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Son of Holocaust survivors reunites with daughter of rescuer at Yad Vashem

‘I wanted to fill in the blanks about my family’s history, that only they knew,’ says Isidore Zuckerbrod, whose parents hid in a Polish chicken coop belonging to the Szyfner family

Isidore Zuckerbrod (left) and Renata Szyfner at the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem on May 25, 2022. (Yad Vashem)
Isidore Zuckerbrod (left) and Renata Szyfner at the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem on May 25, 2022. (Yad Vashem)

The son of Holocaust survivors reunited on Wednesday with the daughter of Polish citizens who saved his parents — and multiple other Jews — during the war and are recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.

The reunion between Dr. Isidore Zuckerbrod and Renata Szyfner, who today lives in Orlando, Florida, took place at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, where the pair exchanged stories that they heard as children from their parents. Szyfner flew to Israel specifically to meet with Zuckerbrod, who lives in Jerusalem, and discuss their shared history.

“The versions we have individually fill in the missing gaps; they overlay each other like a woven tapestry and provide a clearer picture of the events that took place 78 years ago,” the two said, according to the museum.

In March 1942, after the liquidation of the Mielic ghetto in Poland, Zuckerbrod’s parents, Dawid and Matylda, found refuge with Katarzyna and Eugeniusz Szyfner, Szyfner’s grandmother and father, respectively.

The Szyfners also hid a series of other Jews beginning in the autumn of 1941 in the loft of a chicken coop on their property, and took care of them until the area was liberated by the Red Army in August 1944.

Zuckerbrod was born eight weeks after Victory in Europe Day in 1945; his two older siblings were murdered in 1944 while they were hiding in a separate location from their parents. Zuckerbrod said that thanks to his reunion with Szyfner, he was finally able to learn the timing of their death.

Isidore Zuckerbrod fills out two Pages of Testimony in memory of his older brother and sister murdered during the Holocaust. (Yad Vashem)

According to testimony from Eugeniusz Szyfner published by the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, it took him time to find out the fate — and ultimately the remains — of Zuckerbrod’s sister, something he had always promised her parents he would do.

At the end of their guided tour of the museum on Wednesday, Zuckerbrod and Szyfner entered the Hall of Names, a chamber at Yad Vashem that contains more than 2.7 million pages of testimonies bearing the names of victims of the Holocaust.

Zuckerbrod searched for entries in the museum’s database of 4.8 million names of Jewish victims of the Holocaust for his family. While he found entries for several members of his family, including his grandparents, there were none for his two siblings. On Wednesday, he filled out pages of testimony for his siblings, Mielech and Regina, who were killed at ages 11 and 7.

“I wanted to fill in the blanks about my family’s history, that only they knew,” Zuckerbrod said. “My brother and sister had been in hiding in a separate location. They were murdered in the very place they were supposed to be safe. I never knew what really happened until now. Thanks to the stories Renata told me from her father, I now know the date of their death, so I can properly mourn them each year.”

In 1996, Yad Vashem recognized Katarzyna and Eugeniusz Szyfner as Righteous Among the Nations. Israel’s national Holocaust memorial and museum awards the Righteous Among the Nations designation to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the war.

“It is vital that the next generations continue to perpetuate the memory of the Holocaust,” Dr. Joel Zisenwine, director of Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations department, said at the reunion. “The fact that you sought each other out and are here today standing in Yad Vashem illustrates how relevant the Holocaust is still today, almost 80 years after the end of WWII.”

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