On Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoa), Red Cross remembers successes of its Restoring Family Links services

In recognition of Holocaust Remembrance Day the American Red Cross is reaching out to Holocaust survivors and their families to inform them of Red Cross services to reconnect families and find documentation.

Since 1990 the American Red Cross has helped over 45,000 families search for information and documentation of their loved ones who went missing during the Holocaust. Miraculously this work has resulted in locating 1,600 individuals and reconnecting them with their families. Watch the video of Saul Dreier, a Coconut Creek resident and Holocaust survivor who was reunited with his cousin through the Red Cross Restoring Family Links services.

Dreier thought he lost his entire family during the World War II murder of millions by the Nazi regime. After almost 70 years of thinking he was alone, he was able to locate his cousin Lucy Weinberg, a resident of Montreal, Canada, in late 2010 after Red Cross caseworkers scoured records from the former Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center and more than 180 Red Cross societies around the world for clues. You can read their story here.

HOLOCAUST AND WAR VICTIMS TRACING So many years after World War II, the pain of being separated from family still affects many. The American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center was closed in November 2012 but through its national Restoring Family Links program, the Red Cross continues to help residents of the United States search for information about loved ones missing since the Holocaust.

The tracing services are free of charge and utilize the worldwide network of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, the Magen David Adom in Israel, as well as museums, archives and international organizations to help find information about someone’s loved one.

HOW TO BEGIN YOUR SEARCH If someone is interested in trying to find a loved one, they can contact their local Red Cross chapter. These searches are complex and can take a year or more to find results. Information has been found in more than 79 percent of cases such as documentation outlining deportation to another country, or in some, confirmation of death. Some, like Saul Dreier, have been lucky to find their loved ones and reunite after so many years of separation.

Holocaust Survivors and their Families Continue to Turn to the Greater NY Red Cross

This article was posted on on January 6th 2012 on our National Red Cross Blog. I wanted to share with people from our community because this is a service that many of you may not even know the Red Cross is involved in. What great stories of hope!  

This post is by Jennifer Baker, Regional Manager, Service Programs, Greater New York Region

For the past 20 years, the Greater NY Red Cross has been providing Holocaust tracing services through The American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center, a national clearinghouse for persons seeking the fates of loved ones missing since the Holocaust and its aftermath.

I’ve been involved with the program at the Greater New York Chapter (now the Greater New York Region) since October 2007 and have had the honor to hear people’s stories and help with their journey to find answers about their family.

This program aims to reconnect survivors separated by the Holocaust during World War II, but often it assists U.S. residents, searching for themselves or for family members, in finding information regarding proof of internment, forced/slave labor, or evacuation.

To locate information, we use the worldwide network of more than 185 Red Cross and Red Crescent societies including the Magen David Adom in Israel. We also consult museums, archives and international organizations to further facilitate tracing requests.

As the years pass, sadly, there are fewer survivors to reconnect. Often, the end result of a search is proof of what a survivor endured. This result, though less than what was hoped for, is often invaluable to the person initiating the search.

Six years ago Ruth Schloss opened a case to see if she could learn the fate of her parents. She’d last seen them 70 years earlier, frail and starving, at Camp de Gurs, a work/holding camp in southwestern France, when she was fourteen. Through that search, Ruth learned that her parents died at Auschwitz. Although this was sad news, it provided Ruth with the closure she needed. “I can’t thank the Red Cross enough,” Ruth told my predecessor.

Now, nearly 67 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, fewer and fewer survivors are able to initiate cases themselves. Despite this reality, my team continues to receive new inquiries. The difference is that today, many of these new cases are initiated by the children, and sometimes the grandchildren, of Holocaust survivors.

Most are searching on behalf of elderly parents whose memories or mental states are in decline. That was the situation when Anna Zvi, a Queens, resident and mother of two, initiated a tracing case through the Greater NY Red Cross for her elderly mother, Holocaust survivor Mania Kichell.

Mania’s condition was not the only factor behind Anna’s inquiry. Anna’s daughter Simone helped convince her mother to begin the search; Simone had always thirsted to know more about her grandmother’s Holocaust experiences, but Mania chose not to speak about them.

Zvi and her family were thrilled to receive public records obtained by the Polish Red Cross confirming her mother’s residence in the Lodz Ghetto and liberation from Bergen-Belsen, as well as her mother’s Polish birth certificate.

“The Red Cross relates to people with a lot of heart,” said Zvi. “I’m blessed to have had their help. Having this information means so much to me and to my children.”

This summer the Greater NY Red Cross ran an article about Zvi’s tracing story on our website; it was picked up in September by the Queens Gazette. I’m happy to report that as a result of the Gazette article, a number of new tracing cases have been initiated with my team. Most of these were initiated by individuals who were unaware of our tracing services until reading the article.

Sometimes, though a stroke of luck, a tracing search yields another kind of favorable outcome: Family members are united with relatives by surprise. After Harriet D., the daughter of a survivor, initiated a tracing inquiry on an uncle earlier this year, we concurrently received a tracing request from the Magen David Adom in Israel searching for information on both Harriet’s mother and another uncle. As a result, Harriet was able to connect with a cousin in Israel she didn’t know existed, and relatives in both the U.S. and Israel have reestablished contact.

In my mind, our Holocaust Tracing program is not only an opportunity to find answers, locate lost relatives and potentially bring closure to survivors and their families; it’s a remarkable opportunity to preserve their voices and stories.

As Anna Zvi so eloquently pointed out to me: “My mother is unable to impart this information in her own voice, that’s why I get so emotional when I receive a new piece of documentation. It’s as if someone was speaking for my mother and saying, ‘Yes, she endured this; Yes, we know.’”

American Red Cross Marks Twenty Years of Helping Holocaust Survivors Reconnect

Center has reconnected 1,600 families separated by Second World War

WASHINGTON, September 23, 2010 — The American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center on Friday will commemorate two decades of providing essential answers to survivors and their families about loves ones who have been missing since the Second World War.

“The need to know what happened to a parent, sibling or child who vanished without a trace never goes away,” said Gail McGovern, president and CEO with the American Red Cross.  “More than 60 years since the liberation, many families are still searching for answers and struggling to understand.”

At a time when Nazi and Soviet records were first beginning to surface, a small group of American Red Cross volunteers had the vision to open a national clearinghouse dedicated to gaining access to archives and learning the fates of the missing.

The American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center opened its doors for the first time in Baltimore on September 24, 1990. In the 20 years since, thousands of people have turned to the Red Cross for information about loved ones lost during this tragic period.

“For the families, every answer is a gift,” said McGovern. “People of Jewish faith, for example, give great significance to the date of a person’s death—for it is on the anniversary of death that loved ones light candles in their memory.  Even when the exact date cannot be found, often the date a relative was taken to a concentration camp or ghetto is enough to provide solace.”

In tribute to the compassionate and committed volunteers who have processed more than 43,000 requests for information and documentation from survivors and in turn eased their suffering, a celebration luncheon will take place on Monday, September 27 during the center’s annual meeting in Baltimore.

“Many of these volunteers helped find people alive after half a century—people thought to be missing or dead,” said McGovern. “For the more than 1,600 families brought together through the work of the center, this information is priceless and life-changing.”

Tracing activities are offered at no cost for survivors and their families so they can obtain information, resolution and, in some cases, documentation that will help them secure reparations.

 After receiving a request, the center will research the fate of the missing by consulting the global Red Cross Red Crescent network as well as various archives, museums and partner organizations throughout the world. The International Tracing Service of Arolsen, Germany, which contains more than 47 million Nazi documentation records, proves to be an invaluable resource for the center’s work.

More information on the Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center can be found at local Red Cross chapters or at www.redcross.org/services/intl/holotrace/.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Sunday, April 11 was Holocaust Remembrance Day. The United States Congress established the Days of Remembrance as our nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust and created the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a permanent living memorial to the victims. 

For more than a decade, the American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center has been working with survivors and their families to bring solace, hope and, in some cases, reunion after year of heartbreak and uncertainty.

The Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Service uses the combined resources from a worldwide network of national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, the Gagen David Adom and approximately 700 chapters throughout the United States, as well as countless museums, archives and organization around the world.

Each year, thousands of people turn to their local Red Cross chapter to request an international search for unforgotten family members.

For many survivors, the search brings the solace of learning–after years of uncertainty–what happened to loved ones.

For some, it brings the miracle of a reunion.

Searches Begin at Your Local Red Cross

Your search will begin when you contact your local Red Cross chapter, or by calling the American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center at (410) 624-2090.