Holocaust survivor brothers hold bar mitzvah with long lost family

This family reunion story began with a determined granddaughter who embarked on a journey to find lost family members and ended with a reunion in Jerusalem.

 George, Oscar, and Walter at their family reunion at the Western Wall during their bar mitzvah (photo credit: UNITED HATZALAH‏)
George, Oscar, and Walter at their family reunion at the Western Wall during their bar mitzvah
(photo credit: UNITED HATZALAH‏)

Family members packed Jerusalem's Old City last month to celebrate three bar mitzvah boys. But this was no ordinary celebration of a Jewish boy's 13th birthday. Rather, the occasion marked the reunion between a pair of Holocaust survivor brothers who were reunified with family living in the United States, a family which they knew nothing about until very recently, thanks to a determined granddaughter.  

Walter and Oscar Blau, aged 92 and 88, shared a heartfelt bar mitzvah ceremony at the Western Wall with George Weiss, 79, who was a total stranger to the brothers until about a year ago. Today, he is one of their closest relatives.

The Blau brothers, aged 10 and 6 at the onset of the Holocaust, fled with their families from Austria and were sent to an orphanage in Belgium.  At the end of the war, they looked for family members who may have survived but tragically found no one. The two brothers later immigrated to Israel and started their own families. For decades, they believed themselves to be the only remaining survivors of their families. 

 George, Walter and Oscar visit United Hatzalah headquarters (credit: UNITED HATZALAH‏) George, Walter and Oscar visit United Hatzalah headquarters (credit: UNITED HATZALAH‏)

Meanwhile, there were indeed surviving family members. Three cousins fled to the United States. They were also under the impression that they were the only surviving relatives. 

After Suzanne, a granddaughter of one of the US cousins came across a box of photos and letters from a family she did not recognize, her intrigue and persistence – the search took 25 years – led her to find Daphne, Oscar's daughter, on March 30, 2021. The two women connected via Facebook Messenger. 

George Weiss, Suzanne's uncle, was eager to get to Israel and meet his "new" family. Facing some delays due to coronavirus border closures, he finally made it in April. Although Weiss had already celebrated his bar mitzvah as a teenager in the US, he decided that a joint bar mitzvah with Walter and Oscar would be the perfect reunion, given that the latter two men did not get the chance to celebrate the coming-of-age ceremony during the war. 

Prior to his trip to Israel, Weiss had already self-identified as a Zionist and frequently donated to United Hatzalah, one of Israel's emergency medical services. It was crucial to him that members of United Hatzalah attend the joyous event, including the organization's president and founder, Eli Beer.

"I want to thank you for everything you have done for 'United Hatzalah' for so many years, for supporting Israel, and for supporting our life-saving efforts now, during your life-changing reunion," Beer reportedly told Weiss. "It’s unbelievable that this is the first time that you are with your whole family and that you have chosen to share it with us. We are incredibly appreciative, and I must say how joyous and beautiful this occasion truly is."