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David Prince, 58, had long feared his father’s eight brothers and sisters were all murdered by the Nazis. Decades of investigations though Yad Vashem and the German Embassy in London proved fruitless, due in part to not knowing his original family name before it was anglicised to “Prince” after the war.
Then, earlier this year, David’s oldest daughter Tania, who works for the Federation of Zionist Youth, encouraged him to take part in the group’s Heritage Tour to Auschwitz in a last attempt to find out more about his long-lost family.
Again David failed to find any mention of a Prince family having died there, but the experience reawakened his desire to discover the truth.
He said: “I’d been searching for my father’s family for more than 40 years and the trip to Auschwitz really spurred me on. My father died when I was 10-years-old so I had no sense of family history and knew very little about his family and childhood. I owed it to him to discover the fate of his eight brothers and sisters.”
Then, just weeks later, an incredible twist of fate finally revealed all, and led to a miraculous reunion in Israel.
During a family Shabbat earlier this summer, David’s teenage son Joshua was looking through a box containing his father’s old barmitzvah photo album. It also contained a never before seen picture of a man and a woman, taken at the beginning of the last century, with the surname “Salberg” scribbled at the bottom.
David typed the surname in Yad Vashem’s Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names and discovered that a Jeti Salberg had once lived in Leipzig – the same city his father was born. Further research revealed that Jeti’s maiden name had been Prinz – a surname not so far removed from his own. He concluded that this Jeti Salberg could have been his father’s sister.
More research revealed that Jeti had died in the Warsaw Ghetto and that her husband, Yacov, had been sent to Auschwitz. And David was delighted to find an Israeli telephone number among the Salberg’s online files.
David, an estate agent and a member of Edgware Yeshurun Synagogue, recalls: “I was shaking as I dialled the number. I asked to speak to Mr Salberg and explained to him who I was. He said he did indeed have an uncle who escaped to England just before the outbreak of the war. My father! There was no question we were cousins.”
Jetti and Yacov had had the foresight to send their two sons away – Adolph and Gershon – to safety just four months before the outbreak of the war. They reached Palestine and settled in Mihmoret. Adolph later died in a drowning accident but Gershon, 86, was still alive and astonished to learn of his cousin’s existence.
Soon David found himself on a plane to Israel to meet the family he never knew existed earlier this month. He said: “The plane journey was nerve-wracking – part of me felt that I had made a terrible mistake and that we weren’t related after all! Gershon later told me that he had the same thought but because I seemed so nice and had come all the way to see him that it didn’t really matter. I visited Gershon’s grandson in a kibbutz in Zikhron Ya’akov. I had no problems recognising the Salbergs at the airport,” he says. “The family resemblance was so strong that I could have been Gershon’s brother!”
David has since grown close to his new Israeli family, speaking on the telephone every week. He said: “I am so happy to be reunited with them. I plan to visit Gershon again in October. Even though he is many miles away, it’s a great feeling to know that family is at last complete.”Together at last! by Susanna Bellino