Max Safir

"I owe it to my father’s memory."

Max Safir (Shimon Manes Szafir), born in 1925 in Bodzentyn

Max Safir (Shimon Manes Szafir) was born in 1925 in Bodzentyn. When the Szafir family moved to the nearby town, Kielce, Max Safir frequently visited his cousins and uncles in Bodzentyn. Throughout all years, Max Safir's hometown was special to him.

Since 1997 when Max visited Poland for the first time after the war, he looked for ways to restore the Jewish Cemetery. In 2008, at last, it became possible for Max Safir to cooperate with others who had begun to put the cemetery in order.

Fate during the Holocaust

During the Holocaust, when Max Safir was a young teenager, German SS men came to the house in Kielce and took him and his brother—along with many other Jewish boys—to labour camps in Cieszanów to dig anti-tank ditches.

When Max Safir returned to Kielce, he experiences the hardships in the ghetto. He decided to go to a brother in Wierzbnik-Starachowice. When the ghetto of the town was liquidated, Max Safir ended up in the labour camp at the ammunitions factory. Eventually, the labour camp was closed, and Max Safir was taken to the extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Near the end of the war, Max Safir was forced on a death march to Mauthausen in Austria, one of the most notorious Nazi concentration camps. From there, he was transferred to a sub-camp in Ebensee. He was liberated in May 1945.

Max was the sole survivor of his family. With the financial support of Father Leszek Sikorski and help from the Dawid Rubinowicz Society, in 2010, Max Safir raised a monument at the Jewish cemetery in memory of his family and Shlomo and Ruchele Ejnesman, who helped him in difficult situations, thus saving his life during the Holocaust.

Warning against antisemitism and xenophobia

Max Safir emigrated from Israel to Sweden in 1955. In 1997 he visited Poland for the first time after the war.

In the years that followed Max Safir's visit to his hometown Bodzentyn, he looked for ways to restore the Jewish Cemetery. "I owe it to my father’s memory. Many of my relatives are probably buried there," Max Safir says. Eventually, in 2008, it became possible for him to cooperate with others who had begun to put the Jewish cemetery in order. "It felt as if the sky opened up," Max Safir discloses.

Well into his 80's and 90's, Max Safir was visiting schools, confirmation groups and various associations to share his experiences as a warning against antisemitism and xenophobia.

In recent years Swedish MPs travelled in the tracks of the Holocaust and through the eyes of Max Safir, from his birthplace Bodzentyn, childhood in Kielce and the time he spent in the extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Also, a group of young adults from Israel reading the book and following Max Safir's tracks came to see Bodzentyn, as did teachers and youths from Sweden in travels arranged by the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism.

In 2018 Max Safir, among others, encouraged Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven to create a Holocaust Memorial Museum. Shortly before Max Safir passed away, in June 2020, he was informed about the next action planning steps of the museum.

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Resources

At the rededication of the Jewish cemetery in Bodzentyn in August 2009—led by the Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich—Max Safir read a ceremonial prayer, kaddish, in the memory of his family.

The Jewish cemetery

The book Please, My Dear Sir, Let Me Live is a survivor's testimony by Max Safir with Ewa Wymark. It vividly describes Max Safir's journey as a boy in Kielce through the German Nazi concentration camps, and forced-labour camps and extermination camps. The book was published in Swedish in 2012, 2016 in Polish and 2018 in Hebrew.

Swedish: Bäste herrn, låt mig få leva

Polish: Wielmożny panie, niech mi pan pozwoli żyć .

Hebrew: אדון נכבד תן לי לחיות

Useful information

  • When Max Safir—born Manes Szafir—arrived in Sweden in 1955, he received the name 'Max Safir' from the authorities, who claimed that it "would be difficult to spell 'Manes'." Max Safir lived in Stockholm. He had two children, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Max Safir passed away on June 9, 2020.
  • Interview code of the USC Shoah Foundation recording: 23507.
  • The situation in Starachowice-Wierzbnik can be studied in more detail in Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave-Labor Camp by Christopher R. Browning (2010). Pamięć przetrwania Nazistowski obóz pracy oczami więźniów (2012).The book draws on the testimony of survivors of the Holocaust-era Starachowice-Wierzbnik (close to Bodzentyn) slave-labour camps to examine the Jewish prisoners' fight for survival through a succession of brutal Nazi camp regimes​. Read an introduction to the book ​​ | View a lecture by C. R. Browning on the slave-labour camp on YouTube  | Find the book in English | Find the book in Polish

Sources

Editor's note: This page has been proofread and approved by members of Max Safir's closest family. August 2021.