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April 2: The Athlete-Survivor

April 1, 2016

h26Shaul Paul Ladany, a professor of engineering at Ben Gurion University who is a child survivor of Bergen Belsen and an adult survivor of the 1972 massacre of Israel’s Munich Olympics team, was born in Belgrade on this date in 1936. Ladany is a race-walker who holds the world record in the 50-mile walk (7:23:50) and the Israeli record in the 50-kilometer walk (4:17:07). His family was interned for half a year in Bergen-Belsen in 1944 before being transported to Switzerland as part of an exchange deal between the Nazis and the Zionist movement. “I mainly remember standing for hours for the roll calls, when the German soldiers made arithmetic errors in adding up the numbers alive and the dead,” Ladany says. “They counted us again and again — for hours and hours, in rain and cold. I remember the barbed-wire fences and the watchtowers and the hunger.” Ladany, a military veteran of both the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, represented Israel in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico at the age of 32. Four years later, he was one of only five Israeli team members to escape the Black September terrorists; Ladany jumped, under gunfire, from his bedroom’s rear window onto the lawn below and became the first person to spread the alarm. On his every birthday, Ladany walks his age in kilometers. As an engineer, he is the author of some dozen books and more than 100 professional articles.

“I saw my father beaten by the SS, and I lost most of my family there... A ransom deal that the Americans attempted saved 2,000 Jews and I was one. I actually went into the gas chamber, but was reprieved. God knows why.” —Shaul Paul Ladany