The New York-based Centre for Jewish History is launching a project offering DNA testing to holocaust survivors and their children in the bid to locate missing family members. The DNA testing kits are being given out for free through an application on their website.

Those using the kits have the chance to work closely with genealogists Jennifer Mendelsohn and Adina Newman, who have been conducting work like this over the past several years. Mendelsohn and Newman will guide users of the proceeding steps once the test has been carried out. Newman comments on the importance of DNA in locating lost family:

There are times when people are separated and they don’t even realize they’re separated. Maybe a name change occurred so they didn’t know to look for the other person. There are cases that simply cannot be solved without DNA.

Adina Newman, genealogist

The arrival of DNA technology has certainly unleashed a plethora of opportunity which Holocaust survivors and their descendants can use to learn about family connections severed by genocide. The horrors of the holocaust ripped apart the lives of many families, and it therefore comes with great reception that work such as this can help bring people together again.

However, Mendelsohn and Newman highlight that there are absolutely no guarantees. The genealogists emphasise the testing procedure does not automatically mean users will locate living relatives; it simply offers a chance. Yet, this chance is encouraged, especially as time passes the number of living survivors decline.

It really is the last moment where these survivors can be given some modicum of justice.

Gavriel Rosenfeld, president of the Centre for Jewish History

Jackie Young, an orphaned survivor who spent the first few years of his life in a Nazi internment camp, spent decades searching before being introduced to the project. Now 80 years old and living in London, Young gave the genealogists a DNA sample to help find a name alongside some relatives he never knew he had. Jackie described the revelation as “amazing”. Young comments:

I’ve been wanting to know all my life. If I hadn’t known what I do know now, I think I would still felt that my left arm or my right arm wasn’t fully formed. Family is everything, it’s the major pillar of life in humanity.

Jackie Young, holocaust survivor

The centre has initially put $15,000 towards the DNA kits which covers roughly 500 of them. However, the centre would look to expand this budget if interest increases.

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