“Every year at school in Israel we used to get a lecture from a Holocaust survivor,” said Tomer Peretz. “I was always getting bored listening to him like, ‘OK, OK, we got it, OK. So, they killed you guys. Let’s move on …
“‘It’s one of those things that happened and will never happen again.’”
But after Hamas fighters raided Israeli farms and villages, killing and butchering more than 1,400 Israelis and taking more than 200 hostages on October 7, Peretz agreed to tape his own testimony so that others would not just move on.
“Everybody has to do it. It’s a must. I don’t see any other option. People need to know,” he told CNN.
He was giving his testimony to the USC Shoah Foundation, which for years has collected the accounts of survivors of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in countries like Cambodia and Rwanda.
Peretz, a Jerusalem-born artist who now lives in Los Angeles, was in Israel the first week of October for a family wedding. As the horror unfolded that Saturday morning, he knew that he had to help. He volunteered with Zaka, an organization that collects human remains after terror attacks so they can be buried according to Jewish tradition.
Peretz was sent to collect the bodies at Kibbutz Be’eri, where more than 120 lay dead.
“I was too coward to be on the side of the head. I didn’t want to see faces,” Peretz said of the gruesome process of bagging mutilated bodies and loading them into trucks. “And then my time to touch the body came. It was the first time.” He helped lift a woman’s body, pulling her up by the arm so someone else could slip a body bag underneath. Of a victim, he said: “She had no face … It looked like they, someone … didn’t want to leave a face.”
Sifting through some of the more than 50,000 Holocaust testimonies at the foundation, it’s easy to find eerie echoes, which Peretz once believed could never come again.
Read the rest of Peretz’s story at CNN.