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Love after the Liberation

She lives in Germany, he lives in Israel: the daughter and son of a Shoah survivor heard of each other for the first time through the ITS

The 8th of May 1945 symbolizes the liberation of Europe from Nazi terror and the ensuing war. Many of those who had survived concentration camps and forced labor, however, had to stay in Germany for several more years after the war before being able to emigrate. To what degree the repercussions of the immediate post-war years remain tangible even today is evidenced in the story of the German-Israeli half-siblings Ursula and Eli: in searching for her father, a Jewish survivor, Ursula had turned to the International Tracing Service (ITS) – and discovered that she had a brother living in Israel.

Born in 1920 in Rumania, Nathan, along with his two sisters and his mother, had survived the Shoah. In 1947 they were brought to an American-organized camp for Displaced Persons (DPs) in the Heidenheimer Voith-Settlement. There, Nathan met Ursula’s mother Ruth, a non-Jewish German, and they fell in love. They kept their relationship a secret and in 1948 their first child, a son, Gerhard, was born, followed by a second child, Ursula, in early 1949. In September 1948, however, before Ursula was born, Nathan emigrated to Israel, and contact to Germany broke off.

Ruth remained in Baden-Württemberg with her two children. She never talked about the father. “He was her one true love”, Ursula says. “That was the only thing my mother ever revealed to us about him. For the rest of her life she never mentioned another word about him or that period of time.” After their mother died, Ursula started to look for their father, and turned to the ITS in 2014 for help. Her brother Gerhard had since passed away. On Ursula’s birth certificate the name of the father was written as Ulinczki. The more conventional Rumanian spelling of this name, however, is Ulinski. The ITS started a search using this corrected spelling and informed a colleague at the Israeli Emergency Aid Organization Magen David Adom (MDA), who then found out: Nathan Ulinski had died in 1986, but the organization was able to supply the ITS with the contact details of Eli, Nathan’s son who was born in Israel in 1956.

In September 2015, having been given Eli’s address and telephone number from the ITS, Ursula phoned her half-brother in Israel. “That was one of those moments you never forget.” Since then, the brother and sister talk together every week by skype, with their children often taking part in the conversations, too. In June 2016 they will meet in person for the first time – in Heidenheim, the place where their parents had met and fallen in love. “Being able to get to know my brother Eli is a wonderful gift that I had never expected to receive.” For Ursula and Eli it is difficult to believe that Ruth and Nathan, as well as their families, had never spoken about the time in Heidenheim. Eli doesn’t know very much about his father’s life before he had emigrated, either: “My father was a very warm man, but also gravely ill. He hadn’t wanted to talk about the past.”

The International Tracing Service (ITS) preserves the most comprehensive document collection world-wide on the liberated survivors in the immediate post-war period. This unique archival collection contains documentation made by the Allies, which includes some personal accounts as well. The documents provide a look into the lives and hopes of those who had been living in DP-camps after the liberation and were needing a perspective for the future – among them many children and young adults. A joint conference of the ITS and the Max Mannheimer Study Center at the end of May/early June focuses on just this topic which until now has not been the subject of extensive research.