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How to Document Victims and Locate Survivors of the Holocaust

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How to Document Victims and Locate Survivors of the Holocaust
by Gary Mokotoff
Copyright ©1995 by Gary Mokotoff
ISBN Number 0–9626373-8-6

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Locating Survivors Background
In the course of your research, you may wish to locate persons for whom the only information you have is an obsolete address or no address at all. It is impossible to describe in a brief chapter the wealth of resources available to locate persons. If you think of the number of times you have had to put your name, address and other pertinent information on application forms, consider that each of these documents is a potential method of locating you. People appear in telephone directories, belong to organizations such as Holocaust survivor groups, contribute to Jewish charities, and are members of professional societies, to name a few. All are potential sources for locating an individual. The "Selected Bibliography" includes a number of books written about the subject.

Locating Survivors
One of the simplest techniques for locating individuals is using telephone directories. In this age of computers, commercial firms in many countries have developed consolidated telephone directories that provide a complete alphabetical list of all published telephone numbers in the country, independent of region. This allows the rapid search of an entire country's telephone subscribers for the name of an individual. Its principal disadvantage is that subscribers may request that their name not be listed. It can also be difficult to use if the person has a common name since hundreds of persons with the surname may be listed in the consolidated directory.

If you know the locality where a person once lived, find out if there is a reverse telephone directory for the area. This is a directory organized by street address rather than alphabetical order. For example, such directories exist for New York City. If the directory exists, call the neighbors of the person you are searching for. They may be able to supply you with a new address for the person or at least give you clues.

Writing a letter to "Occupant" at the person's last-known address might elicit a response from the current residents. Ask if they know the current whereabouts of the person you are seeking. Be sure to include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to make it easy for the person to respond. If writing to another country, instead of an SASE, go to the post office and purchase two international postal coupons and include it with your letter. The responder can redeem these coupons in exchange for cash equivalent to the cost of an air mail stamp. State in the letter that you would appreciate a response even if they know no information. You may wish to include a preprinted questionnaire to make it as simple as possible for the person to respond.

In virtually every major country in the world where Jews relocated after the Holocaust, agencies helped them with the task of settling in their new country. Each of these organizations created files of information about their clients that can be a starting point for locating survivors. When corresponding with these organizations, give as much factual information as possible about the person(s) sought--name, names of parents, name of spouse, place of birth, places lived before the war, location(s) during the war, occupation. Keep the letter brief, limiting it to information that might be useful in identifying the individual from the agencies' records. Do not write long letters describing the events in the person's life--they may be important to you, but not relevant to the searcher.

Many of these agencies have limited budgets. Therefore, to defray the cost of their responding to you, if the agency is in your country, include a legal-sized, self-addressed stamped envelope. If the agency is in another country, include two international postal coupons instead of a stamp.

Described below are institutions in various countries that can help you locate survivors.

On July 18, 1994, a terrorist bomb exploded in front of the office of the Jewish Federation (AMIA) on Pasteur Street, killing nearly one hundred persons and destroying the building. AMIA has established provisional headquarters at 632 Ayacucho Street in Buenos Aires.

Although thousands of Holocaust survivors emigrated to Australia after World War II, there are no organized lists of those who did so. Attempts to create such documentation have met with resistance from community bodies anxious not to generate lists of names that may be used by persons carrying out some unknown future threat.

The Australian Jewish Welfare Society, which has branches in the various states of the Australian Commonwealth, has records of those they helped, but files have not been cataloged and are in storage and considered inaccessible. The two largest groups of survivors live in the area of Sydney and Melbourne.

Sydney. Australian Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. Address: Beth HaShoah; 148 Darlinghurst Road; Darlinghurst, 2010 Sydney, NSW, Australia. The principal purpose of this association is to serve as a support group for Holocaust survivors living in Australia. A library and archives located at the Sydney Jewish Museum answers inquiries about particular survivors at no charge.

Melbourne. A computerized search service has been created by the Jewish Welfare Society. For a fee of AU$25, they will search their records. Write to Jewish Community Services Tracing Service; 26 Alma Road; St. Kilda, Melbourne, 3182 Victoria, Australia. Telephone 525-4000; fax: 525-3737. Everyone who has ever contributed to a Jewish cause in Melbourne since 1945, or had an advertisement in the Australian Jewish News of Melbourne, is supposedly listed in this database.

Jewish communities that include Holocaust survivors exist in a number of other Australian communities. Make inquiries to the individuals listed below:

Brisbane. Morris Ochert; 3/23 Lucinda Street; Taringa, Brisbane, Queensland; 4068 Australia.

Hobart. Amelie Rauner; GPO Box 128B; Hobart, Tasmania; 7001, Australia.

Perth. Holocaust Institute; 61 Woodrow Avenue; Yokine, Perth, WA; 6060 Australia. Also, Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors; Abe Nidorf; 8 Warralong Crescent; Mt. Lawley, Perth, WA; 6050 Australia.

Dokumentationsarchiv des Osterreichischen Widerstandes; Altes Rathaus; Wipplingerstrasse 8; A-1010 Vienna, Austria.

Jewish Immigrant Aid Society (JIAS); 5151 Cote St. Catherine Road; Montreal, Quebec H3W 1M6. Telephone: (514) 342-9351; fax: (514) 342- 8452. JIAS is a social service organization founded in 1919 to serve the needs of post-World War I Jewish immigrants who planned to settle in Canada. After World War II, it served to assist Holocaust survivors. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, JIAS has abandoned its locator service. The organization is seeking funding that would reestablish this service.

National Archives of Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC); 1590 Docteur Penfield Avenue; Montreal, Quebec H3G 1C5. Telephone: (514) 931- 7531; fax: (514) 931-0548. This organization has three major and some minor collections that include information about Holocaust survivors. The collections are described below.

Jewish Immigrant Aid Society (JIAS). There is a "catch-22" in the relationship between the CJC and JIAS. CJC will not release information included in JIAS records without approval of JIAS. JIAS says it does not have the funding to process inquiries. Persistence and patience should prevail if you suspect there is useful information in this collection. A further obstacle is privacy. The records may include personal information, such as financial conditions and social problems of the individuals. Again, persistence, patience and the ability to demonstrate a need to know might allow you to gain access to the case files.

United Jewish Relief Agencies (UJRA). Established in 1938, UJRA helped escapees, evacuees and interned refugees located in England. After the war, the group sent supplies, helped trace families of displaced persons, and brought skilled immigrants to Canada, in addition to other services. Their collections include: (1) case files of interned refugees, mainly Jewish Germans and Austrians interned in Britain in 1940 as prisoners of war; (2) War Orphans Immigration Project; (3) Skilled Labourers Immigration Project for Displaced Persons; (4) Joint Distribution Committee Refugee and Relief Program (including assistance and location services for Holocaust survivors); and (5) CJC Special Immigration Cases.

United Restitution Organization. This worldwide organization assists victims of Nazi persecution to submit claims against the German and Austrian governments. The Canadian branch was created in 1953. It holds individual case files of persons requesting help in restitution claims.

Other collections. Some landsmanshaftn and survivor association files are included in the CJC collections. Other materials of these organizations are at the Jewish Public Library in Montreal (Address: 5151 Cote St. Catherine Road; Montreal, Quebec H3W 1M6). The National Archives of CJC also has oral testimonies of survivors, as well as letters and journals of both survivors and victims.

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