Fourteen women between the ages of 74 and 97 took to the red carpet for the glitzy bash in the city of Haifa, Israel. And the contestants described the horrors they suffered at the hands of the Nazis in World War II.
The winner was 79-year-old Hava Hershkovitz, who fled her native Romania during the war.
She said, “It’s not easy at this age to be in a beauty contest, but we’re all doing it to show that we’re still alive.” She was awarded the prize by a four-judge panel, which included three former beauty queens and a psychiatrist who specialises in helping Holocaust survivors.
Almost 300 women registered for the competition, and Hava fended off competition from 14 finalists at the event.
But the pageant has been slammed by critics, who branded it “macabre”. Collete Avital, chairwoman of Israel’s Holocaust survivors’ group, said, “I am in favour of enriching lives, but a one-time pageant masquerading survivors with beautiful clothes is not what is going to make their lives more meaningful.”
Organiser Shimon Sabag, of the Helping Hand organisation, rejected the criticism, saying winners were chosen based on their stories of survival and contribution to the community.
She said, “They feel good together. They are having a good time and laughing in the rehearsals. The fact that so many wanted to participate proves that it’s a good idea.”
Nearly 200,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel today.