Siblings split during Holocaust reunite 60 years later in Israel

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

A brother and sister separated 60 years ago, each believing the other was killed in the Holocaust, have been reunited.

Rivka Bromberg Feingold, 79, spent 50 painful years believing all of her family had been murdered by the Nazis. She lost contact with her family in Poland after immigrating to Palestine 60 years ago.

Feingold learned that her parents perished at the Treblinka death camp and thought the rest of her family had met the same fate.

"We grew up thinking that we were alone," explained her granddaughter, Sharon Feingold. "We thought that we were the only ones left."

Bromberg Feingold's younger brother, Solomon, who settled in the Russian town of Kazan, some 300 miles from Moscow, was convinced that he, too, was the last surviving member of the Bromberg family.

It took what Sharon Feingold describes as a "strange series of coincidences" to reunite the two, but with the arrival of El Al Flight 612 last month in Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport, a long nightmare finally came to an end.

The story of the reunion began in Russia. While working on a project with Israel's Bezeq phone company, Bromberg's oldest son, Michael, asked a co-worker to help him try to locate surviving family members in Israel. Upon his return to Israel, the co-worker contacted the Jewish Agency for assistance.

A few weeks later, Sharon Feingold got what she described as a "strange" phone call.

"It was the Jewish Agency, and they asked me, gently, if I knew anything about my grandmother's family," she said. "I told them we didn't discuss the past much at home; it upset my grandmother too much."

Feingold agreed to ask her grandmother about her family. After speaking to her, Feingold and the agency were able to confirm that 76-year-old Solomon Bromberg was her long-lost brother.

"I called my grandmother and told her that we may have found some of her relatives," she said. "She was quiet at first, and then she began to cry softly."

A short time later, she contacted her brother at home.

"That phone conversation was incredibly emotional," Feingold said. "They cried a lot as they remembered people and things from their childhood."

During the conversation, Bromberg explained to his sister that he and another brother, Avraham, had escaped to Russia on bicycles as Poland fell to the Nazis. The two were separated when Avraham was wounded in an explosion and taken to a Russian hospital. Bromberg never saw his brother again.

Now, the family is also trying to locate Avraham Bromberg.

After receiving confirmation from the agency that Solomon Bromberg was still alive, Feingold contacted a family friend, New Jersey attorney Greg Livingston, and asked for his help in determining whether Avraham might have settled in the United States after the war. Livingston then contacted U.S. Rep. Bob Franks (R-N.J.), who, with the help of the Social Security Administration, succeeded in locating three people named Avraham Bromberg.

"The first two that we contacted turned out not to be from our family, but offered to help us in our search anyway," Feingold said. "But the third one, while asking us not to contact him further, didn't deny being family. We're optimistic that we may have found another brother."

Livingston and Franks are currently helping the family determine whether the Brombergs' younger sister, Rosa, might have settled in the United States as well.

"We know that she was seen in Grodno after the war, and we think that she is still alive," Feingold said. "Most of all we just hope."

She added that the joy of the reunion as well as the hope for future ones transcends her grandmother and extends to her parents and siblings as well.

"It's absolutely amazing, for us as the next generation, to wake up and find out that we have a whole other family," she said. "We see our history becoming whole again."