FARGO — A few weeks ago, I wrote a story about the Holocaust. I received many wonderful and touching comments. In that story, I wrote about my cousins being murdered. It was very difficult to track their story down. It took me a year.
Unbeknownst to me, in 1998, a cousin from Boston named Rick, who I had never heard of, put together an extensive family tree on my mother’s side of the family, going back 200 years. Two years ago, my brother sent me a copy. It listed hundreds of names, and next to the names it said where they live or lived.
On Page 7, it named six members of the Bauer family. Instead of saying where they live, it just said “Holocaust.” I was stunned. This was the first time I had heard of relatives perishing in the Holocaust. I just sat there in silence for an hour.
I was determined to find out who the Bauers were, and what happened to them. So, I tried to contact cousin Rick. I called the phone number he listed on the report, but that number was out of service. Then I searched and found other phone numbers for him, but they didn’t work either. I then sent an email to the email address he had on the report. That bounced back.
At that point, I decided to try Facebook. I only found one person with his name, and he lived in Quebec. That couldn’t be him. Still, with nothing to lose, I sent him a friend request. I never heard back. A week later, I checked his page, and saw he deleted my request. So, I sent him a Facebook private message, asking if he had put together the family tree. I told him if he had, then I am his cousin.
I was in luck. It was him. After several weeks of exchanging messages, I asked him what happened to the Bauers. He said all he knew was they were from the small town of Butrimonys, Lithuania.
Next, I went looking for a database of Holocaust victims. I found one from the U.S. Holocaust Museum. So, I typed in the Bauers' names and their hometown, but nothing showed up. Then, I found another database. This one was from Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Israel. Once again, I got nothing. So, I tried several names similar to Bauer. When I tried Baver, there they were. I found them. When I clicked on their names, I even found their pictures. That’s when it really hit home. It was chilling to see their faces.
Still, I didn’t know what happened to them. I knew finding out would be a long shot. I googled several phrases, but nothing worked. Then I tried, “Jews Murdered in Butrimonys, Lithuania in World War II.” That did it. It turned out there was one Jewish witness to the massacre, who detailed everything. I teared up when I read that the Nazis opened fire on them with their machine guns.
This was a painful search, but it was necessary.
Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director. Email firstname.lastname@example.org