Amazing moment a separated family in Auschwitz reunites after 70 years
It’s the moving moment the daughter of a Holocaust survivor tracked down aunts she didn’t know existed until she matched them through an online DNA database.
Clare Reay, 52, was born in the UK to her mother, Eva, but didn’t know much about her life other than the fact that she had spent time in an Israeli orphanage after WWII and had been adopted by a British couple.
It wasn’t until Clare, from Newcastle, received a DNA kit from MyHeritage – an Israel-based online genealogy platform – as a birthday present from her son in 2020 that she found out about family history. extraordinary story of her mother, a story that she herself has never known.
Eva, who died in 2014, was born in a concentration camp to Dora, a Jewish teenager who had been sent to the Auschwitz and Lublin-Majdanek concentration camps with her parents. At one point, she separated from her baby, although it is not known how.
While Eva was eventually adopted and raised in the UK, Dora moved to the US, where she married and had two more daughters, Jean, now 74, and Dena, 73, and spent her life searching for the girl she had lost.
“My mother knew absolutely nothing about her biological family, we still don’t know how old she was when she and her mother separated because she never had a birth certificate and had no idea of her birth. date of birth, ”Clare told FEMAIL.
The daughter of an Auschwitz survivor who was adopted by a British family surprised her aunts she didn’t know existed after discovering them on a DNA Heritage website. From left to right: Jean, Claire and Dena
Left: Dora and Eva in the early 1940s, reportedly in Warsaw, Right: Eva and Clare in the early 1960s in London
In the photo, Clare with her mother Eva and her father before her mother passed away in 2014
Uncanny: Dena, Jean and Eva said they knew they were related when they compared pictures. On the left it’s Dora, on the right it’s her daughter Eva
“She had memories of the orphanage in Israel and remembered various events from that time, but she had no recollection of her birth mother.”
Jean and Dena promised their mother before her death that they would make her dream of finding her baby come true.
Remarkably, this happened in early 2020 when Dena received a notification from MyHeritage, telling her that she had a niece living in the UK.
“At first I was totally in disbelief,” Clare admitted. “Then I asked Dena to explain the circumstances of her mother and sister separation.
“She told me that they somehow broke up while in a concentration camp, then she sent a picture of her mother and I had absolutely no doubts. in my mind it was my mom’s mom.
“I was totally overwhelmed with the excitement and joy to know that we had found my mother’s family, but at the same time overwhelmed by the sadness that my mother was not there for this incredible discovery.”
Upon meeting her aunts, Clare discovered that her grandmother was born in Warsaw in 1927
Eva is pictured as a child with her adoptive mother after being taken to the UK
Dora Mortkowitz was born in Warsaw in 1927. At the start of World War II, she was sent first to the ghetto, then to the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Lublin-Majdanek with her parents.
In the early 1940s, when she was in a concentration camp and was just a teenager, Dora gave birth to Eva.
Sadly, the circumstances of Eva’s birth mean that she never knew where or when she was born and lived her life without knowing her birthday.
At one point, mother and daughter separated. A surviving photo shows Dora cradling her baby girl.
When the concentration camps were liberated, Eva was sent to an Israeli orphanage.
Clare said: “Unfortunately we still know very little about everything that happened before my mother arrived in Israel, she didn’t remember anything about the concentration camp.
‘Nitay Elboym, who is a researcher at MyHeritage, managed to find my mother’s name succeeded in finding my mother’s name on the passenger list from Marseille to Israel in February 1948 as Chava Lesman so we now know how and when she got to Israel, but nothing before that.
Eva (pictured) had no memory of being in a concentration camp and did not know the year of her birth
ora has spent her whole life looking for Eva, and Dena and Jean (pictured) promised their mother they would never stop looking for their sister. Surprisingly, they have now kept that promise for life. Eva died in February 2014, but Dena and Jean have now been able to meet their niece, after a year of video calls.
Eva was adopted as a child by a British couple and grew up in London. She had daughters Clare and Vivienne in Great Britain.
Unbeknownst to her, on the other side of the Atlantic, her mother had also built a life.
The two worlds met in April 2020, when Clare took her MyHeritage DNA test.
“It was a birthday present, so it was not something I had never considered, but after reading the instructions, I was interested in finding out where we came from on my mother’s side”, a- she explained.
How is Clare related to Dena and Jean?
Dena and Jean are Clare’s half-aunts.
Clare’s late mother Eva was born in the early 1940s while her mother Dora was in a Nazi camp.
After the war, she was released and taken to an orphanage in Israel, while her mother took refuge in the United States.
In the United States, Dora married and had Jean and Dena – who are now 70 years old and live in Ohio.
“I got a breakdown of our ethnicity which was really interesting and I didn’t think about it anymore.”
But Clare entering her data into the system triggered an alert for Dena, who had also taken a MyHeritage DNA test.
“Dena contacted me first, through the MyHeritage.com website,” Clare explained. “She told me how she received an automatic email from My Heritage stating that I was her niece (from DNA correspondence).
“She was so thrilled to make the discovery, she is a very warm and loving person, she made me feel like a member of the family as soon as we started to communicate
“Jean was a little more reserved and skeptical at first (a bit like me), but once we started talking and exchanging photos and information, she and I both knew there was no no way to deny our family ties. “
At the time, the United States had closed its borders with the United Kingdom and Europe due to the spread of Covid-19 so Clare could not visit. But the trio formed a relationship via video calls.
Clare said: “Since we found each other we’ve had regular zooms with Jean, Dean, myself and my sister Vivienne which has been great as it gave us the opportunity to get to know each other and to get to know each other. exchange memories and stories of my mom and their mom.
“My aunts painted a fantastic picture of their lives growing up with Dora, her personality, her features, there are so many striking similarities between Dora and my mother that we often think we could be talking about the same person.”
In March of this year, Clare booked a flight for September. But soon after, the family received a devastating blow.
Clare Reay, 52, from Newcastle received a DNA kit from MyHeritage as a birthday present from her son in 202 – she later found out she had two aunts and met them last month
“Dena collapsed at work and was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer,” Dena explained. “I applied to the US Embassy for a special visa waiver, which they refused, and then sought help from my local MP to appeal their decision, which was again denied .
“I have spent months contacting all relevant organizations known to man for help to no avail.”
After Clare’s flights were canceled in September, she made a new reservation before finally flying out on November 13.
Clare continued, “The surprise was even better than I expected, their reaction was fantastic, we were all so happy to see each other. It was like we’ve known each other our entire lives. how poor Jean was in shock for a while!
“Jean and John (Jean’s husband) and Dena gave us a fantastic two weeks, we learned so much about their life and education with Dora.
“We met all the family and their friends, shared a wonderful Thanksgiving with the family, went sightseeing and spent as much time with them as possible.”
The family are now hoping to learn more about Eva’s life before the war.
She added: “I know so much more now than I ever imagined finding out.
“The maternal side of the family tree was always a dead end, with no name, my mom really had no chance of finding any information about her family.”