Volunteer family tracer finds the graves of her own relatives

Heads of Red Cross conference in Germany help Susan Edel locate the graves of her father's family.

jewish grave in germany 88 (photo credit: )
jewish grave in germany 88
(photo credit: )
Imagine going to a conference to learn about tracing methods, and finding the long-lost graves of family members - some almost 140 years old - as well. Susan Edel experienced just that. Edel, 60, is a volunteer at Magen David Adom's Tracing Services department, which is associated with the International Committee of the Red Cross and helps families determine the fates of their relatives who were Holocaust victims and survivors. When she and a colleague attended a Red Cross conference in Germany a few months ago, the heads of the conference helped her locate the graves of her father's family in a town nearby, something Edel had been trying to do for a while. "They bent over backwards to help me," Edel said, about the conference leaders who assisted her. "Their attitude to me was just unbelievable." Edel has been a volunteer at MDA rescue services for about 20 years in a variety of positions; and within the last year, she joined the tracing services department, and has since solved five cases. As of April, she is a success story herself. At that time, Edel and another MDA representative, along with some 30 representatives from around the world, attended a Red Cross tracing services conference hosted by the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany. The ITS maintains a large archives that documents the stories of Holocaust victims. Edel told an ITS archivist that she had been trying to locate her paternal ancestors, and that they lived in Breitenbach, a small town near Kassel, which is 45 km. from Bad Arolsen. Edel wanted to visit the Jewish cemetery there, but she did not know whom to contact about unlocking the gates. "The next morning, they called me out of the lecture and said, 'We found the man with the key,'" Edel said. "They took me to the cemetery, they photographed me." Later, the ITS also helped Edel find online documentation about her family. The cemetery was vandalized in the 1970s, so intact tombstones were few and far between, but Edel found three graves from her father's family. The oldest tombstone was dated 1871, and the others were from 1901 and 1929. "I was looking for stones to put on the tombstones, and there were no stones on the ground. The archivist sent the driver out of the cemetery to get them," Edel remembered. "I was beside myself, very emotional," said Edel. "I never expected to get to the cemetery and certainly never to find legible tombstones of my family."