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(photo credit: AP)
In the wake of an official Vatican statement on the fate of Holocaust-era Jewish children the offices of Yad L'Achim, a haredi anti-missionary organization, said Wednesday they had been flooded with inquiries.
"We don't know what to do," said Rabbi Shalom Dov Lipshitz, chairman of Yad L'Achim, which is based in Bnei Brak.
"Dozens of people from Israel and abroad have contacted us to find out about relatives who disappeared during the war and may have been saved by Catholic families or by monasteries and orphanages run by the church," said Lipshitz.
"But we lack the necessary information to track down these Jews. We need help from the church."
After publishing a news report on these "lost Jews," The Jerusalem Post received an e-mail from a French Jew who said she was hidden in Catholic orphanages in Paris and Ballainvillier during the war, but was unable to find out more about her family because the local church did not have archives.
Lipshitz said that he hoped the Catholic Church would provide him with lists of children admitted to church institutions during the war who were never reunited with their families.
"We must not allow Hitler the final victory," said Lipshitz. "The Nazis tried to make the Jewish people disappear and we are doing everything in our power to rediscover them."
Last month the papal nuncio to the Holy Land, Archbishop Antonio Franco, wrote in a response to a request by Yad L'Achim that unspecified action had been taken by Pope Benedict XVI to help locate Jewish children hidden from the Nazis by the Catholic Church who lost touch with their Jewish roots after the war.
"The matter of the fate of the Jewish families during World War II is a very delicate and very complex one," wrote the nuncio. "I know that there has been action taken by the Holy See but at this moment I cannot be accurate in my information. I assure you that I will try to provide more precise information and see if an appeal like the one you propose could be made."
Yad L'Achim is working together with the Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE) in an attempt to track down Europeans with Jewish ancestry saved by the church.
Lipshitz said that there is a growing trend in Europe of "roots searching" in which Europeans are interested in investigating more about their personal history. Sometimes this search leads to the revelation of one's Jewish past.
Lipshitz said that he hoped to eventually record personal accounts of Europeans who discovered their Jewish roots and broadcast them on European TV. These personal accounts might encourage others with Jewish ancestry to reveal themselves, he said.
Before the pope's visit here in May, Lipshitz asked Benedict to call on all members of the Catholic Church to reveal the identities of thousands of Jews saved by the church from the Nazis.
"We believe that hundreds, perhaps thousands of Jews and their offspring can be discovered if the Pope makes an unequivocal announcement while in Israel that every Catholic has an obligation to
reveal the Jewish roots of those saved from the Holocaust."
Lipshitz said that Yad L'Achim had a list of about 2,000 names of children believed to have been handed over to Catholic families, orphanages and other church institutions to hide them from the Nazis.