IN THE NEWS: Survivors reunite almost 70 years later

David A. Schwartz, Staff Writer


Dec 23, 2013

When Rosalyn Haber and Eva Braun last saw each other, they were 14-year-olds in the Unterluss forced labor camp in Germany. Last Tuesday, Haber, 82, and Braun, 83, who live near each other in Boca Raton, met for the first time in almost 70 years at a Café Europa luncheon.

"I've been searching for somebody all these years," Haber said.

"She's sitting behind me and we're asking questions," said Braun.

One word — "Munkacs" — reunited them. Both had lived in the number 8 barracks for children from Munkacs, Czechoslovakia.

Haber and Braun were among the 400 Holocaust survivors at the luncheon, put on by Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service. The Café Europa event was one of two held annually at B'nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton.

"This is what it's all about," said Jill Viner, who sponsored the luncheon and has underwritten the winter Café Europa for 12 years. "Reconnections of gaps in time, people finding each other." The meeting of Haber and Braun was "beshert" [meant to be], she said.

Some funding for the Cafe Europa is also provided by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

Sponsoring the luncheon every year is "very personal," said Viner, who lives in Miami. She said she underwrites the event "to perpetuate the memory of my grandparents and mother," Holocaust survivors from Germany. "It's almost like coming back to my living room year after year."

Nancy Dershaw of Boca Raton, president of Next Generations, the organization she founded to create a legacy for Holocaust survivors, including her parents, had much the same connection to the survivors at the luncheon. "I feel like I'm with my family," Dershaw said. "This is where I belong."

Haber sat at a table for Czech survivors. Braun sat behind her at a table for Hungarian survivors.

Braun said she lived because she sneaked into the Munkacs barracks to be with her cousin. Prisoners in the barracks where she had been, including her mother, were killed, Braun said.

"We were covered with lice. We were standing in the rain and snow. We had [almost] no clothes on," Haber said. "We didn't believe what happened to us; that we were able to survive."

After the war, Haber made her way to London and to the United States where she settled in Ellwood City, Penn.

Braun returned to Hungary. After the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, she "escaped" to the United States with her husband and two small children. The family settled in Brooklyn.

Danielle Hartman, president and CEO of the Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service, said there were 100 fewer survivors at the luncheon than the number that attended last year. "People are dying. People are becoming more frail," she said.

While on a trip to Israel recently, Hartman attended a Holocaust memorial service at Yad Vashem. "Being there and being here today makes everything so much more real," she said. "It helps all of us to never forget the past and the atrocities that these people suffered. It makes each of us want to do more."

Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service (JFS) offers help, hope and humanity through a comprehensive range of programs and services which support people of all ages and beliefs. With locations in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, JFS programs and services include food and financial assistance, senior services, counseling and mental health services and many volunteer opportunities. Funding is provided by private and corporate support, grants, special events and individuals who reach thousands in need each year. For more information about JFS volunteer opportunities and services for seniors, contact (561) 852-3333.

Photo Captions: Eva Braun, left, and Rosalyn Haber talk at a Cafe Europa luncheon in Boca Raton. The Boca Raton residents had not seen each other since they were prisoners at a forced labor camp in Germany almost 70 years ago. (Staff photo/Eric Bojanowski / December 3, 2013)

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