Thea (Obarzanek) Aschkenase, 95, formerly of Worcester, died March 23 at Agrace Hospice and Palliative Care in Wisconsin. She was the widow of
A Holocaust survivor, her mission was to be a voice of remembrance of the Holocaust. She spent the past two decades giving talks to schoolchildren in the Worcester area public schools, telling them about her experiences. She published her memoir at age 92: Remembering: A Holocaust Survivor Shares her Life.
Born in Munich, Germany, she was the daughter of the late Samuel and Adele Obarzanek. In the late 1930s, because of the rise of the Nazis, the family was forced to move to Italy, where they remained in hiding for more than four years. Her family was eventually discovered and transported to Auschwitz concentration camp. Upon arrival at Auschwitz, the SS officer Josef Mengele put each member of Thea’s family into separate lines. Thea pulled her mother to her line, thereby saving her mother from dying in the crematorium. The other members of her family did not survive. Thea and her mother were liberated by the Soviet Army in 1945, and eventually made their way to Palestine. She met and married her husband Efraim in 1948. In 1954, after emigrating to the U.S., she and her family settled in Worcester. Besides her work to educate students about the Holocaust, she also made it her mission to help others. As part of her connection with the Intergenerational Urban Institute at Worcester State University, from which she graduated with a degree in Urban Studies in her early 80s, Thea volunteered to help hungry children and adults gain access to nutritious food.
In recognition of all of her work to feed the hungry, Worcester State University’s recently opened pantry was named “Thea’s Pantry.” She is survived by her children, Lea and her husband, Tom, of Madison, Wis., and Steven and his fiancée, Jill, of Chicago, Ill.; and three grandchildren, Therese, Alexis and Anders.
Memorial contributions may be made to www.Food4TI.org; or Thea’s Pantry at Worcester State University, University Advancement, 486 Chandler St., Worcester, MA 01602. RICHARD PERLMAN OF MILES FUNERAL HOME