Reunited by chance after 65 years - the brother and sister who had given each other up for dead in the Holocaust

Benny Shilon and his sister Shoshana had some catching up to do at the weekend.

The Holocaust survivors, who last saw each other in Poland in 1938, have long assumed the other was dead. Shoshana, who spent the war at the Auschwitz death camp in Poland, would have perished had a Jewish woman not pushed her out of the queue for the gas chambers.

Their paths almost crossed in 1945 when Benny, who had escaped to Russia and fought for the Red Army, was among the troops who liberated the Nazi camp. But it was not until last Saturday that their 65-year separation came to an end thanks to Shoshana's painstaking trawl through the archives of the Holocaust.

Appropriately, their reunion came during the festival of Chanukah, which commemorates an historic miracle.

When they met, they greeted each other in their native Polish. It was easier, they explained.

"We jumped on each other and hugged and kissed," said Mrs November, her marital name. "It was hard to talk, it was hard to think."

Mr Shilon, 78, a retired ship's engineer, said: "I looked for her and my siblings during all the years after the war."

"A miracle happened. I've found a sister. It's our own Chanukah miracle. I grew up alone. I didn't know how to cry. But last night I cried."

Tantalisingly, since 1948, the siblings lived 60 miles apart, he near Haifa, she near Tel Aviv. Fittingly, it was only by accident that Shoshana, aged 73, discovered her brother was still alive. Feeling she "had no one left", the grandmother was encouraged to visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial authority in the hills above Jerusalem. There, she started looking through the archive of more than three million Holocaust victims - searching not for her brother but for members of her husband's family.

A member of staff then came up with the news that Benny, her brother was still alive. He had left his details just two weeks earlier in the museum's "pages of testimony".

After their reunion, Mr Shilon, 78, realised one of the photos in the museum was actually of his sister and he had passed it many times without recognising the girl staring through the fence at Auschwitz.

She must have looked very different from the sister he had last seen when they were sent to separate orphanages before the war after their father left home.

The miracles didn't end there for them. As they lit the Chanukah candles, the brother and sister discovered two more generations - Mrs November has three daughters and five grandchildren, her brother has three sons and six grandchildren.

"I never dreamt," Mr Shilon said, "that I would meet my sister's grandchildren. They're a fantastic family. I only hope she likes mine as much as I'm bowled over by hers."

Mrs November was still numb with excitement last night. She said it was hard to comprehend the news. "I still haven't taken it in that I've found a brother."

Yad Vashem has been collecting testimonies from surviving family members of the Holocaust since 1950. The last to be reunited, two brothers, were put in touch three years ago.

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