Margit Feldman died just one day before the 75th anniversary of her liberation from Bergen-Belsen

By Rachel DeSantis
April 17, 2020 12:56 PM
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Margit Feldman, a New Jersey grandmother who survived Auschwitz and dedicated her life to ensuring the Holocaust was never forgotten, died Tuesday of complications from COVID-19, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said. She was 90.

Feldman will be buried on Friday, just two days after the 75th anniversary of her liberation from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945, Gov. Murphy said at his daily press briefing Thursday.

She was born in Budapest, Hungary, though she was raised in a small town, and was sent to Auschwitz by the Nazis, Murphy said. Her parents died at the camp, but Feldman, who was 15 at the time, escaped a similar fate by lying to the soldiers and telling them she was 18 so that she could serve forced labor, Murphy said.

She survived several camps and a death march to Bergen-Belsen before she was liberated by British forces at 16.

After living in Sweden for several years, Feldman moved to the U.S. in 1947, and married her husband Harvey six years later.

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She worked as an X-ray technician, and she and Harvey raised their daughter Tina and son Joseph, a medical doctor currently on the front lines of coronavirus in East Orange, in Bound Brook.

Feldman, a grandmother of three, was active in her synagogue and with organizations like the Jewish Federation of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties, Murphy said.

She was also a founding member of both the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, and the Holocaust and Genocide Institute at Raritan Valley Community College.

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Feldman, who coincidentally was born on the same day and year as Anne Frank, was initially hesitant to discuss the horrors she’d seen in the concentration camps, according to a 2017 talk she gave at a local school.

But after telling her story to a student doing a school project, she realized she had an obligation to let the world know just what had happened to her.

“It is important for me to remember that 6 million of my fellows Jews were slaughtered and a million and a half of those victims were children,” she said in the talk. “I am here and I firmly believe it is because God wanted me to survive and be here and tell the free world what an uncaring world did to its fellow human beings.”

Murphy said that Feldman’s husband Harvey is currently fighting COVID-19 at Morristown Medical Center.

“For her, I recall the words of the great Elie Wiesel, and I quote him: ‘Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope too, can be given to one only by other human beings,’” Murphy said. “Margit gave us so much hope over her 90-plus years… May her memory be a blessing to her family, and to us all.”

The coronavirus outbreak has hit New Jersey particularly hard, and the state is second only to New York in both cases and deaths.

As of Friday afternoon, New Jersey had 75,317 cases and 3,518 deaths attributed to coronavirus, according to The New York Times. The U.S. had 673,096 cases and 30,809 deaths.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.