Holocaust survivor meets first cousin who never knew existed in Israel

An orphaned Holocaust survivor whose parents and nearly all of his extended family were murdered by the Nazis has been united for the first time in his life with a blood relative, his first cousin who never knew existed.

Bernard Krutz and his cousin Esti Kissilov met in an emotional gathering Thursday afternoon in Modiin, following the efforts of Bernard’s daughter Lisa Baron to try to locate any family that may have survived the Holocaust.

Bernard, who doesn’t even know when he was born but is about 82 years old, was born in Poland and hid in an orphanage during the war.

His original name, Boleg Szczycki, was badly spelled by the orphanage, which made it impossible for his relatives to find him after the Holocaust, and due to his young age he was unable to register it himself.

He remained in Poland after the war and eventually married there, but was forced to leave the country in 1968 and emigrated to the United States, where he settled and has lived ever since.

Holocaust survivor Bernard Krutz and his cousin Esti Kissilov are reunited in Modi’in. (credit: courtesy)

In 2019, Lisa finally decided that she wanted to try to find some relatives of her father, but due to the almost total lack of information she had about him, she realized that she would need to have a DNA test to have any hope of finding someone. .

Then, with the help of Jewish genealogical organizations and following Bernard’s original but misspelled name, and through the use of the Yad Vashem archives, several possible relatives were finally identified.

It turned out that Bernard’s aunt, his father’s sister, had also survived the Holocaust and in 1956 she gave testimony to Yad Vashem about the fate of her family, including Bernard’s parents and Bernard himself, who she believed had been murdered.

After narrowing down several candidates who, according to genealogical organizations, could have been related to Bernard. they eventually ran into one, Esti Kissilov, who they thought was most likely her cousin.

Esti agreed to take a DNA test and when it tested positive, Bernard and Lisa finally discovered that they had a close relative living in Israel.

One problem in bringing the two cousins ​​together was Israel’s COVID-19 travel restrictions that until this week have prevented foreigners without a first-degree relative in Israel from entering the country.

Rabbi Dov Lipman and his organization Yad L’Olim worked for several weeks to get Bernard a humanitarian exemption from these regulations and, together with the help of Yad Vashem director Dani Dayan, were able to do so, leading to the meeting of the Thursday.

“I really wanted to find a family member, my father was not so enthusiastic, he did not want to be disappointed but I told him ‘we are doing this, I want this, and I want it for you, I want you’ to know who you are and what happened to you family, ”Lisa said.

“I never really dreamed that we would find such a close relative, for me it is the culmination of 40 years of dreaming about this. My father told me the story of his life since he was five years old and I wanted this so much for him, ”he continued.

Lisa said Bernard was incredibly touched upon meeting Esti and hugged her and wouldn’t let her go after they first met on Thursday.

“He has never seen the face of a blood relative, he has been trying to see if he looks like his parents.”

Said Lipman: “In the year and a half that I have been helping the Olim, their families and Jews around the world with entry into Israel, this was one of the most significant moments. Seeing how these two cousins ​​met in their 80s and couldn’t part for hours is something I will never forget. I’m also inspired by Lisa’s drive and determination to help her father find a biological relative. I am honored to have helped make this happen. “


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