Holocaust Symbolism on Matzevot (Tombstones) #holocaust

Madeleine Isenberg

After years of looking at inscriptions and imagery on matzevot (tombstones) in photos around the world, I recently realized that I have overlooked an important and significant marking that has appeared, but not in every case.  I'm talking about those brave Holocaust survivors who made it to places around the world and were able to raise families and lead productive lives despite all that they suffered, even living to ripe old ages. 

When finding an indicator either by some symbolism or wording, it makes one feel a sense of pride and relief that these people defiantly strove to stay alive, despite Hitler's intent to destroy all Jews.

Another person who photographs tombstones in the USA, James Mason (Meeka90069@... ) who is not Jewish, and we have considered this might be an interesting research project to discover how and where such indications appear.
In the USA, quite often I have seen either engraved, or as an "add-on" to a matzeva, that looks mostly like this, although the lettering may vary:

In Seattle, Washington, in a Sephardic cemetery I often found actual words engraved, such as "Holocaust Survivor."  This is important because too many of us think that the Holocaust was an Ashkenazi thing.

James contacted Nolan ALTMAN, who administers the JOWBR databases, and was in turn referred to Renee STEINIG of JGSLI.  Renee sent James the following information that I have abstracted, 

"... the one survivor symbol with which I'm familiar -- a metal grave marker... At one time, such markers could be purchased from the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. Now their web site says "out of stock" (https://amgathering.org/buy-markers/). ... According to a newspaper article published in 1986 ... Judy Freeman, the survivor who encouraged the Gathering to manufacture them, the design was first used in 1981, at a world gathering of survivors in Jerusalem. Mrs. Freeman did not know who designed the original image, which she said symbolized Judaism (the Star of David), imprisonment (the barbed wire), liberation (the break in the star), and new life (the branch)."I have also been unable to learn who designed it in the first place.

I still have been unable to discover the originator of that design.

Another possible image for which I have no confirmation of its relevance, is a sort of eternal flame.

And recently, I noticed on the matzeva of one of my Slovakian-born cousins who died and is buried in the Har Hamenuchot Cemetery, these beautiful words from Zecharia 3:2, 
אוד מוצל מאש , (a brand plucked from fire).

Almost an implicit indicator of a survivor, are those people who ensured that names of those who perished without a memorial were also to be remembered by creating a form of cenotaph, in adding the names of the unmarked to that of another relative or ancestor's grave who had died before the Holocaust and where such matzevot still exist somewhere.

So to those of you out there who prepared the matzevot for your survivors, or who have seen such, please send me photographs to this email: mrizbiz@..., telling me where they are to be found (cemetery name, city, country, etc.).

And if anyone knows who designed that specific barbed-wire Magen David, please enlighten us all!

Thanks in advance,



Madeleine Isenberg
Beverly Hills, CA
Researching: GOLDMAN, STEINER, LANGER, GLUECKSMAN, STOTTER in various parts of Galicia, Poland
(Nowy Targ, Nowy Sanz, Wachsmund, Dembno, Lapuszna, Krakow, Ochotnica) who migrated into Kezmarok or
nearby towns in northern Slovakia and Czech Republic (i.e., those who lived/had businesses in Moravska Ostrava);
GOLDSTEIN in Sena or Szina, Szkaros and Kosice, Slovakia; Tolcsva and Tokaj, Hungary.

Mike Coleman

Hillside Cemetery in Los Angeles offers (free) such an additional marker for interments in the walls of their mausoleum.


I don't have a clear enough photo I'm afraid.

Mike Coleman  London U.K.