Series AP - David Isaacson Collection

Holocaust survivor honoured at the Western Wall, Jerusalem Holocaust survivor honoured at the Western Wall, Jerusalem Holocaust survivor weeping, Western Wall, Jerusalem Holocaust survivor praying, Western Wall, Jerusalem Holocaust survivor being assisted with his tefillin, Western Wall, Jerusalem Holocaust survivor, Western Wall, Jerusalem

Reference code

ZA UCT BC1556_AP

Title

David Isaacson Collection

Date(s)

  • 1973 (Creation)

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5 items

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The Collection was donated to the Cape Town Holocaust Centre in 2008 by Mike Isaacson, the father of the photographer, David Isaacson, via Leslie Marcus. Both Mike and David have since passed away.

Scope and content

The collection contains five photographs of an elderly, wheelchair-bound man at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Israel. The man, with a tattoo revealing the numbers ‘66568’, is evidently a survivor of the Auschwitz death camp, the only Nazi death camp in Europe where permanent tattoos with numbers served as identification of prisoners. David Isaacson was a South African volunteer in the Israeli Defence Force during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. According to notes on the photographs, he received a photographic award for these images, but further details are not available. The identity of the survivor is also unknown. In an effort to identify the man in the photograph, the SAHGF Archivist contacted the archives at Yad Vashem, the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oświęcim, and the International Tracing Service, respectively. The Head Archivist at Auschwitz, Dr. Wojciech Płosa, offered two suggestions, but nothing conclusive. He wrote that “this prisoner number was given to one of the male Jewish prisoners who was deported to Auschwitz from the camp of Drancy, France. This transport counted 904 persons (men, women and children) and left the camp of Drancy on 28th September 1942. They arrived to Auschwitz on 29th September 1942 and after the selection only 123 men and 48 women were sent to the camp. The rest died in gas chambers. Those 123 men were registered in the camp under the prisoner numbers from 66515 to 66637. It is also possible that the number of this photographed man is 64568. However, in this case too there is the same situation as with the prisoner number you suggested. We have no archival documents mentioning the personal data of the man registered under the prisoner number 64568. It is possible only to settle that this prisoner number was given to one of the male Jewish prisoners who were deported to Auschwitz from Slovakia. This transport arrived to Auschwitz on 19th September 1942 and after the selection only 206 men and 71 women were sent to the camp. The rest died in gas chambers. Those 206 men were registered in the camp under the prisoner numbers from 64396 to 64601… our archival collection contains only a very small part of whole documentation created in the camp offices during activity of KL Auschwitz (from spring 1940 till January 1945). The Nazis had destroyed the larger part of those camp files just before the final evacuation and liquidation of KL Auschwitz to efface the traces of their war crimes committed there. One part of those documents was also transferred to Germany. In addition, many of those files that had not been destroyed by the Nazis were taken over by the Red Army after the liberation of KL Auschwitz and transferred to the then Soviet Union. Therefore, at present we have the very serious problems with establishing the fate of many of the deportees because of the lack of any documentation. I am sorry to say that this is the case of your request.” Płosa recommended that the International Tracing Service should be contacted. The ITC further confirmed that the prisoner number index of KZ Auschwitz is “fragmentary and incomplete due to the fact that most of the documents of KZ Auschwitz were deliberately destroyed in the final phase of the Nazi regime” - or did not reach the ITS for other reasons.
Thus far no concrete evidence has been found to identify the survivor – please contact the SAHGF if you have any information.

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Publication note

The Jewish Digital Archive Project (JDAP) recorded an interview with Mike Isaacson before he passed away.

View the interview here: http://jdap.co.za/mike-isaacson/

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