With the help of social networking sites, Menachem Bodner is hoping to be reunited with the twin he hasn’t seen since they were liberated from Auschwitz, 68 years ago.
72-year-old Menachem Bodner has not seen his identical twin since 1945, when they were both test subjects in the infamous Auschwitz laboratory of Dr. Josef Mengele. It is a blessing that Bodner does not remember his time in the death camp, but sadly he has virtually no memory of his twin brother either. But he has always believed, and felt deep down that his brother survived the camp as well. And now, thanks to the help of genealogist Ayana KimRon, who found Nazi records that indicate a pair of twins who were “identified as having been liberated at Auschwitz,” and social media sites such as Facebook, Bodner will hopefully be reunited with his brother again soon. According to the Daily Beast,
Until last May, Bodner didn’t even know that his own name was once Elias Gottesmann. Now he knows that. And he knows for certain that he has a twin—thanks to the Nazis’ dogged, pathological documentation of their crimes. Ayana KimRon, a professional genealogist in Israel, found the evidence, clearly written in a record put together by the organization Candles, of twins who were “identified as having been liberated at Auschwitz or from a subcamp”:
A-7733, Gottesmann, Elias, 4
A-7734, Gottesmann, Jeno, 4
KimRon got onto the case after spotting a posting made on a genealogical forum by a cousin of Bodner’s partner, seeking information about the long-missing brother. When the woman was unable to answer KimRon’s questions, Bodner ended up calling the curious researcher himself. “I was hooked,” KimRon says of that first call. “I said, ‘Look I’m going all the way with you,’ and it turned out to be the project of my life.” Bodner, a retired Israeli tax-service employee living in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon LeZion, was dubious at first, but KimRon began digging anyway. She asked him if he had any sense of his brother, and he told her, “All my life I’ve known that he was alive somewhere; I felt that he was alive.”
In early March, after months of dead-end trails and fruitless posts within the Jewish and genealogical communities online, KimRon decided the campaign needed a broader audience. She created a Facebook page titled “A7734,” posted a black-and-white shot of a young boy and a caption with his tattoo number, and asked for any clues into his whereabouts. Within 24 hours it had gone viral, and a within a week, the photo has had 23,000 shares, 1.13 million views, and hundreds of comments from readers offering resources, prayers, and words of encouragement. Other twins pledged to help. Amateur etymologists traced their names. One man even attempted to age the photo into what Jeno (known by his nickname Jolli) might look like now.
Although Jolli has not yet been found, KimRon has managed to reunite Bodner with nearly 70 extended family members. Bodner said, “I was shocked. I thought that nobody would look for me. I had a dream to find someone. It made my dreams come true.”