Among the testimonies they found were those of Zlata Adelson, a great-grandmother of theirs who was born in Butrimantz (Butrimonys), Lithuania, in 1879, and Benzion Adelson, her son born in 1911. Zeisler and Frederics knew that Zlata and Benzion had died in 1941 because they were listed in a postwar account of the Jews of Butrimantz -- one of many such books, called yizkor, written by survivors who wanted to chronicle the lives of those who had died.
They also hit upon a surprise: The person who submitted the victims' names, in 1955, was Reuven Adelson, another son whom surviving family members assumed had died in the Shoah with his mother and brother. Reuven was pictured with Benzion in the yizkor book but was not among those listed as killed in 1941.
Photographs of Holocaust victims are displayed in the Hall of Names, part of Yad Vashem's new Holocaust History Museum scheduled to open in Jerusalem in March. The hall is the repository of millions of pages of testimony about Holocaust victims submitted over the past 50 years. Names and information can now be submitted online as well.
(Sasson Tiram -- Yad Vashem)
Nuns Deny Requests By Abuse Victims Group (The Washington Post, Dec 10, 2004)
Mentoring Is Crucial to Keeping Kids Away From Gangs (The Washington Post, Dec 9, 2004)
Preaching by Committee (The Washington Post, Dec 5, 2004)
Lesbian Minister's Credentials Revoked (The Washington Post, Dec 3, 2004)
Pope Returns Relics To Orthodox Leader (The Washington Post, Nov 28, 2004)
More Religion Stories
According to the database, Reuven had left Lithuania in 1939, apparently for Palestine. So Zeisler and Frederics got in touch with Elizabeth Levy, a genealogist they met on another Web site who lives in Israel. Levy called the Edelsons listed in the telephone white pages, and one turned out to be Reuven's widow, who told her she has three grown children and a grandchild in Israel.
Reuven died in 1975 in an automobile accident, never having again seen his sister -- Zeisler's grandmother -- and other family members who immigrated to the United States, despite having made efforts to do so.
"This puts closure on one chapter and opens up another with cousins in Israel we knew nothing about," Zeisler said. "It's been very, very exciting."
Shalev, 65, said that most of his family died in Polish death camps and that he has made every effort to ensure that all are included in the database. But there are some holes, including the name of one of his father's nieces who was killed. Those who could have provided her name are dead.
That's the biggest challenge the project faces, uncovering more details from Holocaust survivors who have avoided talking about the horror all their lives, he said. Soon the last of the survivors will be gone, and so too the memories of others who were killed.
"We know for sure there are still thousands of Jewish families, and some non-Jewish families, who know something about somebody who died in the Shoah," he said. "We must convince them to come forward."
Photo of Reuven Adelson reprinted from "If I Forget Thee . . . The destruction of the shtetl Butrimantz" (Remembrance Books, Washington, D.C).