The Children Should Know What Happened
Salomon Hauser is currently working on a commemoration book for the members of the Zionist youth movement B’nei Akiva, who had all lived in Antwerp prior to the invasion of German troops in 1940. The Israeli visited the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen for three days in early August to pursue his research. “When I heard the archives had opened to the public, I decided to make the trip,” said Hauser.
Hauser and his co-author Jacque Offen have been working on the commemoration book for three years now. Both authors want to publish the youths’ names, photographs and biographies. A total of 97 Jewish teenagers were members of the B’nei Akiva movement in Antwerp back then. According to research by the Israeli duo, most of them were murdered in Auschwitz. “The most tedious task to start with consisted of searching for the names and photographs,” Hauser noted. “In Arolsen, I’ve been able to close some of the biographical gaps.”
The author had copies of prisoners’ cards and transport lists made, and matched birth dates and personal stories of persecution. Thanks to his worldwide research efforts, Hauser has managed to compile a nearly full-fledged documentation of most of the youths’ individual fates. In a few cases, however, he only has a photograph or a name. “Their next of kin live all throughout the world - in Israel, the US, South America and Europe,” explained Hauser.
The native Belgian lost his own entire family in the Holocaust - only one sister survived. He has never been able to get the subject off his mind. Now that the physicist has retired, he can dedicate all of his time to historical research. Hauser, who lives in Tel Aviv, also wants to document the fate of his own family once the commemoration book is finished. “I’m doing it for our children. They should know what happened,” he said.
Hauser plans on returning to ITS for future research. “I didn’t know what to expect here and simply wanted to get an initial impression. Now I have a pretty good idea of what I can find here.” The bilingual commemoration book on the youth from Antwerp is set to be published in Hebrew and English in roughly six months. The project is supported by the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem.