Heed the lessons survivors provide

Israel's 50th anniversary is a joyous occasion for celebration. But it is also a reminder of the unspeakably tragic events that led to the founding of the Jewish state.

Many of those who reached the shores of the nascent country, after all, were European refugees who had lost everything — their families, their homes, their dignity — during the Holocaust.

This year Ruth Gruber, the only American reporter allowed to cover the fate of Holocaust refugees aboard the ship Exodus 1947, will speak at several Bay Area Yom HaShoah commemorations.

Many people do not realize just how difficult life was for the refugees after the war. "The Jews didn't just walk out and live happily ever after," Gruber says. "They were treated horribly."

All the more amazing, then, that so many Holocaust survivors managed not only to rebuild their lives following the war but to thrive.

One such person is Auschwitz survivor Jack Tramiel, a South Bay resident profiled on the front page. Through tough-minded ambition and drive, he rose to the top of the consumer electronics industry, helping to lead the way in the personal computer revolution.

In its April 13 issue, Fortune magazine profiles Tramiel and four other Holocaust survivors who endured Nazi death camps and later went on to excel in their various businesses. Each of the five is also a founder of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., having donated at least $1 million to the institution.

The Fortune series, titled "Out of the Holocaust: Everything in History Was Against Them," testifies to a strength of character and conviction of which we should never lose sight.

Now that the survivors are aging and dying, it behooves us more than ever to heed the many lessons they have to impart.