Holocaust Remembrance Day Is April 16, 2015

A special event on April 16 from 4PM to 6PM will commemorate the day and cap a program aimed at encouraging Holocaust survivors to share their stories with youth. The program, held in Washington, D.C., is also available online. For more information about the program and to register for the April 16 live-stream event, visit http://restoringfamilylinksblog.com/yomhashoah/ 

Restoring Family Links Helps Woman Learn Her Family’s Holocaust History

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, and attacked Adolf Hitler’s German forces in World War II. Thousands of American, British, and Canadian forces lost their lives in the intense fighting, but eventually the Allied forces won the battle. This marked a turning point in World War II, putting a crack in Hitler’s control of France. One year later, the Germans would surrender, ending the war in Europe and later in the Pacific and putting an end to the Holocaust.

When remembering the Holocaust this month and the millions who lost their lives, let’s take a moment to also remember how the Red Cross has helped our nation and the world heal from this tragedy. The American Red Cross has been providing tracing services for victims of WWII and the Nazi regime since 1939. Following the release of WWII documents to the Red Cross in 1989, the American Red Cross opened its Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center (HWVTC), in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1990 to facilitate Holocaust Tracing requests. Over the years, the American Red Cross has worked with the international Red Cross network to reconnect family members separated by conflict, war and disaster. Since 1990, the American Red Cross has helped more than 45,000 families locate or find information about people separated by the Holocaust.

While the American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center closed in 2012, all WWII related casework was transitioned to the Restoring Family Links Program at Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, D.C., where services continue.

How The American Red Cross Helps

Search for missing family members

Get documentation on the wartime and post-wartime experiences of family members or yourself. Access is provided to the complete records of the International Tracing Service and hundreds of other archives.

Obtain documents pertaining to:

  • Deportation
  • Internment
  • Evacuation to former Soviet territories
  • Forced and slave labor
  • Other records needed for restitution

Georgia Hunter’s Story Illustrates What Uncovering One’s Family History Can Mean

Georgia Hunter Family pic

For Georgia Hunter, finding out about her unusual family history began when she was given a homework assignment by a high school English teacher. The assignment was to do an “I-Search” to look back at her ancestry.  Her mother suggested she begin her search by speaking with her grandmother. Little did Georgia know what that conversation would reveal. Georgia’s grandfather had recently died and the story her grandmother began to share was not something she had ever imagined. She learned that her grandfather was both Polish and Jewish, not something she remembered having heard before. She was struck by how difficult his life had been. Georgia’s grandmother encouraged her to speak to her grandfather’s siblings to find more pieces of the story. Her interest was sparked well beyond that high school project and in 2000, when Georgia was a new college graduate, she found herself at a family reunion on Martha’s Vineyard attended by all of her grandfather’s siblings, her grandmother and various cousins and relatives she had not met before. Georgia recalls sitting at the table listening to snippets of stories about her grandfather and the other siblings and how they survived the war with determination, courage, cleverness and amazing good fortune. It is a story that spans five continents and has many twists and turns.

Georgia continued to collect family stories, traveling many miles to put to put them all together. She found the memories had holes here and there; understandably after all the time that had passed, many details are fuzzy and pieces forgotten.

Georgia contacted the Polish Red Cross by mail in 2011, in hopes of tracking down family records. Though several years passed, last fall an envelope filled with documents arrived at the local Red Cross office in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Georgia received a call from a Restoring Family Links caseworker in Connecticut and soon received the records sent by the Polish Red Cross. They included birth certificates from a Registry Office in Radom (the family’s hometown in Poland); applications for identification cards during Radom’s Nazi occupation, marked with the seal of the Supreme Council of Elders of the Jewish Population; and a record of a sibling registered as a survivor in 1946 with the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. These records, from all over Poland, not just the family’s hometown of Radom, provide a few more pieces of history, forgotten no longer,  now documented, tangible.

There are fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors left to tell their stories so now is the time to preserve the memories and encourage those of future generations to search for the missing pieces. The American Red Cross Restoring Family Links program provides tracing services for Holocaust survivors and their families, working to provide hope, information and answers. Family tracing services are free of charge. For more information contact your local Red Cross at 1-800-REDCROSS.

Left to right: Jan Radke, Senior Director of Military and International Services with the American Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region and Connecticut resident Georgia Hunter hold family history documents provided to Georgia through the American Red Cross Restoring Family Links program.
Left to right: Jan Radke, Senior Director of Military and International Services with the American Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region and Connecticut resident Georgia Hunter hold family history documents provided to Georgia through the American Red Cross Restoring Family Links program.

To learn more about Georgia’s story, visit her website at http://www.georgialikethestate.com. For more on the Restoring Family Links program, visit http://www.redcross.org/what-we-do/international-services/reconnecting-families.

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