21 December 2003
On Friday, Dec. 19 (on the eve of the Sabbath and festival of Chanukka), Holocaust survivor Shoshana November and her grandson Nir Zilberberg arrived at Yad Vashem’s Hall of Names with a guest from the US. Little did they know that they would soon be reunited with November’s long-lost brother, Binyamin Shilon, who had also survived the Holocaust, and lives 90 minutes from November. November and Shilon had thought each other to have been murdered by the Nazis.
A Hall of Names staff member helped them search Yad Vashem’s database of Holocaust victims’ names, and found a Page of Testimony in memory of November’s father, Yaacov Shlamovich. The Page of Testimony, which was submitted in 1956, listed two of Shlamovich’s children as having perished. November remembered a third brother who was assumed dead. The staff member searched the database further and found another Page of Testimony, submitted by Binyamin Shilon (formerly Shlamovich). She then found an additional Page of Testimony filled out by Shilon, in memory of November - under the name Ruza, which was her childhood name. The staff member was able to conclude that Shilon was November’s long-lost brother Binyamin - each had thought the other dead since the Holocaust.
The Hall of Names staff member then assisted November in locating Shilon, and they met yesterday for the first time since the Holocaust, over a festive Sabbath and Chanukka holiday meal at the home of November’s daughter.
Also of note is the fact that November’s friend from the US is the daughter of one Yaacov Shlamovich’s close friends, with whom November stayed in Poland after surviving a Nazi death camp.
Hall of Names staff often help reunite extended family members during searches for Holocaust victims. The most recent case of reunited siblings was in 2000, under similar circumstances. The key to linking long-lost relatives is Yad Vashem’s unique Pages of Testimony, which often contain enough information to make such links possible; Yad Vashem has been collecting Pages of Testimony since the 1950s. The Hall of Names staff, who are experts in genealogy, linguistics, history, and geography, are often the only resource able to research and connect between disparate family sources and documents, as was the case with Shoshana November and Binyamin Shilon.
About the Hall of Names
The Hall of Names houses "Pages of Testimony" commemorating the names and biographical details of Jews who perished during the Holocaust. The Pages of Testimony are an attempt to give them back their personal identity and dignity, which the Nazis and their accomplices tried so hard to obliterate. They are filled out by family members, friends or neighbors, many of whom are survivors of the Holocaust.
In mid-2004, Yad Vashem will enable global access to its database of names of victims of the Holocaust. This database holds great significance for the Jewish People, as it is the most comprehensive record of its sort in the world. Using a computer system developed at Yad Vashem, any person connected to the Internet will be able to access the database, search for names of victims, and submit names and biographical information of unlisted victims to the database. The system features a sophisticated arrangement of indices (with performance that surpasses other existing retrieval tools) of names and places, to facilitate access to the database and to permit retrieval of information regardless of spelling or changes in the names or places. The system’s leading edge search capabilities significantly increase the likelihood of a match - this was often hindered by incomplete data, multiple spellings, language differences, multiple versions of biographical data, etc. The online searches will be performed on Yad Vashem’s website.