My cousin’s son Noam Corb is something of a legend in our family. This young man, only 21 years old, and a combat officer in the IDF, has become a not-so-amateur historian and researcher of the Shoah.
He got the “bug” when he started working on his “roots” project in school. He had discovered a mysterious box of letters at his grandmother’s house – and it all took off from there. Noam learned German in order to be able to read documents in the original, and has recently published two books: one about his mother’s side of the family, Family Bonfil, and one about his father’s side (which is also my side of the family) – Family Strauss.
I must add here that Noam’s work hugely assisted our family, particularly my brother David, in his own research on the Strauss family (he was only about 17 at the time!) and together with David and our cousin (Noam’s aunt) Nechama, enabled us to organize a wonderful memorial evening and family reunion on the 70th Yahrzeit of my mother’s (and his grandmother’s) three brothers who were murdered as children in Sobibor.
Here is an article about him in Yediot Aharonot, The Officer who became a Historian, which I have taken the liberty to translate:
Second Lieutenant Noam Corb, who serves as an officer in the Etzion Brigade, has already published two books about the Holocaust at his young age, after extensive research in Israel and abroad. It all began with the preparation of his roots project in fifth grade, when Noam came to his grandparents’ home and found a mysterious wooden box filled with letters in Yiddish and German from World War II. His great curiosity led him to learn German in order to better understand the contents of the documents and letters he had found and to delve deeper into the family history, in which many of his family members on both his mother’s and father’s side were killed during the Shoah.
At the end of 12th grade, he began writing a book about the family story: “After the war, my mother did not know what Noam knows following his the work on the book,” said his grandmother, Hava Bonfil, a Holocaust survivor. “Unfortunately she did not get to read the book and know more about our family members. She did not know that they had been sent to a concentration camp and where they had been exterminated. All the years she searched and tried to find out,” said Hava in sorrow. According to her, her mother wanted to destroy the box from which Noam derived most of the information for his first book in order to get rid of the bad memories from the Second World War.
For six years Noam worked on the book together with his aunt Ruchama, an archeologist. “It’s not a natural thing,” Noam says with a smile. “I do not know many children who deal with the Holocaust, One could say that I am very obsessed with this, the Holocaust occupies a lot of space in my life.”
In one of his furloughs from the army 10 months ago, Noam used his vacation to travel to London to meet with a Holocaust survivor in order to obtain more information*. “I go to places that may be less interesting to other people, but this is me, the holocaust is the most extreme event in the history of humanity, it’s important to tell future generations so that the memories will not be erased,” Noam said.
“I’m very proud of him,” said his grandmother Hava. “All I knew was that they had perished in the Holocaust, and beyond that I knew nothing. Suddenly the whole puzzle was completed and I discovered whole worlds that were simply erased from history until Noam came and began to investigate.”
Following the publication of Noam’s books, Noam comes to lecture students. Following his lectures, many students choose to start researching the Holocaust and the family roots as well. The books he wrote are in the Yad Vashem library in Jerusalem: the first book is “Because They Were and Are No More,” which tells the amazing story of the Steinhardt family, and the second book, “As the Bird Flies” which tells the story of the Strauss family from his father’s side.
* The journey to London, mentioned here that Noam undertook was to interview an elderly member of my own family who had survived the Shoah with her siblings while hidden in a convent in Belgium.
There is a video at the Yediot site which I can’t embed but you can watch it at the link. However yesterday, Yom Hashoah, Noam was interviewed on the Israeli TV Channel 1 news program Erev Chadash. (If you can’t see the video below, click on this link to watch via Facebook). He is sitting with his grandmother Hava Bonfil. Here is his interview (Hebrew only):
Noam, we are so proud of you – for your thorough and painstaking research, for your courage in persisting despite your young age and busy career in the army, and for your devotion to your family and to the Jewish People.
May Noam continue to become the great historian that it’s clear he will become, and may he (and we) enjoy more success in the future.