The Foundation is in mourning. We were terribly saddened to hear that Jochevet Ritz-Olewski, Chairwoman of the Irgun Sherit Hapleta Bergen-Belsen in Israel, passed away on 10 February 2024. She represented the Irgun on the Foundation Advisory Board. Jochi, as she was known by her friends and family, dedicated herself over many years to shaping the memory of the historical site of Bergen-Belsen, especially the Displaced Persons camp.
Jochi was born on 15 March 1947 in the Bergen-Belsen DP camp. Her parents, Rafael Olewski and Rachela Zelmanowicz-Olewski, had been persecuted as Polish Jews. They were liberated in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on 15 April 1945 and emigrated to Israel with their daughter in 1949. Her brother, Arie, was born there in 1950. Jochi later earned degrees in administrative management as well as English and French cultural studies. She was eventually appointed Vice Dean of the Open University in Israel, where she also published the university newspaper.
Jochi spent many decades working on behalf of the survivors of Bergen-Belsen and their descendants in Israel – including in the Association of Bergen-Belsen Survivors in Israel (Irgun Sherit Hapleta). She served for a long time as the deputy chairwoman of the Irgun before being appointed the chairwoman in January 2022, the first woman to hold this position in the organization’s history. With Arie as her deputy, she represented the Irgun on the committees of the Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation. Jochi was also the representative of the children born in the DP camp on the Foundation’s Advisory Board. Over the years, Jochi, Arie and members of their families regularly attended the commemoration ceremonies marking the anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen.
In Israel, the two siblings continued to publish the periodical Unzer Sztyme, which had been launched in the DP camp by their father, Rafael Olewski. Jochi was the editor in chief of this periodical. She most recently lived in Raanana and passed away on 10 February 2024 following a serious illness. She leaves behind three children and eight grandchildren. We send our deepest sympathies to her brother Arie and the rest of her family, who have lost a beloved mother, grandmother and sister.
We will also miss Jochi very much.