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Raya Kagan (Rapoport)

Birthdate: (87)
Birthplace: Kharkiv, Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine
Death: August 1997 (83-91)
Place of Burial: Holon, HaMerkaz, Israel
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Matitjahu (Matus) Rapoport and Anna Rapoport
Ex-wife of Yakov Kagan
Sister of Emilia (Milah) Bloch

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About Raya Kagan

In Memory of Raya Kagan (translated from Hebrew).


(Read at her graveside on September 1, 1997 by Yoseph Matitjahu Bloch, the son of her late sister Milah Bloch)


In the last 14 years Raya Kagan was unable to speak. And so, as nature takes it course, her memory has been fading for her many friends. For this reason, and before her mark will be forever lost from memory, I would like to note this special person.

         Raya Kagan and her sister, my mother Milah Bloch were the two daughters of Hanna Samuelovna and Matus Rapoport - My grand Father and grand Mother. At the outset of the Comunist Revolution, when Aunt Raya was about seven the family fled Charkov (Russia) to Vilna.
          There she graduated University and finished her Masters in History. Her Thesis dealt with Christian cults and she spent a year in an isolated monastery where she studied old manuscripts. In 1938 and at her parent’s suggestion, she traveled to Paris to ‘recover‘ from a marriage episode that ended then. No one could imagine that this trip will end up in Auschwitz.  Still before the fall of Paris in the hands of the Nazis, Raya managed to master the French language and so added to her arsenal of Russian, Polish and Yiddish which she knew from home, German from her German governess and Latin and English from the university. The year she spent in Paris before the Germans marched in, was enjoyable to her. She was well accepted in the University society, she felt at home in both the day and night life and enjoyed whatever Paris of that period could offer.
          All this ended one day in 1940 when the Germans marched into the city.

Raya joined the French Résistance but early on she was turned in by a comrade of her unit. She was one of the first that were sent to Dachau as can be testified by the four digit number that was inscribed on her arm rather than the five digit number that most survivors carry.

Aunt Raya documented her fateful whereabouts over the next five years in Auschwitz in an autobiographical book that distinguished itself in its minimal and earnest character: “Women in the chambers of hell”. She wrote this book in a single sitting shortly after the war, in her cousin’s Avram Biribis Kibbutz. It is most remarkable that Raya and her partners in fate were able to retain their humanity in face of the horrors and did not descend into bestial existence. Helka, Anni, Lore, Lola and the other young women that shared her fate during this horrible time became her soul mates. I also became acquainted with some of them, when they were visiting in our house in Tel Aviv and became friends with our family.

After the IIWW war, it was found that her sister and brother in law (my parents) also survived by fleeing on foot deep into Russia, and immigrated to Israel and also Raya’s Mother, Anna Samuelovna miraculously survived. Raya returned to Poland and brought her Mother Anna Rapoport to Israel. Her father, Matus Rapoport was murdered by the Germans ימ"ש, in Vilna, immediately after they entered the city.

In Israel, after the war, Aunt Raya succeeded in rebuilding her life. As an intelligent, beautiful and independent woman she blended into Jerusalem society of that time. For 25 years she lived a rich cultural and social life in Jerusalem and enjoyed her life. She led the Religions desk in the new Israeli foreign ministry. Aunt Raya, who was not a Zionist from the outset, recognized the uniqueness and correctness of the Jewish democratic way of life in Israel and became one of its outspoken proponents. Her curiosity and will to learn were insatiable and so was her zest for life, concerts, travel, books and people. She even managed to add Spanish and Italian to her inventory.

          Raya never married again and it was not surprising that as the only progeny of the family I was the subject of an overdose of her affection and spoiling. This is the way I remember her. Raya was not a clever person. She was too truthful and too bright to worry about being clever. Aunt Raya did not agree to accept reparations from the Germans, did not use German products or cars and did not speak the German language, a language that she mastered. She also testified in the Eichmann Trial. With all her zest for life she was also tuned to other’s hardship, Jews and Arabs. She accepted  people with their faults and their foibles and helped by dispensing charity anonymously.

It seemed that she was over the horrors of Auschwitz but as with many other survivors, the war nightmares began to hunt her again. This, and medical problems caused the woman that knew some 10 languages to not be able to utter a word for the last 14 years. These 14 years, Aunt Raya stayed in “Gan Shalva” in Hod Hasharon. Most of this years and until his death my father was visiting her and was looking after her needs but we would have had no rest if not for our knowledge that she is in the trusted hands of Giora Arenheim and the rest of the staff. In their relentless devotion to the patients in the institute they are a splendid example of devotion. Such an attitude, especially for the long haul, is indeed remarkable.

Aunt Raya, you have had enough. Lay in piece. In my mind you will always stay together with Ima and Aba.



Miriam Laniado writes:

when I attended the wedding of Kobi and Esther Halevi at Tivon I sat next to Raya. A waitress put down a plate of food in front of her and Raya took her arm gently. I was surprised and then Raya looked at the number tatooed on the waitress' arm and showed her own number from Auschwitz. It was the next number.

I have a photo of all of us at the table.


Raya's testimony at Eichmann trial

About Raya Kagan (עברית)

כותבת שירה בלטר:

קישור לעדות של רעיה במשפט אייכמן

לפני חודשים מספר קראתי את ספרך- "נשים בלשכת גהינום",

המתאר את קורותייך, מעט לפני כיבוש הגרמנים את צרפת, ועד לסיום המלחמה.

התרגשתי מאד מקריאת הספר.

לעיתים בדרך שכזו מקבלים הצצה אינטימית מאד, שאולי אף אינה מתאפשרת דרך היכרות במציאות ה"רגילה".

צר לי מאד שלא זכיתי להכירך היכרות רגילה.

וצר לי גם שאת בני משפחתי שאני מכירה פנים אל פנים אינני זוכה להכיר כפי שזכיתי להכיר אותך.

הרבה פעמים, מימדים נוספים שיש בכל אחד מאיתנו נעלמים אל תוך הפונקציונליות של היחסים בין-אישיים- אנו עסוקים בעיקר בעצמנו. לא באמת חשופים לקול של האחר, שאפשר לגלות גם דרך קריאה, ואולי רק באופנים בלתי אמצעיים. אופנים שלא נמצאות להם הרבה הזדמנויות במציאות.

ולו הפנמתי לקח זה- כי אז נמצא שכרי.

התרשמתי מהדאגה שלכן זו לזו. מההומור, ששימש תומך לראייה המפוכחת.

מהחוסן. מהעוז והעצמאות לעמוד בחקירה אלימה. מאי השכחה.

מעברית שהייתה עמוקה- שהיה בה זיכרון.

מהאהבה. לחיים ולאנשים.

התכונות האלה לא נעלמו מאיתנו, אבל חלקן מסתתרות יותר.

שמחתי לראות את חיוכך בשתי התמונות שצורפו לאתר הזה עד היום. זה נראה לי כמו חיוך אמיתי.



נ.ב.- למי שרוצה- כאמור- מצוי לי עותק של הספר.

ראיתי גם שניתן לרוכשו, בעיקר מידיים אחרות, דרך האינטרנט.

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Raya Kagan's Timeline

Kharkiv, Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine
August 1997
Age 87
Holon, HaMerkaz, Israel