Throughout her life Judy Resofsky considered herself lucky. No doubt, her husband Alex did too.
Judy and Alex arrived in Australia in 1949 when they were in their early twenties, having both survived the horrors of Hungarian ghetto life and the notorious Auschwitz Concentration camp in Poland, to which many Hungarian Jews were deported in 1944.
At her funeral last month in Melbourne, Judy and Alex’s daughter Kathy Janovic told mourners the incredible story of how her mother had escaped the gas chambers.
On the day, she and others were to be murdered, the gas chambers had miraculously malfunctioned and she was spared.
Later, when the concentration camps were being evacuated and demolished, as the Russians advanced across Europe, Judy was one of thousands of emaciated Jews sent on a death march from Praust (Pruszcz Gdański) in North Western Poland.
At one stage during this horrendous ordeal, she and other women were resting in a barn when Russian soldiers entered and started to rape the women. Judy jumped out of a window and landed close to a Jewish Russian soldier, who saved her.
This was just another example of her mother’s good luck, her daughter Kathy said in a loving tribute to her warm, kind and generous parents.
One of eight children, born in Nyirbator in Hungary on July 5, 1926 to Adolph and Berta Winkler, and their first born, Judy was the only of her family to survive the mass extermination of European Jews by the Nazis.
Her husband Alex Resofsky, who also recently passed away, was born in the Hungarian town of Myrathasa two years before Judy in 1924.
The second child of Moritz and Leake Resofksy, Alex and his eldest sister Margaret were the only ones in their family to survive the holocaust.
After the family had been rounded up in the Sirna Pusata Ghetto, they were deported to Auschwitz. Alex’s mother and siblings did not survive the selection process and were murdered by the Nazis.
Alex passed through three more concentration camps – including the notorious Gross-Rosen and Buchenwald camp networks – before being liberated at Bergen-Belsen in April 1945.
He was part of the Bricha underground movement that helped smuggle Jewish holocaust survivors out of Eastern Europe into what is today Israel.
In 1949 he sailed to Australia with his sister and future wife, Judy.
Here they lived for the next 69 years, making a life for themselves in Melbourne’s flourishing Jewish immigrant garment trade (supplying David Jones with mens knitwear) and where they had three children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
By all accounts – I sadly never met them – Alex and Judy were much-loved and treasured members of Melbourne’s close-knit Jewish community,and were actively involved in the important work of the Jewish Holocaust Centre.
A report from the JHC in September 2017 includes a picture of Judy and Alex along with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There are 24 people in the photo.
The JHC report notes that through the generosity of the Resofsky’s, the centre was able to put its vast and important collection online, and that they did so in loving memory of their parents, Mor and Lenke Resofsky; Jeno and Berta Frisch; Adolf and Berta Winkler and all their siblings.
I only recently came across the incredible survival of the Resofskys while researching a story I was writing for The Australian Financial Review. It was about a shopping mall they owned near Geelong, and which their children recently sold.
It would have been a great privilege to have met Alex and Judy and heard their story of survival against the odds, and about their successful and happy lives in Melbourne.
Deepest sympathies to their family and friends.