Menchem, or Elias Gottesmann as he was known as a four year-old in 1945, was one of the lucky ones. He was one of the few to survive Josef Mengele’s appalling Auschwitz Laboratory, which conducted so-called scientific experiments on Jews at the Nazis' death camp.
His twin brother was also one of the lucky, or so it now seems, thanks to a swiftly growing Facebook campaign which hopes to reconnect Menchem ‘B’ (he is concerned that the use of his full name will bring harassment) with his long-lost brother, 68 years after they were parted when the Soviet army liberated the concentration camp.
Menchem was adopted by a Jewish family after the war and moved to Israel. He had no recollection of his time in Auschwitz or of his previous family until last May when he finally learned of his previous name. Like other victims of the Holocaust, Menchem has a number – in his case ‘A7733’ - tattooed on his arm, and a clue came when Ayana Kimron, a genealogist, collated evidence from the Red Cross, which arrived at the camp days after the Soviets.
The Red Cross records show tattoo numbers and names; “A-7733, Gottesmann, Elias,” matching Menchem’s tattoo, and intriguingly “A-7734, Gottesmann, Jeno.” It was the first time he had been called by his original name in 67 years. Only when he was 20 did Menchem’s adopted family tell him he was a twin.
After months of painstaking work that produced little, a Facebook page was suggested – it is called “A7734” after Jeno’s tattoo and carries a black-and-white photograph of a little boy as the profile picture. “Born in 1940. Clues lead to possible adoption by a Christian family, then to the USA. Whatever name and location, his tattooed number is A7734. And his brother still hopes to meet him,” the post reads. “Please help us by spreading the word.”
As of this afternoon, the page had over 12,000 ‘likes’. It also carries a picture of Menchem today. More than a million people have viewed the page.
Ms Kimron says that despite the attention that the Facebook page has attracted, they are keeping their hopes in check. “The evidence is that Jeno survived the war and that he is Menchem’s twin brother, but we can’t be sure he’s still alive so we’re keeping our expectations low. However, he may have had children and we’re hoping that the Facebook campaign leads somewhere – it is now consuming a lot of my time.”
“What you boys and your families went through should never be forgotten. I hope and pray that you find your brother safe and well. Where there is life there is hope,” said one of the most recent Facebook posts.
Last year when Jeno’s identity became known, and before the Facebook page was established, Menchem visited Ukraine, where he was born, in search of his brother. While he was there he met an old woman who told him she remembered twins who lived nearby – in a house that he is now sure he remembers, according to the Haaretz newspaper.