Holocaust survivor Yitzhak Arad, ne Rudnicki, was born on November 11, 1926 in Święciany, Poland (now Lithuania). Growing up, he belonged to Ha-No’ar ha-Tsiyyoni, a Zionist youth movement, and then, during World War II, he became active in the ghetto underground movement. In February 1943 he joined the Soviet partisans of the Markov Brigade, fighting alongside the resistance’s guerilla fighters until the end of the war.
In December 1945, Yitzhak illegally immigrated to Eretz Israel, where he joined the Palmach, an elite fighting force in pre-state Israel. He remained in the forces after the state of Israel was founded, eventually rising to the rank of brigadier-general in the Israeli Defense Forces.
He completed his doctorate at Tel Aviv University, focusing on the history of the Holocaust in the areas of the former Soviet Union. In his work as a Holocaust scholar, he published several books and articles on the subject.
Yitzhak retired from the military in 1972, the same year he was appointed chairman of the directorate of Yad Vashem, the world Holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem. He served in that position until 1993. “I built a physical site for visitors, which tells and presents the history of the Holocaust. I expanded the education and research of the subject and laid the foundations for making the place a world center for commemorating the memory of the Holocaust and its heritage,” he later recalled about his time at the helm of the museum and research institution.
Yitzhak Arad died May 6, 2021, at the age of 94.
“Yad Vashem mourns the passing of Dr. Yitzhak Arad, Holocaust survivor and resistance fighter, renowned historian and former chairman of the Yad Vashem directorate and vice-chairman of the Yad Vashem Council,” the museum said in a statement.