Florida woman who survived Holocaust turns 100, throws first pitch at Yankees-Rays game: ‘Really wonderful’


A crowd of more than 25,000 cheered on 100-year-old Holocaust survivor Helen Kahan as she threw the first pitch of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees.

“It was really wonderful and exciting,” Kahan told Fox News Digital of the May 5 first-in-series baseball game held at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“I loved seeing so many people cheering for us, ‘Go Tampa Bay. Win, win, win!,’” the centenarian added. “Thank you for honoring me. Thank you for honoring the Florida Holocaust Museum. I waited 100 years to do this.”

The ceremonial pitch took place on Kahan’s actual birthday and she was accompanied at the game by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Many of them were sporting Tampa Bay Rays jerseys with the word “Bubbi” — the Yiddish name for grandma — printed on them.

“I never could have imagined celebrating a birthday like this, let alone my 100th,” Kahan said.

“I’m so grateful that I am here to tell my story and help the world remember why kindness and empathy are so important for us all,” she added.

The Rays edged out the New York Yankees 5-4, while closing out the series on Sunday, May 7 with another win.

Kahan’s MLB debut is in recognition of the Florida Holocaust Museum where she has been sharing her life story with generations of museum visitors.

Proceeds from the game will benefit the museum, and the Rays Baseball Foundation will present a $10,000 grant as well.

“That means everything to me,” Kahan told Fox News Digital. “So that everyone will remember that the Holocaust took so many people. I lost my parents, sisters and brothers and grandmothers. It means a lot when I hear people talk about that so everyone will remember.”

Michael Igel, board president of the Florida Holocaust Museum, told Fox News Digital that Kahan “personifies why the lessons of the Holocaust are so important.”

“Helen went through and experienced the depth of humanity. And anybody who’s ever spent time around her knows that she’s just an incredibly sunny person,” he said.

Born as Hani Sabo in 1923 in Rozavlea, Romania, Kahan remembers a happy childhood.

“Before the Holocaust, with my parents and sisters and brothers, we had a very happy life,” Kahan said.

As a young adult, she moved to Budapest to work as a seamstress, and returned to her family in 1944 when the Nazis occupied Hungary.

She was forced into a ghetto before being deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, then Bergen-Belsen and then to the Lippstadt concentration camp.

“The bad things that happened when we arrived in Auschwitz — I was only 21 and I lost so many people from my life,” Kahan shared.

She married her husband, Kalman, also a Holocaust survivor, and they had two children. 

“My children are God’s blessing to me,” Kahan said. “They have helped me to make a good life and to be happy.”

In 1967, Kahan and her family immigrated to the United States, where she was reunited with three uncles, an aunt and one grandmother. 

She learned to speak English — her fifth language — and landed a job as a hospital payroll manager in Brooklyn, New York.

Kahan now has five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren — many of whom came to celebrate her 100th birthday and watch her throw out the ceremonial pitch last Friday.

Kahan’s daughter, Livia Wein, described her mother as “extremely strong.”

“She is very positive, which is amazing for somebody who has gone through so much,” Wein told Fox News Digital last week, prior to the baseball game. 

“She’s very willing to learn things and she’s very friendly,” Wein added. “Growing up, everybody wanted a mom like mine. I remember people saying, ‘I want your mommy to be my mommy.’”

Kahan offered her advice for living a good life.

“Be strong and help everybody,” she said. “Be good to people and just do the best you can do.”