88-year-old Holocaust survivor is Israel’s first coronavirus fatality

World

(CBS NEWS) – On Friday night, 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Arie Even died after contracting coronavirus, his family said. Even became Israel’s first coronavirus fatality, the Los Aangeles Times reports.

None of Even’s children or 18 grandchildren were able to visit him the week before he died due to social distancing rules, according to Times, which spoke with three of his children. Even’s children remembered his strong values. 

“Humanism was in his DNA,” his daughter Ofra said. 

“He believed profoundly in equality, in civil rights,” his daughter Yael added. “He believed that this land belonged to all of its citizens.”

Ofra said her father didn’t speak about the Holocaust much. “Only in the last few years, I’d spend Holocaust Day with him and we began talking about it,” she said in the call with the LA Times. 

Even was born in Budapest in 1932 as George Steiner. He was the eldest son in an affluent family and said his mother’s resourcefulness saved him survive during the Holocaust. Even told his daughter Ofra that his mother was warned by the Swedish Embassy that they were going to get arrested, so they fled. 

“At the last minute they managed to get away,” Ofra told the LA Times. “Someone from the embassy stuffed them under the tarp of a horse-drawn carriage, and from there to some basement where they survived.”

Even’s maternal grandparents were killed by Nazis in Budapest but the rest of his family survived, including his parents who were in a Nazi work camp during the war, the Times reported. Even moved to Israel when he was 17 years old, his children said. Both his parents died in Israel within five years of moving there.

Even’s son, Yaakov said his father gave up his job with the Foreign Ministry because his wife was a diplomat and couples could not both diplomats. Instead, Even traveled with is wife, Yona, to Japan, Germany, France, India and Belgium. 

“In the Foreign Ministry’s memorial book, my mother’s name was listed as my father’s companion, whereas in reality, the opposite was true,” Yaakov said.

Yona died in 2012, after half a century of marriage to Even. They loved traveling, cooking, history and listening to classical music, their children said. 

Even is the only recorded coronavirus death in Israel, according to the LA Times. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center says there has been 1 death in the country, and over 1,200 people have tested positive. As of Monday, 37 have recovered there.

An exception was made so the Holocaust survivor could be laid to rest on Saturday night. Pallbearers wore biohazard gear and those in attendance practice social distancing, according to the LA Times. 

The funeral was held in the dead of night and Even was buried by members of the Jerusalem burial society, who volunteered to be there. His children are sitting shiva in their individual homes, mourning their father in isolation. 

CBS News has reached out to Israel’s Health Ministry and Shaare Zedek Medical Center for more information. 

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