DerStandard.at - May 19, 2016
Brothers were torn apart in 1939, their descendants searched for each other in social media
Even if the Holocaust lies over 70 years in the past, its terrible consequences are still perceptible, for example in families that were torn apart by the Nazi-regime. One such case with a happy end is currently making headlines. It is about the brothers Katz, who were separated in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1939. One brother, Chaim, fled to Russia, while Abram stayed with his family. But his sister and his parents fell victim to Nazi terror and Abram was deported to Mauthausen. After the liberation of the concentration camp in 1945 he emigrated to the United States – and started looking for his brother Chaim.
But that turned out to be anything but easy. While there were organizations that specialized in the search for family members, including the Red Cross, the Cold War complicated an international search. Later, Abram’s daughter Michelle, who had written countless letters to Eastern European authorities and to Yad Vashem, took over the search. Since there have been positive reports on reunited families occasionally, she did not want to put the matter to rest.
Social Media Helped
Even after Abram passed away in 2011 at the age of 95, the family continued the search. A few months ago, his granddaughter Jess, the first digitally minded family member, took over. And behold – Jess was able to find her relatives via Facebook, specific search fora and a Russian social media platform. She skyped with Evgeny Belzhitsky, who turned out to be Chaim’s son. His father had changed his last name in order to hide his Jewish identity as strong anti-Semitic tendencies existed in Russia after World War II. This had complicated the search further.
„Holocaust alive in many families“
The sad news: Chaim, too, had passed away, according to Der Spiegel he died from a stroke in 1970. Nevertheless, the descendants could indeed find each other after 77 years. Jess, whose search only took ten days, now wants to encourage other families to use social media to search for relatives. „The Holocaust is not a thing of the past, it is very much alive in many families,“ she wrote in a Facebook post. The history of her family proves this. The first Skype call of all survivors did take place on May 5th – the day Mauthausen was liberated.