When Alice Grusová was a young child, her parents abandoned her on a bench at a train station without knowing what would happen to her. It was June 1942, and Marta and Alexandr Knapp had taken this last desperate step to preserve their daughter after their failed attempt to flee what was then Czechoslovakia.
The couple had left Prague but when their train pulled into Pardubice, eastern Bohemia, Nazi soldiers boarded in search of escaping Jews. Her married name is Grusová and she never ran into her parents again. They were detained and transported to the Identifier-given concentration camp, where they were later murdered after being transported there. There were also fatalities involving her father’s ex-brother. wife’s
If not for their risky bet, their little daughter would have suffered the same fate. Grusová celebrated her 81st birthday as well as her and her husband Miroslav’s 60th wedding anniversary this year. They have three sons, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, all of whom live in Prague.
She always believed that this represented the entirety of her family but early this year the retired pediatric nurse flew to Israel where she reconnected with her Jewish history and met her lone surviving first cousin as well as a larger family she was unaware of.
In a teary video conversation with CNN, she added, “I was most startled when I found out, at 80, that I have such a large family.” Grusová, who has struggled with cancer, hepatitis and spinal surgery, continued, “I am only disappointed that this didn’t occur earlier.
During the early phases of the epidemic, an inquisitive woman in South Africa who lived 5,000 kilometers away made it possible for the reunion to take place. Online ancestry resource My Heritage has finally published the amazing tale.
Michala Schonwald Moss investigated her family history on My Heritage while her entire life was put on hold. Although she had always known that the Holocaust had destroyed her family, nothing could have prepared her for learning that 120 of her kin had perished in Auschwitz.
However, a little and an utterly unexpected glimmer of hope appeared out of the unfathomable blackness. She discovered the remarkable story of one survivor, Grusová with the assistance of expert genealogists in Slovakia and Israel.
The young child, who was one year old was initially placed in an orphanage after being discovered on a station bench. Later, Grusová was transferred to Theresienstadt, where she has no recollection of her parents. She remembered: “There was a nice lady looking after us. I just have hazy memories of that era.
“Then I recall when I contracted typhoid and the staff had to defend me from the Germans. “I recall them urging me to keep quiet or the evil Germans would kill us,”
Amazingly, she made it through the war and was later reunited with her mother’s younger sister Edith or Editka as she prefers to call her, who had escaped Auschwitz by being sent to a labor camp.
Grusová described her aunt, who, like many Nazi camp survivors, had her identity number tattooed on her arm, her voice breaking with sorrow. She described the woman as being quite attractive, thin, and tattooed. But at the time, I didn’t realize that.
The two first shared a home in Czechoslovakia but her aunt immigrated to what was then Palestine in 1947. Grusová was abandoned and placed for adoption for an unspecified reason.
She recalled that she arrived at her new parents at the age of six after her aunt departed Czechoslovakia. “I was devastated when my aunt moved away as a child. I didn’t comprehend her decision to leave me behind.
“I spoke with her for some time. Her son, who I last saw in a picture when he was two years old, was born after she got married. However, communication with Edith ceased and she claimed that “we lost each other” in 1966.
Before her son Jan, who can speak English translated a startling email Schonwald Moss’s parents received in 2021, Grusová was unaware of what had happened to her aunt. He and his wife had been unsuccessful in their years-long search for his mother’s cousin.
However, Schonwald Moss had discovered Grusová’s extraordinary story as well as the location of that cousin, Edith’s son Yossi Weiss who was now 67 and residing in the Israeli city of Haifa, with the aid of qualified researchers.
Along with some of the other members of the recently discovered family tree, Weiss and Grusová “met” online last year. Weiss had little knowledge of his cousin and tragedy had struck his own life when he lost both his mother and son to suicide.
Grusová traveled to Israel over the summer to meet Weiss and his extended family, including Schonwald Moss, who had flown in from South Africa as well as her husband, their son Jan and Jan’s wife Petra.
They wanted to meet me and come see me but my cousin has cancer and is unable to fly, Grusová told CNN. At my age, I was terrified of the lengthy voyage, she admitted. “I am so glad I went now. Just that I wish it had arrived sooner. Without Covid, I “would never have known I have such a large family.”
With her newly discovered ancestors, Grusová—who doesn’t understand Hebrew or English—conversed through an interpreter. Her late aunt’s tomb, the Theresienstadt museum and the World Holocaust Remembrance Center at Yad Vashem were all visited by the two of them. It was there that she recorded her personal testimony and was also filmed for an Israeli television station.
Simmy Allen, Yad Vashem’s director of international media, was present. “The idea that the family was joining and different sides of the family were truly uncovering their roots and coming to Yad Vashem to solidify that so that their ancestors had a location that would remember them in perpetuity,” he told CNN, adding that it was a “really emotional meeting.”
The size of my family has significantly grown, remarked Grusová. And Michalya continues to track down more relatives. Weiss admitted to CNN that he had limited knowledge of his mother’s past and was unable to explain why she left his cousin behind when she emigrated to what was then Palestine.
He remarked, “From what little she told me, I knew she worked in a factory and that she returned to the city after the war and was fortunate to escape. “I knew she had previously been married and that her husband had died on the Russian front, but I was unaware of the chapter with Alice’s discovery.”
He remarked, “I made sure I had private time with Alice,” regarding their reunion. Alice staying behind while my mother traveled to Israel was brought up and we both acknowledged that the situation was problematic.
Even if Weiss has made an effort to provide an explanation, the question will always remain unsolved. “When she returned from the camps at the age of 25, my mother was a Holocaust survivor who had recently lost her husband. 5 was Alice’s age. He said, “My mother couldn’t give her a home, a school, food and everything.
He said that perhaps she believed that her niece would have been better off with adoptive parents. I sometimes have ‘what if’ fantasies, therefore it bothers me personally, he added.
Grusová expressed a similar sentiment: “Of course, I considered how my life may have turned out. When my aunt left, I was a little girl, I was so heartbroken. I was perplexed as to why she did not include me in her plans.
She said, “My cousin tried to explain.” “She was young and a miracle spared her life. I don’t hold her responsible for anything. Weiss said that Grusová expressed a strong desire to visit my mother’s grave upon their reunion. She considered it to be crucial to the resolution.
He stated it was especially moving to be there with Grusová when she recorded her statement at Yad Vashem. It was really emotional and difficult for everyone. Likewise, Schonwald Moss. She told CNN that the event was among the most spectacular, personal, and emotionally nourishing ones of her life.
The family and Steven Spielberg’s USC Shoah Foundation are currently in communication. Alice’s video testimony will be recorded by the foundation in the upcoming year.
“It was as if we had found a living ghost when we learned that one family member had survived who we had never known about she was still alive and living in Prague. Furthermore, learning her narrative was very upsetting, according to Schonwald Moss.
She has shown us what living is like by coming back into our lives. Our family needs repairs every day. We have once again become a family because of Alice, the love she exudes and the glitter in her eyes.
The outcome for Grusová and her family was hailed by Roi Mandel, director of research at My Heritage. According to him, “Alice’s story is the experience of many who survived the war and believed they were the only survivors in the world, unaware that there was another branch that survived.”
Thanks to technology, which allows us to join previously unconnectable parts of a puzzle, decades of isolation caused by the Iron Curtain that was raised over Eastern Europe have ended.