An incredible reunion brings tearful closure to Holocaust survivorPublished on: 28.8.2023
By Yudit Setz & Shay Dror
An unexpected visit to the Haifa Home recently brought a long-awaited closure to 95-year-old resident Sarah Zamir. What follows is a story of kindness, survival, and an unlikely reunion.
Born as Ilse Böhm, Sarah grew up in a religious Jewish family near Breslau, in Silesia. In 1939, the family fled the Nazi regime for Belgium in hopes of a safer life; however, deportations of Belgium’s Jews soon began. Sarah’s family were sent to concentration camps, never to return. But 14-year-old Sarah was hidden by a kind Catholic couple from Antwerp.
“They were not just good people”, Sarah recalled, “they were like angels.”
Sarah’s incredible reunion came about due to the work of Charlie Knight, a British historian of German Jewish refugees of the 1930s and 40s. Through his research, Charlie found letters dated 1939-1940 hidden in an archive. These letters were sent back and forth from Sarah’s father, Ernst Böhm, and his cousin. Among them, Charlie found a postcard written by Ernst’s daughter, Ilse, whose fate was not initially clear. Further research revealed that she had survived, immigrated to Israel, and was now named Sarah Zamir.
Upon seeing Sarah featured in an ICEJ-Germany video posted on social media, Charlie contacted the Christian Embassy, and soon enough the two met at the Home in Haifa, where Sarah told Charlie in detail about her rescuers. The information Sarah provided prompted new research by Charlie – finding the Catholic couple that saved Sarah’s life.
The couple’s great-grandson Vince heard about Ilse from his grandfather, who was her age and lived alongside her in his parents’ home. As he grew older, the grandfather expressed hope that Ilse had lived a long, healthy life. Upon hearing about Sarah, Vince decided to come to Israel to meet her!
Sarah could hardly believe it was happening! Her own granddaughter was there for the reunion and said: “It was touching beyond words and an honour to meet the family that saved my grandma.”
“We were overcome by emotion”, recounted Vince. “The first thing we did when we met was just cry. But then it became natural, and we talked as if we had known each other forever.”
Vince and Sarah promised to write to one another. He would send photos of the house where she was hidden as a girl, sheltered from the fate that met millions of Jews less fortunate than her. It was a completely heart-warming encounter that proves compassion conquers fear.
Thank you for supporting the ICEJ’s Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors. Donate at: give.icej.org/survivors