World War II Relic Found in Nazi Death Camp Helps Reunite Jewish Family

A pendant found in Sobibor. Reuters

A small silver pendant discovered at the site of a demolished Nazi death camp succeeded in bringing together family members who had never met before.

Archeologists from Israel's Antiquities Authority were excavating the site of a Nazi death camp in Poland when they discovered mass graves, gas chambers and a small silver pendant with a date, the place name Frankfurt, and the Hebrew words "mazal tov" written on it. The pendant's discovery set off a chain of events that brought together the long-lost relatives of the little girl who once wore the pendent. The girl's name was Karoline Cohn, and over 30 of her relatives will unite in Frankfurt, Germany, her hometown, next week.

"We had this person who was completely forgotten, even by her surrounding relatives," said Chaim Motzen, an amateur genealogist who helped reconstruct Karoline's family tree. "Through this pendant, people are learning about each other and their history."

Researchers in Israel used archive records and the information on the pendent to uncover Karoline's identity. Documentation revealed that she was 11 years old when she and her family were deported from Frankfurt to Belarus in 1941. She was sent to the camp in Nazi-occupied Poland two years later, where she died of unknown causes.

Many of Karoline's extended family members were murdered during the Holocaust, Chaim discovered. But he managed to track down surviving relatives in countries like the United States, Israel, Japan, Great Britain, Nicaragua, and Hong Kong. Overall, Chaim located over 100 of Karoline's cousins and their descendants, some of whom were completely unaware that they had relatives who died during the Holocaust.

Now Karoline's relatives will gather in Frankfurt to dedicate a plaque to their ancestor and mark the place where she lived prior to deportation. Karoline's pendant, meanwhile, will be displayed in Poland's Holocaust museum.

In recent years, archeologists and historians have been pushing for more research to be conducted on the identities of Nazi Germany's many victims, arguing that knowledge of the individuals matter as much as the number of deaths.

Nazi Germany killed an estimated 200,000 people in the extermination camp in Sobibor, Poland during World War II. As the war came to an end, the Nazis began hiding evidence of the horror at the death camp. They bulldozed buildings and even planted trees on top of them. But archeologists began excavating the site a decade ago and information about the extermination camp and its horrors came to light.

Around 1.5 million children are estimated to have been killed in the Holocaust during World War II.