Eighty years after he was deported to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, Rabbi Nissan Mangel was back, but this time with close to 100 of his descendants, in a display of gratitude to Hashem and victory over the Nazis.
By Anash.org reporter
Photos: Yisroel Teitelbaum @jewish.giant
The Nazis are gone, the Yidden are here to stay!
Eighty years after a ten-year-old Nissan Mangel was deported to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, he was back. This time, however, he came triumphantly, with close to 100 descendants, and with a proud bracha of sheasa li nes bamakom hazeh. Am Yisroel Chai!
Born in Czechoslovakia, Rabbi Mangel was deported by the Nazi monsters to five concentration camps. Towards the end of World War II, Rabbi Mangel found himself in Auschwitz, at the young age of ten, making him one of the youngest child inmates of the notorious concentration camp.
During his time in Auschwitz, Rabbi Mangel cheated death countless times. Beyond the daily miracle of staying alive, Rabbi Mangel evaded the notorious “selection” and survived two encounters with the infamous Dr. Mengele, the monster known as the Angel of Death.
After surviving the Holocaust, Rabbi Mangel went on to become a world-renowned scholar, author, and speaker. Throughout the decades, he never stopped speaking of the great miracles he experienced and expressing his gratitude to Hashem.
As his 90th birthday approached, l’orech yamim v’shanim tovos, Rabbi Mangel’s grandchildren decided to plan the trip of a lifetime: A triumphant return to Auschwitz, together with his entire family, which numbers close to 100 individuals bli ayin hara. In addition, the trip would include stops at some of the paramount mekomos hakedoshim of Poland, with a focus on the Chassidic leaders from whom Rabbi Mangel descends.
The family, traveling from New York, Ohio, Denver, Florida, Atlanta, Eretz Yisroel, Montreal, S. Paulo, et. al., arrived in Krakow on Tuesday, and began the program the next day. Their first stop was the city of Łańcut – Lantzut in Yiddish – a city that once served as an important center for Chassidus. The family visited a historic shul that was restored after the Holocaust, and Rabbi Mangel gave an inspiring talk, followed by the entire family breaking out in dance.
The next stop was Lizhensk, home of the great Reb Elimelech, author of the Noam Elimelech, and the site of his kever. For Rabbi Mangel, a direct descendant of Reb Elimelech, and for the entire Mangel family, the visit was a reach back to their roots, generations of chassidim over many generations. A return to Krakow followed, where a visit to the historic Jewish Quarter and Rema Shul were on the itinerary. During the visit to the shul, Rabbi Mangel told some of the story of the Rema’s life and times. They then visited the nearby beis hachaim where many great geonim and tzadikim are buried.
On Thursday came the highlight of the trip with the much-anticipated visit to Auschwitz. What a difference eighty years had made: Instead of coming on cattle cars, with Nazi guards siccing dogs to attack the helpless Jews, the group arrived proudly in an air-conditioned coach bus. In the place of the accursed Dr. Mengele selecting which Jews would live and which would die, the proud family gathered together with a song of thanks to Hashem on their lips.
Right when they arrived, the entire family posed for a group photo on the very tracks where Rabbi Mangel was brought into Auschwitz. The infamous entrance building served as a backdrop to the powerful photo, which expressed more than anything else the victory of a once-young boy over a mighty and evil regime.
During the photo, the family sang a song with the words ‘Hodu LaHashem’, a favorite of Rabbi Mangel, expressing his and their praise of the Almighty for bringing them to that moment.
Upon entering the camp, and passing the location of Dr. Mengele’s selections, Rabbi Mangel emotionally recited Baruch Atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’olam, she’asa li nes b’makom hazeh! His sons, daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren responded with their own bracha of she’asa nes l’avi b’makom hazeh.
Walking through the camp, Rabbi Mangel pointed out different buildings and related his memories to his family of his time in that hell. They saw the gas chambers, the crematorium, a bunkhouse and other spots where countless Yidden suffered and were killed al kidush Hashem.
From the depth of hell to the peak of joy: The Mangel family then gathered for a seudas hoda’a, celebrating the miracle of their father-grandfather’s survival, coupled with a party celebrating his 90th birthday.
Another climax of the trip was a visit to the site in Warsaw where the Rebbe and Rebbtzin’s chuppa was held. There, the men began singing od yishoma and broke out into a lively dance, marking the moment where the Rebbe was connected to chassidim and chassidim to the Rebbe.
The celebration of survival felt so much more potent with the current situation in Eretz Yisroel, family members said. Once again, there arise those that seek to destroy the Jewish people, but we know that Hashem will save us, and as the family sang in Auschwitz “shelo echad bilvad, amad aleinu l’chaloseinu. Ela sheb’chol dor vador, om’dim aleinu l’chaloteinu, v’HaKadosh Baruch Hu matzileinu mi-yadam.”
“The first time – eighty years ago – I was brought to Auschwitz in a cattle coach- squeezed in with one hundred other Jews. This time, I came with one hundred members of my extended family ka”h – my wife, my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren,” Rabbi Mangel told Anash.org.
“Should I not exclaim ‘Hodu L’hashem Ki L’Olam Chasdo‘!?”