Thursday, January 28, 2016

Grandson of Polish Righteous Among the Nations Accepted Honor on their Behalf

When the Warsaw ghetto was established in October 1940, Mieczyslaw Ferster, a Jewish engineer who happened to be tall and blond, was begged by his friends not to report to the German occupying authorities. Stating that he would "go where his people will go," Mieczyslaw, his wife Janina (née Totenberg) and their five-year-old daughter Elizabeth entered the ghetto: two years later Mieczyslaw died, most likely from typhoid fever.


Left alone, Janina and Elizabeth managed to survive a few more months, partially thanks to money and packages sent to them by Janina's brother, Roman (Romek) Totenberg, a violinist who had left Poland in 1928 to study in Germany and France, and had then immigrated to the US. When a fellow Polish musician who owned a kiosk just outside of the ghetto heard that Roman's sister was incarcerated inside, he arranged for her photo to be placed on the ID card of a Polish worker allowed to enter the ghetto. Thus, one evening in July 1942, just before the "Great Deportation" of Jews in the ghetto to the Treblinka death camp, Janina walked out clutching her fake ID card, with little Elizabeth following behind, her blond hair and blue eyes belying the stereotyped "Jewish" features expected by the ghetto guards.

Maryla and Walery Zbijewski on a
prewar skiing vacation
with Mieczyslaw and Janina Ferster
Right away, Janina went to the home of her prewar acquaintances – Tadeusz and Eugenia Kucharski. The Kucharskis kindly took them in; the neighbors were told that Janina was the wife of a Polish officer stationed in the UK. When the Russians bombed the nearby railroad tracks in September 1942, the building in which they were staying suffered great damage. Janina decided to take Elizabeth to stay with her old friends, Maryla and Walery Zbijewski, who lived with their two children near the Vistula River. Janina wandered from place to place, supporting herself by selling the valuables she had left with another family before entering the ghetto.


Janina and Elizabeth spent the remainder of the war staying at the homes of various families in the countryside for a few days at a time, not revealing their Jewish origins. After the war, Janina became close to Pawel Kruk, a former neighbor, and they moved in with him. Pawel eventually adopted Elizabeth, and she took his surname.

In 1958, Elizabeth's uncle Roman came to visit his sister and niece in Warsaw. While Janina chose to stay with Pawel in Poland, Roman managed to arrange a student visa for Elizabeth, who studied biochemistry at NYU. In 1963, Elizabeth married Sherwin Wilk, and they had two children – Renata Janina and Susan Fanny – and two grandchildren.


With the help of documentation provided by Elizabeth Wilk, Yad Vashem was able to extend the title of Righteous Among the Nations to the two couples that rescued Janina and Elizabeth Ferster during the war: Tadeusz and Eugenia Kucharski, and Maryla and Walery Zbijewski. While the Kucharskis passed away with no known relatives, the Zbijewskis' grandson Wojciech, today lives in Baltimore. Wojciech accepted the medal and certificate of honor on behalf of his late grandparents at a special ceremony held on 27 January, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, at the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Restoration of Wartime Diary Reveals Life in the Warsaw Ghetto

Recently, Yad Vashem was honored to host Wlodek Tabaczynski and his daughter Zosia, who had come to see the incredible restoration work carried out on the wartime diary of Wlodek's father, Stefan (né Alfred Zielony).

Stefan Tabaczynski (né Alfred Zielony) and his wife Irena,
who rescued him during WWII
Alfred Zielony was born in 1897 in Warsaw, the youngest child in a Jewish family. His father and one of his brothers died before WWII, and another brother, Bernard, immigrated to Israel in 1921. The rest of the family remained in Warsaw, and were duly incarcerated by the Nazis in the ghetto. It was there that one of Alfred's sisters, Balbina, died of typhus. In August 1942, his wife and child were deported to Treblinka along with his mother, where they were murdered. Two other siblings were also murdered, and Alfred was left alone, hiding in the ghetto. After the ghetto was liquidated, a friend of his, Irena, who had worked in the family business before the war, managed to smuggle him to safety. At the war's end, Alfred changed his name to Stefan Tabaczynski and married Irena. Stefan/Alfred passed away in 1956, when Wlodek was just two years old.

Stefan/Alfred Tabaczynski with his son, Wlodek
In the 1950s, Alexander (Alex) Zielony, the son of Bernard (who had come to Israel before the war), visited Washington for government business. On his way back to Israel, Alex decided to take a detour via Warsaw and visit his aunt, Irena, and his two cousins, Wlodek and Andrzej. During the trip, Irena showed Alex the crumbling remains of a diary her late husband had written during his time in hiding. The diary had been severely damaged by fire and water during the Polish uprising.

In 2006, Wlodek came on his first trip to Israel and, at his cousin Alex's request, brought the diary with him. Alex immediately suggested giving the diary to Yad Vashem, in the hope that restoration experts could help the family save the deteriorating pages and even decipher some of Alfred's testimony.

 "The diary was in terrible shape," recounts Yad Vashem's Archives Director Dr. Haim Gertner. "It was little more than a mass of singed and crumbling papers. We treated it with immense care and expertise at our Paper Restoration Laboratory, first carefully separating the pages and then restoring and preserving each page as far as was possible. After years of painstaking labor, the diary now comprises twelve complete and four partial pages – although because of the difficult state in which they arrived, they are barely legible. While certain words and even parts of sentences – all written in Polish or German – can be made out, it was near impossible to understand the general context.

Alfred Zielony's diary: "Little more than a mass of
singed and crumbling papers"
Even employing the most advanced methods of handwriting reconstruction, police identification lab equipment and the help of antiques and other experts in Israel and abroad, we were still unable to decipher the diary, or even say with certainty when during the war or where it was written. Nevertheless, we were extremely satisfied that at least the diary itself had been saved." 

Last week, Wlodek Tabaczynski and his daughter Zosia came to Israel to celebrate the 100th birthday of Wlodek's cousin Alex. Dr. Gertner showed Wlodek Yad Vashem's online Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names, within seconds calling up all 18 Pages of Testimony Alex Zielony had filled out in 2008 for individual members of his family who were murdered during the Shoah. Seeing all of this information recorded for posterity was very important for Wlodek – a project manager – and  Zosia, who is a teacher.

Left to right: Archives Division Director Dr. Haim Gertner,
Zosia Tabaczynski, Wlodek Tabaczynski and Varda Gross,
Director of the Restoration Laboratory at Yad Vashem
 looking at restored pages from Wlodek's
father's diary, written in the Warsaw ghetto
However, Wlodek was visibly moved when he was shown the diary and was able to see its pages for the first time. He recalled how his father had studied law and then practiced journalism – eventually heading the Polish Society of Journalists (PAP) after the war. "He loved to write," he explained, and asked to touch the actual pages of the diary. "I can't help it," he said. "It's just like touching my father again."

 In his home, Wlodek has a separate page that Alfred wrote, on which he recorded the names of all his family members that died – when, how and where – in succinct notes. At the end of the list, Alfred wrote: "…but I could write tomes about how I survived."

Stefan/Alfred and Irena Tabaczynski with their
two young sons, Wlodek and Andrzej

As Wlodek was familiar with his father's challenging handwriting, he was able to make out a few lines from the diary. For example, there is a description of how those Jews living in the ghetto who had work certificates would gather early each morning at the checkpoint at the ghetto gates, and return in the evening, bringing with them whatever food they had managed to bargain or buy to smuggle back into the ghetto. "But the officers usually took this food away," recalled Alfred – leaving the despondent men to return empty-handed to their starving families. "For the first time, we realized that this diary was most likely written in the Warsaw ghetto itself, and describes daily life there," said Dr. Gertner.

 Wlodek ended his visit by pledging to devote his time to deciphering as much of the diary as he can – bringing Yad Vashem closer than ever to untangling the content of this rare piece of   documentary testimony about life in the Warsaw ghetto.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Remembering the 1+1+1

By: Adina Schreiber

Growing up I was very fortunate to come to Israel on many occasions.  Every trip was full of museums, hikes, fun activities and, without fail, a trip up to Haifa to visit my grandfather's cousin, Dudu, as well as a visit to the cemetery where my grandfather's family is buried. As you can imagine this was not always the highlight of my trip. I mean – who wants to go to a cemetery while on vacation? One time, while we were standing next to the grave of my great-grandmother, whom I am named for, I noticed she had additional names written on her headstone. When I pointed out this oddity, I was explained that those were the names of her siblings who had been murdered in the Holocaust.  Since we do not know where they were killed, or what had happened to them, my family added the names on this headstone in order to remember them. This was the first time the importance of remembrance was called to my attention.  

A few years later, while studying in seminary in Jerusalem, I went on a trip to Poland with a group of girls from my school. Not only would I be going with my teachers and friends, but my mother had decided to join us as well. My trip to Poland was a rollercoaster of emotions, thoughts, and ideas. I saw with my own eyes mass graves, ghettos, and death camps. During my week-long trip there was one moment that really stuck with me. I was sitting in a synagogue in Krakow and my teacher stood up and explained to us the immense importance of remembrance.  We are always taught to remember the atrocities that were committed against us, but most emphasized is that we must remember the six million innocent lives that were brutally taken from this world by the Nazi Germans and their collaborators. Six million. An unfathomable amount. He then continued to explain that just hearing the number six million was not enough; in order to understand the scope of the tragedy we need to think about the individual person. We need to remember the 1+1+1, the one mother, the one father, the one baby.  We need to remember the individual, the person, and not the number. We need to remember that there was someone named Ahava, someone named Sandor, someone named Avraham. Each one of them had a family, friends, hobbies. Each one of them had dreams.  All of a sudden I understood exactly why those names were inscribed onto my great-grandmother's grave, and I understood that I was also responsible for remembering.
I came back to Israel emotionally distraught and felt incredibly lost. And that is when I discovered Yad Vashem. Sure, I always knew it was there and had in fact visited more than once. But this time I discovered that Yad Vashem is not just a museum to go and visit, but also a place that focuses all of its energy on remembering the individual. Remembering the 1+1+1. With the help of the Yad Vashem Archives I began researching my family, and each time I learned a different name, saw a picture of someone else, learned a little about their lives – and just like that I became a partner in the mission to remember.

Several years later, after making Aliyah and beginning university, I had the opportunity to intern at Yad Vashem. Here, I have seen, heard, and learned many things. I have met and heard testimony from survivors, I have learned stories about different artifacts in the museum, and I have watched videos of different people sharing their thoughts and reflections. One of the things that made a large impact on me was my acquaintance with the story of Susan Kerekes. Yad Vashem has an incredible Bar/Bat Mitzvah twinning program, where bar/bat mitzvah boys and girls are given the responsibility of remembering a child from the Holocaust who was never able to celebrate their own bar/bat mitzvah. This November, a Bar Mitzvah boy was twinned with a boy named Sandor Braun. Sandor Braun's story was a bit of a mystery to us and it became my job to find out as much as I could about this boy and his family. That is when I came across Sandor's sister, Susan. Susan survived the camps and participated in the USC Shoah Foundation's project to record testimony, and through this I got to learn Susan's story. Even though I have never met her, nevertheless I connected with her. I laughed with her, I cried with her. And just like that Susan became a part of my life.
To me, this is what Yad Vashem is all about. Yad Vashem is about remembering what happened, and ensuring that it never happens again. To many victims of the Holocaust, this was their dying wish. I came across a quote on the Yad Vashem website that read, "I should like someone to remember that there once lived a person named David Berger." In the Hall of Names, hanging in the dome are pictures of people who have been murdered. It does not show them in Auschwitz, it does not show them emaciated or behind barbed wire, but rather we get to see pictures of people smiling and laughing, some with family and friends, and living their lives. It is our responsibility to remember these people. To not only remember how they died, but also how they lived. And it just takes one person, remembering one person. Just one. And then we are one person closer to remembering the 1+1+1.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Mother's Desperate Plea for her Son

By: Michal Dror

On the night of November 9-10, 1938, the Kristallnacht progrom ("Night of the Broken Glass") raged throughout Germany and Austria.

Kristallnacht was launched in supposed retaliation for the assassination of a Nazi German embassy official in Paris, Ernst vom Rath, by a frustrated young Jewish refugee named Herschel Grynszpan. On November 9, yom Rath died of his injuries.

Within hours, crazed rioting erupted on the streets of cities across the two Nazi-controlled countries. The shop windows of Jewish businesses were smashed, the stores looted, hundreds of synagogues and Jewish homes were burnt down and a large number of Jews were physically assaulted. Some 30,000 Jews, many of them wealthy and prominent members of their communities, were arrested and deported to the concentration camps at Dachau, Sachsenhausen, and Buchenwald, where they were subjected to inhumane and brutal treatment – some even died. During the pogrom itself, some 90 Jews were murdered.

One of the Jewish men arrested was 28-year-old David Buchweitz from Fürth, Germany, who was placed in "protective custody" at Buchenwald.

As his personal prisoner's file from Buchenwald indicates, David was admitted to the camp on November 13, 1938. Like other prisoners in the concentration camps, David had to sign several forms, such as a card listing the personal belongings taken away from him when he entered the camp (see the image below).

After the pogrom was over, the Nazis continued with severe anti-Jewish measures. The Aryanization process of seizing Jewish property was intensified; the Jewish community was forced to pay a fine of one billion Reichsmarks, and the Germans set up a Central Office for Jewish Emigration (Zenstralstelle fuer Juedische Auswanderung) to "encourage" the Jews to leave the country. The Nazis conditioned the release of the incarcerated Jewish men upon their immediate emigration from Germany.

Acquiring a visa for emigration was a tiring, almost impossible process, as the quotas for Jewish immigrants to foreign countries were minimal to the extreme.

Like many Jewish families during this time, David's mother, Malka, was extremely frightened for her family and immediately began the process of obtaining visas to the United States, where the family had relatives. She wrote a letter to the camp's commandants begging for David's release. Eventually Malka succeeded in getting the desired papers for only one visa to the US. David was released from Buchenwald on April 12, 1939, and managed to emigrate.

In November 2015, 77 years after Kristallnacht, David's son, Frank, submitted an inquiry to Yad Vashem regarding Malka's fate.

In research conducted by Yad Vashem's Reference and Information Services Department in the Archives Division, David's personal documents from Buchenwald were found.

Among them was his mother's desperate plea for his release.

Like many other German Jewish women, Malka stayed behind. Malka Buchweitz née Knoebel (b. 1879) was most likely deported to her death in 1942.

Her handwritten letter is all that is remains.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

My Father Kept a Cape in His Closet

"My father must have had a cape hanging in his closet. He was not a superhero, but when he needed to, he put that cape on."

Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, of the 422nd Infantry Regiment in the US Armed Forces, passed away in 1985. Pastor Chris Edmonds, his younger son, recalls that his father didn't speak much about his wartime experiences. As a young adult, Chris found out that his father had spent time as a POW, but little else was revealed. It was only when one of Chris' daughters undertook a project at college to create a video about a family member that his mother, Roddie's wife, handed her granddaughter a diary Roddie had kept during his imprisonment at Stalag IXA. She also revealed a brief account of parts of his life that Roddie had written before he died.

Chris was "blown away. How could I not have been aware of my father's wartime activities? I stayed up that night conducting searches on the Internet to see what else I could find out about him." The first item to pop up was a journalistic piece concerning a property deal between ex-President Richard Nixon and Lester Tanner, in which Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds was mentioned. When Chris and Lester finally made contact, Chris heard the story of how Roddie had saved the lives of his fellow Jewish POWs, and how this one act of incredible bravery had become a lifelong inspiration for Tanner and many other of his fellow soldiers.

Roddie's Code

As a non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the US army, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds of Knoxville, TN participated in the landing of the American forces in Europe. Taken prisoner by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge, Edmonds was interned at Stalag IXA, a POW camp near Ziegenhain, Germany.

The Wehrmacht had a strict anti-Jewish policy, singling out Jewish POWs from the rest of the POW population and then murdering them or sending them to extermination camps. In January 1945, the Germans announced that all Jewish POWs in Stalag IXA were to report the following morning. Edmonds, who was the highest NCO at the camp, and therefore in charge of the prisoners, ordered all the POWs – Jews and non-Jews alike – to follow the order. When the German officer, Major Siegmann, saw all the camp’s inmates standing in front of their barracks, he turned to Edmonds and exclaimed: “They cannot all be Jews!” To this Edmonds replied: “We are all Jews.” Siegmann took out his pistol and threatened Edmonds, but the Master Sergeant did not waver and retorted: “According to the Geneva Convention, we only have to give our name, rank and serial number. If you shoot me, you will have to shoot all of us, and after the war you will be tried for war crimes.” The officer turned around and left the scene.

One witness to the exchange was Lester Tanner, who was also captured during the Battle of the Bulge and interned at Stalag IXA. Tanner had been inducted into military service in March 1943, and trained in Fort Jackson, where Master Sergeant Edmonds was stationed. Tanner remembered Edmonds well from his training period: “He did not throw his rank around. You knew he knew his stuff and he got across to you without being arrogant or inconsiderate. I admired him for his command… We were in combat on the front lines for only a short period, but it was clear that Roddie Edmonds was a man of great courage who led his men with the same capacity we had come to know him in the States.” Tanner told Yad Vashem that they were well aware that the Germans were murdering the Jews, and that therefore they understood that the order to separate the Jews from the other POWs meant that the Jews were in great danger. “Over one thousand Americans stood in wide formation in front of the barracks behind Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds… The US Army’s standing command to its ranking officers in POW camps is that you resist the enemy and care for the safety of your men to the greatest extent possible. Master Sergeant Edmonds, at the risk of his immediate death, defied the Germans with the unexpected consequences that the Jewish prisoners were saved.”

A Lifelong Inspiration

In early 2015 the late Roddie Edmonds was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. Of more than 26,000 "Righteous" recognized to date, Edmonds is only the fifth United States citizen, and first American soldier, to be bestowed with this highest of honors bestowed by Yad Vashem on behalf of the State of Israel.

Pastor Chris is currently participating in a seminar for Christian leaders at the International School for Holocaust Studies. This is his first trip to Israel, and one that comes at a time when his personal family story is likely to become a national, if not international, sensation. The account of his father's heroic actions that Pastor Chris has painstakingly discovered over recent years reads like a fictionalized Hollywood movie. But it is all true, and has been a source of inspiration for both Pastor Chris and the survivors his father saved for the past 70 years.

"My father always had a strong sense of duty, of responsibility to his fellow human being, whoever they were," says Pastor Chris. "He was a man of great religious faith and an unwavering moral code and set of values to which he was completely dedicated. From my conversations with his comrades, it is clear he was also a strong commander, leading by example and taking personal risks in order to safeguard others."

Since discovering the story, Pastor Chris has made relentless efforts to contact all the names of his father's fellow POWs painstakingly recorded in his wartime diary. "Many of these have led to meetings and lifelong friendships with people I could never have imagined: senators and congressmen, survivors and their families – and even the rabbi of a local synagogue. Who could have imagined a Baptist preacher and a rabbi becoming such fast friends?"

Pastor Chris is currently working on having his father be awarded a Medal of Honor – the USA's highest military honor, awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. And when he speaks to young students, Pastor Chris tells them that his father "must have had a cape hanging in his closet. My father was not a  superhero, but when he needed to, he put that cape on. You too have a cape: if you are witness to an injustice, you can choose to ignore it, or to intercede. We all have the power to influence others, and if we invest in this way of life, in making the right decisions, we too can make a tremendous difference in this world."

More information about the Righteous Among the Nations, including background, stories and the Database of Righteous, can be found online here.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Rywka's Diary to be restored and preserved at Yad Vashem

It was a very emotional meeting today at the Yad Vashem Archives as Yad Vashem staff met with relatives, friends, researchers and historians who have been investigating the fate of 14-year-old Rywka Lipszyc.
Born in 1929 to a rabbinical family, Rwyka, kept a diary while she was incarcerated in the Lodz ghetto. When her parents and siblings were murdered, Rywka spent the remainder of the war with her cousins, Mina and Esther Lipszyc. After surviving the hunger of the Lodz ghetto, the horrors of Auschwitz and a grueling death march, the three cousins arrived at Bergen Belsen, weak and very sick. Esther last saw Rywka on her deathbed in the hospital ward. She and Mina slowly recuperated in Sweden, but never heard from their cousin again.

Meanwhile, Rywka's diary had been eventually discovered in the ashes of the crematoria at Auschwitz-Birkenau in early 1945 by Zinaida Berezovskaya, a doctor who arrived at the camp with the liberating Red Army. The diary (in Polish, Yiddish and Hebrew) documented Rywka's daily life, along with her hopes, dreams and deepest emotions. Berezovskaya stored it in an envelope, along with a newspaper clipping about the liberation of Auschwitz. For over half a century it remained untouched, until Berezovskaya's granddaughter discovered it among her father's effects in June 1995 and was deposited in the archives of Holocaust Center of Northern California, (relocated in 2010 to Jewish Family and Children's Services (JFCS) to form the Holocaust Center in San Francisco)

Varda Gross, Conservation Laboratory Director showing an
example of how Rywka's diary will be conserved 
Judy Janec, archivist at the center immediately began to investigate the identity and fate of the diary's author, which ultimately led to the discovery the Page of Testimony commemorating Rywka submitted by Mina Boyer in 1955 (updated in 2000). Yad Vashem staff assisted by contacting Hadassah Halamish, Minsa's daughter. The family was deeply moved to learn of the diary's discovery so many years later.

Recently (Sept 3, 2015), the family donated the diary to Yad Vashem for preservation. This week, Rywka's cousin, Hadassah Halamish, visited Yad Vashem together with researcher Judy Janec, Anastasia Berezovskaya, the granddaughter of Zinaida Berezovskaya; Dr. Ewa Wiatr, an historian from Poland who specializes in research on the Lodz ghetto and who assisted in the translation and annotation of the diary from Polish to English, her 14 year old daughter Tosia; and friends hosting them in Israel.
Yad Vashem Archives Director Dr. Haim Gertner hosted a behind-the-scenes tour of the archival facilities and explained the process of how Rywka's diary will be repaired, carefully preserved, protected, and then digitized – in order to make it accessible to interested parties all over the world. It was a meaningful experience for everyone. Hadassah, who has a deep emotional and personal connection to the diary said, "I know that the diary is in the right place." 

Dr. Haim Gertner presenting Hadassah Halamish
with a digital copy of her cousin's diary

Judy Janec agreed. "It feels redemptive to have the diary at Yad Vashem. It belongs in a repository that has the resources to preserve and make it accessible to the public. Now I know that it's safe. It is where it should be." According to a Displaced Persons registration card discovered through Judy Janec's research Rywka indicated that she would like to relocate/emigrate to "Eretz Israel" after she recuperated. "So now at least her diary is in Israel even if she couldn't be."

Yad Vashem’s Gathering the Fragments national campaign to rescue personal items from the Holocaust era is now continuing into its fifth year. The campaign encourages people with Holocaust related material in their possession to bring them to Yad Vashem, where they will be protected for posterity, along with the stories behind the items. Since the beginning of the program in 2011, some 165,000 items have been brought to Yad Vashem, including photos, documents and artifacts. People who want to donate material should email or call 02-644 3888. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Discovering New Family

This is yet another incredible and unexpected story of a family reunited as a result of documentation found in Yad Vashem's Archives. Pages of Testimony are an excellent tool in filling in the missing pieces of family histories and uniting a family that was dispersed because of the Holocaust.

Valery Simonov, who lives in Pinsk, Belarus, recently began looking for information about the father he never knew.  What he discovered was so much more, including a half-sister living here in Israel.

Valery and Dalia holding family pictures
Growing up, Valery's mother, Olga Simonov, never spoke about who his father was or that he left her when she was pregnant. When Valery was born his mother named him Valery Volfovich Simonov - a combination of her name and his father's name, Wolf.  Around a year and a half ago Valery discovered from Svetlana, a family friend who helped raise him, that his father's surname was Sternik. Valery proceeded to reach out to Yad Vashem and requested information about his father, Wolf Sternik. Rita Margolin a researcher in Yad Vashem's Reference and Information Services Department, searched for Wolf's name in the Yad Vashem archival documents from Pinsk. With the help of Pages of Testimony and other documentation Rita was able to find out what had happened to Wolf Sternik during the war, and later discovered from Svetlana's friend, Rima that Wolf had remarried and had a daughter, Dalia, who currently lives in Jerusalem. Neither Dalia nor Valery knew about the other.

Wolf Sternik, a journalist, was born in Dabrowa Gornicza. He fled with his family from Warsaw to Pinsk in 1939 and later in 1941, when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, escaped to Kazakhstan. His first wife, Rachel, and son, Pawel, were murdered in Pinsk; his mother and sister were murdered in Western Ukraine.  Wolf returned to Pinsk in 1945 with Olga Simonov and her two children. Later that year, Wolf left for Poland while Simonov, who was pregnant at the time stayed in Pinsk where Valery was born in 1946. 

Dr. Haim Gertner and Rita Margolin reading archival documents
with information about the siblings
Once in Poland, Wolf married and had a daughter Dalia. Dalia and her mother moved to Israel in 1957 leaving Wolf behind in Poland where he lived until his death in 1993.

Upon discovering that Valery has a half-sister, Rita contacted Dalia immediately to tell her the exciting news. The next day Dalia visited Yad Vashem and Rita showed her all the documentation she had uncovered about Dalia's father. Dalia also had numerous documents left to her by her father.  After receiving additional information from Dalia, Rita found in the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names Pages of Testimony filled out by Wolf Sternik in 1980. Rita also found relevant documents about other family members.
Rita, Dalia, Valery and Tamara at Yad Vashem Archives

As for the news about her half-brother, Dalia was skeptical at first. However, after an initial meeting on Skype, Dalia saw an unmisktable familial resemblance and realized that they were relatives. Both siblings even had the same photo of their father that they had both saved over the years.

Shortly after their Skype meeting, Dalia travelled to Pinsk to meet Valery for the first time in person.  At the end of their week together, she invited him to come visit her in Israel. During their emotional meeting at Yad Vashem, an overjoyed Valery exclaimed that he was "so excited to be here with Dalia and still can't believe that something like this could happen."