top of page

Sao Paulo Holocaust Survivors Thank The City For Providing Them Refuge On Its Anniversary, Jan 25

Joint Campaign Highlights the City's Role in Welcoming Survivors and The Importance of Remembering the Holocaust

(Sao Paulo, January 19, 2023) – On January 25, São Paulo’s birthday, the São Paulo Holocaust Memorial, StandWithUs Brasil and the Israeli Federation of the State of São Paulo (FISESP) will launch “Obrigado Paulistanos,” a campaign in which four Holocaust survivors — one Hungarian, one Polish and two Romanians — thank the people of São Paulo, on behalf of all survivors, for the gift of living in the city. January 27th is the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust.

Five 30-second films will be aired on SBT, Record News, TV Jovem Pan, Revista Caras channels, among others. The campaign will also be on social networks and various media, including digital clocks on the streets of São Paulo and at the São Paulo Holocaust Memorial.

In addition, from January 26th to February 15th, at Shopping Pátio Paulista, an exhibition will be held, titled: "A Cara de São Paulo”, which will feature photographs of people from São Paulo who represent the city, chosen under the curatorship of presenter Ana Maria Braga and maestro João Carlos Martins, including images of the survivors. Admission to the exhibition is free. During January, another exhibition with more than a dozen artistic photos of the survivors, taken by photographer Luiz Rampazzo, will be displayed at the Vila Olímpia shopping mall, also as part of the “Obrigado Paulistanos” initiative.

On February 27th, at 4pm, the City Council of São Paulo will award a diploma to these survivors in recognition of their experiences during the Holocaust and for all they have accomplished for São Paulo. The event will be open to the public and the press.

Marcio Pitliuk, curator of the São Paulo Holocaust Memorial, and a member of StandWithUs Brasil's Academic Council and the organizer of the initiative states, “These survivors consider themselves Brazilians and São Paulo residents first and foremost. And for having won this second chance at life, they would like to genuinely thank you for the opportunities they had on São Paulo soil. The population of São Paulo deserved this thanks a long time ago and the survivors were very happy with the opportunity to say Obrigado Paulistanos to the city that welcomed them.”

André Lajst, political scientist and executive president of StandWithUs Brasil, says that the project is important because “it preserves the memory not only of each of these survivors, but also reminds us of what the Holocaust was. This is fundamental so that we do not let something similar occur, and so that we can identify and respond promptly to any signs of antisemitism. That is also why the role of institutions such as StandWithUs, the Holocaust Memorial and FISESP is essential to keep the memory alive”. StandWithUs Brasil is an educational organization focused on teaching about Israel and fighting antisemitism in Brazil.

Marcos Knobel, president of FISESP, also emphasizes how timely and necessary Obrigado Paulistanos is: “Two important dates, with opposite feelings, but linked by a destiny. The International Day in Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust reminds us of the saddest chapter in human history and contrasts with a festive date that is the anniversary of our dear city of São Paulo. We show utmost respect to all victims of the Holocaust, and we thank and congratulate the city of São Paulo for embracing our community so warmly so that we could restart our lives.”

The Four Participants Ala Szerman, George Legmann, Joshua Strul and Marika Gidali are the four survivors participating in the campaign.

  • George was born in a Nazi concentration camp in Dachau, came to São Paulo after the war and therefore considers that he was “born in hell and lives in paradise.”

  • Ala was just a baby when her family fled from the Nazis to the Russian countryside. After going through many hardships, including almost freezing to death in Siberia, she managed to come to São Paulo in 1957, where she was welcomed with open arms, got married and had children.

  • Joshua was taken to a concentration camp at the age of 12 just for being Jewish, having almost died of cold, hunger and thirst, and managed to come to Brazil in 1956 and “be reborn in São Paulo”.

  • Marika hid in orphanages, ruins and basements to hide from the Nazis who hunted Jews in Budapest, and was so thirsty and hungry that she got fungus in her mouth that prevented her from even speaking. Arriving in São Paulo in 1947, he was able to rebuild his life and found the renowned and innovative dance company Ballet Stagium.

Background-History In the 1940s and 1950s, after World War II, between 300 and 500 Holocaust survivors found refuge in the city of São Paulo. German, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Dutch and many other nationalities who escaped the Nazi massacre, many without money and alone, were received with open arms, with affection and respect, by the people of São Paulo. It was in the city of São Paulo that these refugees were able to work, rebuild their lives and raise their own families, without suffering the threats and restrictions they suffered in Europe just because they were Jews. Today, these survivors make a point of publicly thanking the warm welcome and the possibility of starting over that São Paulo represented in their lives.


bottom of page