Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Have You Seen My Brother?

Yocheved Lavon

Nearly seven decades after he last saw his twin brother, Menachem Bodner decided to give it one last chance. He agreed to let a family friend post a message on a well-known genealogical forum in Israel where survivors have long searched for loved ones lost during the Shoah. With a twin’s sixth sense, he felt certain that somewhere in the world, his brother was still alive. But what had happened to him? And then, genealogist Ayana KimRon saw his message.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The One Reliable Clue “I thought it was a very strange message,” KimRon told Mishpacha. “It was written in Hebrew, in the masculine form, but signed by a woman. And it raised questions more than it gave me anything to go on.” Yet it touched a deep current of curiosity, and something more than curiosity.

She contacted the family friend, but the woman had little information to offer. Finally, Menachem himself called KimRon, and she was quickly hooked. She promised Bodner she wouldn’t abandon the search — even if she spent the rest of her life on it.

Since then, the search for Bodner’s twin has become almost her raison d’être. Like a bloodhound on the chase, she has often gone without eating or sleeping while tracking clues to Jolli’s fate. “It consumes me,” she confesses.

The meal sitting untouched in front of her stands as evidence that she isn’t exaggerating.

Bodner had kept a picture that had been in his pocket whenAuschwitzwas liberated. He believed it was a picture of his family, although he had no idea where it had come from. But KimRon studied the picture and was convinced that it could not be Menachem’s family. Not wanting to take away the only thing that gave him a sense of connection to his original family, she said nothing. But one day, when Menachem again spoke about the picture as his family, she asked him gently, “Where is your twin brother? Why isn’t he in the picture?” 

Later, after his true identity was verified, Menachem decided that the long-cherished photo was not of his family after all.

To Ayana, it was clear that a search for the twin brother must begin with discovering Menachem’s true identity. What was his birth name? Where was he from? And the one true lead they had to that was the identifying number tattooed on Menachem’s arm.

The number, etched on his arm two months before his fourth birthday, was barely legible on the skin of a 72-year-old man: A-7733. But it was objective evidence, and it was the key to finding Menachem’s name in the records from World War II.

 KimRon went to the sources, and there they were — Menachem and his brother on the list of twins recorded by the Germans atAuschwitz. Menachem was listed as Elias Gottesman, number A-7733, and his twin brother as Jeno Gottesman, number A-7734.

Now they had a birth name, as recorded by German hands, and clear proof that the twins had been together inAuschwitz.

A bigger breakthrough came when KimRon’s research led to a list of healthy surviving mothers compiled by Polish Red Cross medical staff. Jeno was on the list, along with his mother, proving that Jolli was very much alive in liberatedAuschwitz. So, Jolli too was liberated, but where did he go and with whom?

 

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
What’s in a Name?
Shoshana Friedman “What does Writer X have to say this week?”
Atonement — Fake and Real
Yonoson Rosenblum White confessionals and faux rituals
Four Walls Coming Full Circle
Eytan Kobre All the while, there’s been a relationship in the offing...
And Yet We Smile
Yisroel Besser We are the nation that toils to be happy at all costs
Out of This World
Rabbi Henoch Plotnick Dirshu Hashem b’himatzo — we are in Hashem’s company now...
Steven and Jonathan Litton
Rachel Bachrach The co-owners of Litton Sukkah, based in Lawrence, NY
Tali Messing
Moe Mernick Tali Messing, engineering manager at Facebook Tel Aviv
Sick Note
Jacob L. Freedman “Of course, Dr. Freedman. Machul, machul, machul”
Avoiding Health Columns Can Be Good for You
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Only one reliable guide for good health: our Torah
Endnote: Side Notes
Riki Goldstein Most Jewish music industry entertainers have side profes...
Me, Myself, and Why
Faigy Peritzman Where there’s no heart and no love, there’s no point
Can’t Do It Without You
Sarah Chana Radcliffe When you step up to the plate, you build your home team
Eternal Joy
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz The joy of Succos is the fruit of spiritual victory
The Appraiser: Part III
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer Make sure your child knows his strengths
Hidden Special Needs
Rena Shechter You won’t see his special needs, but don’t deny them
Dear Wealthy Friend
Anonymous There’s no need for guilt. I am truly happy for you