Twins steven and marion hess pose for portrait photo in their fancy Urker costumes.

The Hess Twins

It was somewhere around 2016 when I’d been exploring the story of my uncle, Paul Rehfisch, his family and his fate in the hands of the Nazis, Bergen-Belsen, and ultimately “the Lost Transport”. It was during this time that I found a guy online who had been on the same train with his family. But unfortunately he could not remember much about it because he had been so young at the time. But after a couple emails back and forth, I lost track of him.

Now, skip ahead to 2021. It was Sunday morning, March 7th. I was sitting comfortably in my living room, reading the Sunday edition of the L.A. Times. On the front page in column #1 was a story by one of my favorite columnists, Steve Lopez. But what caught my eye was the title, “Twins’ Photo Unlocks Holocaust Mystery”. I jumped to page 8, and found the rest of it . . . a full page dedicated to the remainder of the story. It included a cute picture of two young kids – a boy and girl who turned out to be twins – dressed in adorable costumes.

Five 10 cm square bronze colored metal plaques embedded in cement in a grid, each engraved with a single person taken away by nazi soldiers during world war two.

Stolpersteine

The German artist Gunter Demnig, who originated the idea of the commemorative stepping stones, remembers the victims of the Nazis by installing memorial brass plaques on the pavement in front of their last known address. He cites the Talmud saying that “a person is only forgotten when his or her name is forgotten.” The Stolpersteine in front of the buildings brings back to memory the people who once lived here. Almost every “stone” begins with HERE LIVED . . . One “stone.” One name. One person.

Rendezvous in Hannover

This is dedicated to my dear friend, the late Ralph Hirsch1, who was so instrumental in helping me research my family. Ralph and I met on the Internet through the JewishGen web site. He quickly became my “go to guy” in my newfound interest in genealogy; primarily to learn about my family – the family I never knew. But that’s another story.2 But Our First Rendezvous is in Berlin It was 2005 when my wife and I were in Berlin at … Read More

Marion Blumenthal Lazan

WHY SHE BECAME MY HERO! -an essay by Leslie Zurla I ‘m from a little town in New Jersey and went to College not far from where we lived. I was there recently to celebrate my college reunion. It was a wonderful experience to share our “pasts” and “presents.” My trips “back home” are always full of nostalgia and wonderful memories. I was reflecting on the carefree days of my becoming a teenager – totally pre-occupied with “breaking out” the … Read More

What Does it Mean to be a Jew? Part 2

Here’s a quick recap of Part 1 and where we left off: What we’ve been dealing with is the the result of a series of questions that my “What’s the Story” guru, STACIE CHAIKEN, suggested I explore as a way of finding a way of creating a story arc for my embryonic film project, which later became “FOR THE LIFE OF ME”. Her last question in Part 1 was: Did I ever get any clues that our family was Jewish? But you’ll have to go back to Part 1 to find out, in … Read More

Eight People Who Changed My Life

I count eight people who in one way or another changed my life. Had I not discovered at age 52 that I was really a Jew, I would never have had the pleasure of finding so many wonderful friends. Each one added valuable insight and information that helped me uncover the mosaic of my family’s history. Some were in my life only briefly, some for longer and with some I continue to remain in contact. But all of them have had a lasting impact Ironically, it all began with my … Read More

Puttkammer’s List – The Extortion of Dutch Jews

A Letter from the Shoah Foundation? It was an uneventful day back in 2002 , until I happened to go out to our mail box. That’s when I noticed a strange envelope postmarked “the Netherlands”, stuck in between the usual collection of bills, magazines and direct mail advertising. Inside was a letter written in Dutch. I could only decipher a portion, but it said it had something to do with the Shoah Foundation. When I finally had it translated, it looked … Read More

One Amazing Lady – Marion Blumenthal Lazan

Marion Blumenthal Lazan is a Holocaust survivor who has dedicated her life to delivering a message of racial and religious tolerance to audiences all over the world. I finally had the opportunity to meet this incredible woman in person, just a few weeks ago, when she spoke to 500 students at Cope Middle School, in Redlands, CA. Telling her story to school children, high school and college students, as well as young adults is something she’s been doing for over twenty years, motivated by … Read More

Theresienstadt – Paradise or Death Camp?

Our Visit to the Ghetto Back in 2004, while in Prague for a few days, my wife, my son and I took a side trip to tour the notorious Nazi concentration camp at Theresienstadt. It was a sobering experience for us, but especially for me because it had a personal connection with my family. Among other relatives who died there, my uncle Paul Rehfisch perished en route, after he had been imprisoned in Bergen Belsen. (You’ll find this in more … Read More

Erich Puttkammer, His Scam and the Shoah Foundation?

 Who, What and Why? That day back in 2002 was uneventful, until I happened to go out to our mail box. That’s when I noticed a strange envelope postmarked “the Netherlands”, stuck in between the usual collection of bills, magazines and direct mail advertising. Inside was a letter written in Dutch. I could only decipher a portion, but it said it had something to do with the Shoa Foundation. When I finally had it translated, it looked like a bit of good news: I … Read More

Yellow manuscript cover titled never forget -- the story of the lost transport.

What was “The Lost Transport”?

[Story updated from its original July 17, 2013 posting. ] I first heard of The Lost Transport when I was researching my Uncle Paul Rehfisch. He was Mom’s older brother, who fled to Amsterdam with his wife, in 1938 after Kristallnacht, to escape the Nazis. His wife was Käthe Franken. They lived together at Jan van Eijckstraat 11 until their arrest and deportation by the Nazis in 1943. Like so many other deported Dutch Jews, their trail followed the same … Read More