"Is My Relative Still Alive?"
by Gad Nahshon
"Is my relative still alive?" This is a typical question of many Holocaust survivors who live with us, among us. Some very old, some are only sixty years old. 90,000 survivors immigrated to the United States since 1945. In 1990 the Red Cross established a special division: The Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center (305 Washington Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21204, Tel: 410-821-8220) as a special agency which is searching on behalf of survivors for living family members. Almost 9,000 cases turned out to be a human success story.
This Red Cross service is free of charge: "We have a network of more than 177 Red Cross" all over the world. This fact provides the Tracing Center with many resources. We have relations with many organizations such as the "claim conference" or the Washington Holocaust Museum. We have access to around 50 million records, "remarked the Tracing Centers" Director, Linda Cauthen Klein.
The essence of this operation is a unique dedication to this touching mission, a race against time, since the war was over on May 8, 1945. There are dedicated volunteers who help the Red Cross, to fulfill this sacred mission: "Our work means a lot of tears in our eyes when we see with our eyes the act of the reunion between relatives," said Ms. Klein, originally from New York, who came to see me with Elise Babbitt. They have a mission to accomplish. In Israel, in the 1950's, the "Search for Relatives" program was a national legacy. The Red Cross follows this legacy to ease the pains of the Holocaust or: The Shoa. We also cooperate with the Israeli Magen David.
We urge any survivor who thinks that we can trace a relative or even just his documents or cemetery, to go to the local branch of the Red Cross. And we will follow on it here or all over the world. We, for example, enjoyed special help from the British Red Cross. They were searching for "George." Often we trace families of people who lived or were born in the Displaced Camps (DP's) in Europe, for example. These children were born after 1945, explained Ms. Klein (Tel: 410-764-5310, Fax: 410-764-4638).
Why did the Red Cross establish its national clearinghouse as late as 1990? "The reason had to do with the opening of new horizons for tracing in the former Soviet Union's Republics," said Ms. Klein who also pointed out that her human mission to contribute to the image of the Red Cross which, during World War II was slow to act, omitting its challenges.
The Tracing Center has sought the fate of more than 35,000 people by closure or providing information about relatives, location and family reunification of isolated survivors and also providing help for those who have claims to reparations or pensions.
Tracing survivors or their children who dream of the miracle of reunion have a high level of optimism as well as satisfaction, staring in the darkness of the "other planet." It is a work of joy. But historically it is also a climax of sorrow. The Holocaust generation of survivors will be us in the near future: an end to tracing.
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