bali now.

  Over Shabbat he was sharing the story of trip he and several young college friends took to the Soviet Union in 1969, spending the entire Chag there from Rosh Hashanah to Simchat Torah. They were able to stay a week in Kiev, Leningrad, Moscow and Odessa each. Along the way they connected with the Jewish Communities in each of those cities and secretly collected the names of Jewish citizens who wanted to leave Russia and Ukraine. It was of course very difficult to leave Communist Russia in those days and the only way someone would be given permission was if they were invited by a family member in another country. He and his 3 friends were able to collect 100 names in total, which were sent on to Israel upon their return home and relatives were found, either distant or entirely fictional. Mr. Liberman shared with us the clever way he and his friends were able to remember so many names, they would send postcard addressed to themselves back home in Sweden with the persons name, address and personal information in the message, such as,

  “We might write a message talking about a beautiful street we saw but instead of the real name, it would be the persons name, and their age would be listed as the house number. Their address might be hidden throughout the letter as well in a similar way. It was the only way we could remember them all.”

  While they were in Russia they also experienced Antisemitism wherever they went. One of the most memorable instances was in Kiev, which they were visiting over Sukkos. Back then there was a KGB agency which decided which hotel you would stay at during your visit and would escort you too and from the airport so that they could keep you under surveillance and be sure to properly bug the hotel room. In the other places they had visited there was someone waiting to pick them up from the airport but in Kiev after they debarked from the plane no one was waiting for them. They were made to wait for over an hour and finally spot a man come strolling up to them with a watermelon in his hands. When they asked what had kept him he replied that he wanted to stroll through the market, because they [being Jews] weren’t worth rushing himself.

  The KGB also closely monitored the only synagogue, at that time, in Kiev. One evening, during Sukkos, they noticed that the atmosphere in the Sukkah was very dour and they wanted to make a true celebration of the Holiday. He and his friend began singing and dancing and were immediately pulled aside and brought before they Synagogue board. They were then interrogated for some time by the KGB officer who sat on the board. They were asked questions about where they had been before, why there were in Kiev at all, why they were making so much noise in the Sukkah and so on. Eventually the KGB officer told them they would not be allowed to come the next day for prayers.

  The following day Mr. Liberman and his friend decided that they would attend but would arrive a few hours late in hopes that the KGB would have given up. When they arrived around 10am they found the officer stationed at the door to keep them out had left and they slipped into the back of the shul and were immediately recognized by the KGB officer. They quickly pretended to be in the middle of prayers and were of course then not permitted to speak and were allowed to finish.

  The next incident happened early the following week when Mr. Liberman was approached by an older man who spoke to him in Yiddish, to hopefully not be overheard by the KGB, and asked if he could send a postcard to his brother in the US for him when he returned home to Sweden. It turned out that this man had not contacted his brother since 1953 out of fear of persecution if he did. In 1953, when Stalin began to persecute Jewish doctors and their relatives, along with those who had relatives who lived elsewhere in the world, many Jews in Russia stopped contacting relatives in the west for fear of repercussion. Mr. Liberman agreed to send the postcard for him, and the one thing he wanted sent to his brother was a reminder not to forget about their other brother’s 88th birthday.


  We would like to thank Mr. Liberman for joining us for Shabbat and taking the time to be a part of our interview series. If you are interested in reading his book it can be purchased at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., the Los Angelos Museum of the Holocaust and on Amazon here.