Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020 marked 75 years since the end of World War II. Today, families whose relatives were victims of the Holocaust are rediscovering part of their history thanks to an online database.
For most of his life, Steve Soloman struggled to find the answer to painful questions: What were names of his family members that perished in the Holocaust? Where did they live?
After searching the website Ancestry.com, he finally found what he was looking for. The online genealogy company recently digitized and added tens of million of Holocaust records to its database as part of the Arolsen Archives collection.
There, Soloman found the names of relatives who were victims of the Holocaust and even discovered the first photograph of his great-grandfather he’d ever seen. “It was a registration card that my great-grandfather, Aaron Schwell, had to fill out by order of the authorities in Krakow, Poland because he was Jewish, and he had to identify his name and other information, his occupation, who lived with him, and there was a photo of him on this document,” Soloman says.
His discovery comes at a time when historians say preserving the memory of Holocaust victims is more important than ever. 75 years after the end of World War II, many survivors of the holocaust have passed away. As their numbers diminish, historians say continuing to document their experiences is vital. "These are real things that happened to real people, and we need to make sure that we're paying attention so that we don't repeat those horrific events,” says Ancestry genealogist Crista Cowan.
For Soloman, finding the missing parts of his family’s past allowed him to track down and visit his great-grandmother’s grave. “Her great grandson is an American citizen, is standing over her grave and remembering her, something that, of course, no one had done in how many decades? It was pretty profound,” he says.
The Holocaust records on Ancestry.com are free to search. The website is also publishing nearly 50,000 Holocaust survivor testimonies through a partnership with the USC Shoah Foundation.