As It Happens

Wedding book of couple who died at Auschwitz returned to family

A family heirloom is returned after 74 years through the use of social media.
Louis and Flora were married in the spring of 1942. (Stans Barzelay)

A thrift store owner in the Netherlands used social media to find the rightful owners of a Jewish wedding reception book dating from the Second World War.

The book was found in a box the store had recently acquired. It was decorated with a Star of David and the names of the couple, Louis and Flora. It also had signatures from guests that attended the wedding in 1942.

The translation, in part, from Facebook translate reads: Wanted! This time we ask your help in a very special album that we have received. It is a "choepah", A Jewish wedding between Louis and flora. The marriage has taken place, according to this on May 31, 1942. WWII was in full swing, that needs no further explanation. We don't know what happened with Louis and flora, but we fear the worst. Such an item is priceless for the families. For us, certainly not something we would offer for sale in our store. We are also looking for people, perhaps for family members. The chance of success is greatly enhanced by sharing this message! On behalf of Louis and flora, thanks! (cbc)

Stans Barzelay is the niece of Louis, her father's brother. She tells As It Happens host Carol Off that she was shocked when she saw the social media post advertising her uncle's wedding book, "a friend of ours forwarded it to me and asked 'is this your relative?'" The next day Barzelay went to the store.

Barzelay says she wasn't emotionally prepared to see the book, "It hit me more than I thought. I was almost in tears. It was beautiful, and of course very sad."

Six weeks after the wedding, Louis and Flora were taken to Westerbork, a transit camp for Dutch Jews before they were deported to extermination camps. A month after that, they were taken to Auschwitz, where they were killed in the fall of 1942.

A view of the Westerbork camp, the Netherlands, between 1940 and 1945. (YIVO Institute for Jewish Research)

"They thought it was a work camp," Barzelay says of Auschwitz. "They knew there were things [there], but what exactly was happening…you could never imagine."

Barzelay says her father, who survived the war, rarely talked about her uncle. "It was too hard, too emotional. It was something my parents never talked about because it wasn't something to talk about."

A picture taken in January 1945 depicts Auschwitz concentration camp gate and railways after its liberation by Soviet troops. (AFP/Getty)

Barzelay says she is grateful to the store owner to have the family heirloom in her possession, "It's part of history from our beloved family. It's very special. I can't explain it to you in the right words. It's such a special feeling to have this. It is so strange because there was a party, and they were happy and four months later, it was over."

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