“Thank you for finding the first seven years of my life."

Harriet has lived the majority of her life not knowing that she still has an older brother and half-sister who live in Europe. We sit down and she begins her story. I listen, eager to learn. “I feel as though I have entered the twilight zone” she says, as her adoptive sister, Geri, listens from across the table.

Harriet was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany after World War II. At the age of seven, she was adopted by an American family. With no memories of life in the camp, she had little information about her birth family. Though she had always wondered, Harriet was hesitant to learn more until Geri began a project to map the family tree. She discovered the Red Cross’ family tracing services and encouraged Harriet to inquire. Together they embarked on a search for Harriet’s past.

In just a few months the Red Cross was able to locate a set of documents from the Holocaust archives in Bad Arolsen that shed light on Harriet’s birth family. The findings even included a small photo of her mother. Shortly thereafter, the Red Cross found more information to share with Harriet: the name and current address of her biological brother.

Harriet’s tracing results began to answer some of her life-long questions. Who am I? Where do I come from? Was I loved? I don’t doubt these are questions that people like Harriet ask the universe.

As she looked at photos of her childhood, provided by her biological brother, she reflected how she could almost remember what she wore. Shoes, a warm coat, and combed hair are about more than just grooming – they’re signals that we were loved and cared for. “I looked well loved,” said Harriet.

Harriet is now in contact with her biological brother and half-sister. Through email and letters they trade photos and stories about their families, slowly filling each other in on the 50+ years since their separation. The siblings talk of meeting in person, hopefully one day soon.

As Harriet’s interview came to a close she began packing up the nostalgic photos, letters, and mementos from her vague former life. She looked at us and said with gratitude, “thank you for finding the first seven years of my life.” For that, Harriet, we couldn’t be happier.

The American Red Cross works through the worldwide Red Cross Network to trace loved ones missing or separated by conflict or disaster, including the Holocaust and its aftermath. We assist individuals seeking information about themselves or a family member and provide documentation often needed for reparations claims. Our free services include:
• Searching for surviving family members
• Finding the fate of loved ones affected by the Holocaust or other conflicts
• Proof of detainment
• Evidence of forced labor or internment in a concentration camp
• Proof of evacuation from an occupied territory

Do you know someone who could benefit from our tracing services?

For more information, please contact Emma Crandell Ratajczak at ratajczake@usa.redcross.org or 312.729.6238.

Posted by Kendall Knysch

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