News

Cafe Europa Event in Boca Raton Unites Holocaust Survivors
Event Aims to Find Long-Lost Friends, Kin
 
Published Thursday, December 6, 2007
by Lois K. Solomon

(SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL)

BOCA RATON - Crying, hugging and seeking to remember, more than 600 Holocaust survivors searched each other's faces on Wednesday, hoping to find a long-lost friend or relative.

Although some succeeded, most did not. Cafe Europa, a twice-a-year gathering sponsored by the Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service, brought back fond recollections of the old country but also depressing reminders that the Nazis permanently dismantled their families.

The luncheon, at B'nai Torah Congregation, 6261 SW 18th St., allows survivors to sit at tables with fellow survivors of their country of origin as they listen to a live orchestra and share stories.

Similar gatherings have been sponsored by Jewish agencies throughout the country, in part paid for by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which negotiates with European governments to secure restitution for survivors.

Sidney Klein, 82, of Delray Beach, sat at the Czechoslovakia table, hoping to find survivors from his town, Batany, near the Hungarian border. An Auschwitz survivor, he ran into Magda Frohlinger, whose deceased husband, Ernest, was a close friend.

"I knew her before the war; I knew her whole family," said Klein, whose voice shook with grief. "As I get older, I miss all these people so much."

Max Pohl, 86, a native of Warsaw, carried a photo of himself at 13 in a concentration camp uniform, having survived Auschwitz, Birkenau and Dachau camps. He hoped the photo would spur fellow survivors' memories of him or his family.

"I'm looking for people from my hometown," he said. "I am meeting a lot of people, but no one I knew before."

About 16,000 survivors live in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Many have thrived in the United States and need no assistance, but Ruth Rales social workers visit 150 survivors in south Palm Beach County who need medical or emotional support.

The cafe reunited Max Rubin-Tilles, 85, formerly of Krakow, Poland, and Mark Kamin, 81, formerly of Warsaw, who met in their teens in 1945 in a displaced-persons camp in Germany.

The men had bumped into each other after the war at a dinner-dance in New Jersey, but had not kept in touch.

"We knew we were both alive," Kamin said, as they sat with their wives at the Poland table. "This is a wonderful day."

Agnes Glick, 78, found no one from her town of Mariapocs, Hungary, but said she was thrilled to gather with fellow survivors.

"We should have a little joy in our lives after what we went through," said Glick, an Auschwitz survivor who lives in Century Village west of Boca Raton. "You look around and thank God we are all still alive. We don't know if we'll still be here next month, let alone next year."

Lois Solomon can be reached at lsolomon@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6536.

Copyright 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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