The story of my grandfather, Pinchas Schafer, or the way I called him ‘Mimi’ has been following me throughout my life.

Grandfather was born in 1919 in the small town of Rejowiec, Poland, as the son of Shaul and Roza Shmuklerman, and had three more siblings: two sisters and a brother. At the age of 15 grandfather relocated to the big city of Warsaw in order to help providing his religious orthodox family.

The story of his time during the Holocaust, grandfather refused to share with anyone for many years, including to his daughter, my mother, but I managed to extract it out of him ahead of my trip to Poland. He recorded me an audio tape with his story and I heard it for the first time in Poland.

While his brother dies before the Holocaust, grandfather’s parents and sisters were murdered by the Nazis. He survived the concentration and extermination camps of Majdanek and Auschwitz and during my trip to Poland, I reached the barrack where he stayed in the camp and while standing beside a massive pile of ashes of those who perished his image emerged before my eyes and this is when I cracked.

Several years later, grandfather gave a testimony as part of a Steven Spielberg project on the Holocaust, during which he revealed some facts which were never heard before (on how the Nazis forced him to make tiles from the ashes of those who were murdered).

After he was liberated from Auschwitz, grandfather made Aliya to Israel, settled in Petah Tikva and joined the Palmach (the elite fighting force of the Haganah) where he served under the Yiftach brigade. He changed his name from Shmoklerman to Schafer, in order to become a living memorial of his parents (Schafer being the Hebrew initials for Shaul, Pinchas and Roza). Grandfather fought in the War of Independence under the legendary Pilon, and was injured in the conquest battle of the Nabi Yusha fort which is also known as Metzudat Koach and is situated in the Upper Galilee.

In 1950 grandfather married the girl of his choice (grandmother) Rita and they had two daughters – my mother Varda (named after his mother Roza) and Hagit as the family lived in Giv’atayim where I was grew up. Grandfather supported Hapoel Petah Tikva FC and over the years had heated debates with my father, Israel, who is a die-hard Maccabi Tel Aviv fan who even played for the club’s youth academy. Throughout my childhood he had one hope which never materialized to transform my love to Maccabi. Yet he still enjoyed watching matches with me and enjoyed talking to me about football, but was mostly delighted to see me happy when the team did well and suffered with me when they didn’t.

Grandfather loved the country a lot and continued serving till his final days as he volunteered at the Ministry of Defence. During my military service, I even managed to spend some time with him when we served on the same bases.

Grandfather and Grandmother had four more grandchildren, with me being the eldest as both I and my sister gave them two more great grandsons and two more great-grand daughters. Grandfather Mimi’s eldest great-grandchild who is my eldest son, Eitam, is also a die-hard Maccabi supporter – might receive an additional middle name in his memory – Schafer.

Grandmother Rita passed away at the end of 2012 and my grandfather who couldn’t bear that died shortly after in the beginning of 2014. They are buried side by side at the Menucha-Nechona cemetery in Kfar Sava and for time to time Eitam and I visit their graves.

I love you grandfather, rest in peace.