Audio tape helps family find Lodz grave of relatives
Boston man, family to visit graves of grandparents killed in the Holocaust next week.
By ILANA STRAUSS
A 20-year-old audio tape made by his father has allowed a Boston man and his family to discover the graves of grandparents killed in the Holocaust, which they plan to visit for the first time next week.
"All of my mother's relatives, besides one surviving sister, were killed by the Nazis," explained Dr. Isaac Perle in a phone interview with The Jerusalem Post this week. His great-grandparents, Faivel and Hinda Schattan, died in the Lodz Ghetto in 1941 and 1942.
"About 75 people would go into the back of the van" the Nazis would herd them into, Perle explained. Inside they were gassed and "driven into the woods, where the bodies were burned."
Perle's mother and aunt escaped to America, never to be heard from and did not form any connection with their lost relatives. But recently, an unlikely set of circumstances paved the way for Perle and his family to discover the graves of Faivel and Hinda.
In 1988, Perle's father, Bendet Perle, traveled to Poland. He brought a cassette tape recorder with him and recorded his impressions and memories, unearthed by the familiar location. On his return to the US, the tape was put into storage.
Long after Bendet passed away, Isaac made a half-hour DVD about a trip he took to Poland. In the process, he found the long-forgotten tape and used it to add his father's voice onto the DVD. As the family listened to the tape, a discovery was made.
"My father was at the cemetery discussing the location of my mother's grandparents' grave," Isaac recalled. His mother, Helen, then contacted the Lodz Jewish Cemetery. "They ended up finding the original files," he said.
It turned out that the grandparents were buried in individual graves in the cemetery. The graves were marked, but they lacked headstones, which is what made them so difficult to find. Isaac, his mother, siblings, and nephew, are traveling to Poland next week to visit the graves.
"This is all we have left from the family," said Isaac. "We're going to put up a headstone for them." Isaac also plans to take some sand from where his great-grandparents were killed and put it on his father's grave in Israel.
Helen, now 81 years old, feels it's her duty to make the journey.
"The reason that I survived Bergen-Belsen is so that I should be able to place a headstone for my grandparents together with my children and grandchildren," she said. She wants to memorialize her grandparents together with their children and grandchildren.
"The opportunity to pay homage and have a lasting memorial to them when everyone else was just ashes was very meaningful for us," explained Isaac. "It's good for other people to know that they can be successful in looking for and finding their ancestors."
In looking at the past, Isaac Perle feels that he is better able to understand and appreciate the future. Growing up in a family of Holocaust survivors "one comes away with the impression that every child that's born is another nail in Hitler's coffin," he explained. "I get dressed and think to myself: You tried to get rid of us, and we're still around."
Perle spends time working at a nonprofit clinic in Jerusalem, the Lubaslome Dental Center. He is also involved in many organizations in the United States, including a Jewish day school in Boston and a US-based Jewish advocacy group.
"We lost so much in the Holocaust," said Perle. "It behooves us to use our abilities to rebuild the Jewish people, [and] make us bigger and better than we ever were before."
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