The Zoldan children died when the eldest was 6. But no memorial would list their names, no tombstones would mark their graves.
That may be why Rose Rosen had never heard of them until last March when she interviewed a relative about family members who had died in the Holocaust.
Rosen knew that her uncle's wife had a sister who died at the Birkenau extermination camp with her husband. But she didn't realize that Channah and Isaac Zoldan had children.
They had three, said her aunt, a Sarasota resident who shares Rosen's name. The baby, David, was just 18 months when they were killed. His sister, Gita, was 6, and his brother, Hirsh, was 4.
If her aunt had never mentioned them to Rosen, history would have forgotten them. Instead, their names have become a permanent part of an international memorial of Holocaust victims. David, Gita and Hirsh are listed now in the Central Database of Shoah Victims Names. Shoah is the Hebrew word many use for the Holocaust. The online database documents Jewish people killed in the genocide, relying on pages of testimony from surviving friends and family when no official documentation exists.
"Nobody would have known that these kids existed," Rosen said. "Now they have a name; they have a place. It's not much — but it's huge."
Rosen, a casting director who lives in Carrollwood, is organizing a local effort to collect testimonials and submit them to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust research and memorial center in Jerusalem that manages the database project.
During two events this month, Holocaust survivors and descendants will be able to record what they know about those who died. Volunteers will take information on Sunday at the Maureen and Douglas Cohn Jewish Community Campus off Gunn Highway and on Jan. 13 at Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services in Clearwater.
Any amount of information is important, Rosen said. The only required facts are the victims' first and last names and where they were from. Additional details, including photos, paint a clearer picture but are not necessary.
Yad Vashem started collecting names of Jewish victims in the 1950s. The effort got a big push in 2004 when the database went online. Since then, 1 million names have been added for a total of 4 million, according to the research center. An estimated 2 million more names are needed to complete the list. The information is stored on the Web and in Yad Vashem's Hall of Names.
Rosen is among coordinators nationwide helping in the effort. Volunteers record pages of testimony from the victims' descendants. The testimonies are important because many victims' identities were not documented, Rosen said. Some western European countries logged Jewish names and deportation information, which made recording the information easier, but parts of eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and Greece did not keep complete records, according to Yad Vashem.
Rosen got involved in 2006 after reading a story about the database. She had been interested in learning more about her family after her parents died. Both had survived the Holocaust — her mother lived in the Lodz Ghetto in Poland and later was sent to five concentration camps, while Rosen's father fled to Russia to join the Army.
The couple met in France after the war and moved to the United States in 1956. Rosen's mother, Bronia, wrote poetry and short stories about her life in the ghetto, but her father, Abe, rarely talked about the war.
"It was just something they didn't really address," said Rosen, 52. "They just lived their lives and did an incredible job of it."
Survivors don't always want to come forward, some fearing that their lives are still at risk if they talk about it. Other survivors, though, are realizing as they age that they need to share their memories before they are lost. Rosen is working with Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services and other area Jewish organizations and tries to reassure survivors that Yad Vashem will respect and care for their stories.
She and her volunteers have collected almost 300 pages of testimony in the Tampa Bay area and are trying a new approach to reach more people who could contribute information at upcoming events.
It's touching to see your family recorded in this way, Rosen said. Visiting the database almost feels like visiting a cemetery. She had never met her grandparents, aunts and uncles who died in the Holocaust, but the pages of testimony gave her a place to pay her respects.
"Now I can power up my computer and see it online," she said. "It's the best I can do for them."
Courtney Cairns Pastor can be reached at [email protected]