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Separated By War, Reunited By The Web: Photo Project Links Holocaust Survivors

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Separated By War, Reunited By The Web: Photo Project Links Holocaust Survivors

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Separated By War, Reunited By The Web: Photo Project Links Holocaust Survivors

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


Unidentified Man: This is the third broadcast made on behalf of 45 allied children who've been Nazi captives and have no homes.


SIEGEL: Claire O'Neill has our story.


BLOCK: Will anybody who recognizes himself write to the British Red Cross?

LISA YAVNAI: You can just imagine how long it would take someone to write a letter, for the letter to be opened and then for the child to be located back in Europe.

CLAIRE O: Dr. Lisa Yavnai is the director of the Holocaust Museum's Survivors and Victims Resource Center.

YAVNAI: The difference now is that with the social networking, with Facebook and Twitter, it's instant. We put this website up. And within 24 hours, we got our first identification.

NEILL: Yavnai's work is part of an online effort to find some 1,100 children now in their 60s, 70s and 80s whose photos the museum has to get their stories and to spread awareness about war from a child's perspective.

YAVNAI: These are some of these photos.

NEILL: She's looking through a box of carefully preserved prints. Faces of children from two months to 18 years old, mostly Jewish, a wide range of nationalities - French, Ukrainian, Polish - many of them smile at the camera.

YAVNAI: And this is all we know. The name is written on the back with a stamp with the date August 14, 1946. This is when the photo was taken. We don't know anything else about this child except that aide workers took the photo to help identify her family.

NEILL: You don't need to be in D.C. to see the pictures. All you need is a computer and maybe a Facebook account to respond.

THEODORE MEICLER: I've been on Facebook for several years through my kids and grandkids.

NEILL: Theo Meicler saw his photo for the first time in an email from the museum at his home in Houston, Texas.

MEICLER: We are sitting in my office here and I have some pictures from that era. But I'm used to seeing those pictures all the time, so it doesn't stop me anymore. That picture, when I saw it, got my attention.

NEILL: In the photo on the website, Meicler looks to be about seven or eight, a full head of neatly combed hair, a fresh face. And right by that image you can see him today, 65 years later. His Facebook profile picture IDs a comment that he left. This is me indeed with more hair and less wrinkles, he writes. Not happy.

MEICLER: It was a photo that brought me back to a time that was not a very happy time in my life. I remember living in a house behind a railroad station where my father had a cased good manufacturing. I remember when two Gestapo agents came and arrested him.

NEILL: Meicler never saw his father again. He was reunited with his mother and brother after the war. But the picture stirs emotions that have troubled him for much of his adult life.

MEICLER: My father went through several camps, Buchenwald, Auschwitz, I think Treblinka.

NEILL: Jean-Claude Goldbrenner was too young to remember his father's departure, but he recalls his return.

JEAN: I have a memory of my father coming back totally emaciated, walking with cane. And that's probably the first memory I have of my father.

NEILL: Today, Goldbrenner lives in Maryland and was about two or three when his photo was taken. He rediscovered it by Googling himself. He's kept in touch with some of his childhood friends, especially when artifacts like these photos emerge.

GOLDBRENNER: I mean, that's my picture. And these are the two friends that I found at the time.

NEILL: For Goldbrenner's generation, the past has been a bit of a puzzle, pieced together through the years with photos and conversations and letters, like the ones his aunt sent him later in life, written by his mother. Through that correspondence, he learned the details of her death. She was killed, six to seven months pregnant, at Auschwitz. She was 28 years old.

GOLDBRENNER: Most of us either didn't think or didn't dare to ask questions. I think when you're young it's probably a question of didn't think. And when you're older, didn't dare too much to stir these memories.

NEILL: Claire O'Neill, NPR News.

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