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>JN April 18, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 70
Holocaust Orphans: A Cry From the Heart
Courtesy of Cable News Network
By Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers
An Israeli television program called "Who Am I?" is not a quiz
show. Rather, it's a cry from the heart -- an attempt to help
orphans of the Jewish Holocaust learn their true identity.
As children more than half a century ago, some were hidden by
Christian families while their parents perished in Hitler's death
camps. Now, as adults, they all ask the same question. Who am I?
Israeli and Polish broadcasters have joined in the search for names
and families. It's a race to find biological relatives before all
those who might remember the orphans die out.
During the program, images of the Holocaust orphans, as they looked
then and now, appear on the television screen along with any name
they can remember.
"I hope someone, somewhere will see something and remember
something. Maybe me. Maybe my story," says Pnina Gutman, a
grandmother who has been known by several names.
She believes that, as a girl in Poland, she was Barbara Wenglinski
or Wenglinska -- a name pinned on a note around her neck.
Once smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto, she lived with the Rebhuns,
a German foster family who helped save her.
But at age two, Barbara was found in a railroad box car, abandoned
after the Nazis arrested the Rebhuns.
Then, a Red Cross worker gave her to a Christian family in Poland,
where she was raised. "An angel kept an eye on me," she says now,
looking back at how a young child survived a war. "Maybe they can
The parents of young Barbara -- fearing they might not see their
daughter again -- had asked the Rebhuns to write to family
relatives in the United States.
"Who are they? I don't know," says Gutman, wondering about the
American relatives who may still be alive.
"Rich or poor, maybe they will see my face and pictures from
childhood and maybe they can recognize me."
But Gutman hasn't relied solely on luck or a television show. She
has conducted research worthy of a scholar, trying to learn who her
She does not believe they are still alive but doesn't rule it out.
"They may be 80 years old," she told CNN.
Asked if she knows when her birthday is, Gutman answers, "Every
day is a holiday because I don't know the exact date."
"Who Am I?" has had success. In one example, the television program
reunited a Holocaust orphan with her natural mother, now 80, who
lives in a nursing home.
During Gutman's appearance on the show, she received a promising
phone call from a woman wondering if she might be a cousin. "I see
a Wenglinska family resemblance in your eyes," the caller said.
If true, it would be Gutman's first contact with her biological
past. If not, Pnina Gutman or Barbara Wenglinska or whoever she is
will go on asking, "Who am I?"
Copyright 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
(All material on these web pages is © 2001-2012
by Electronic World Communications, Inc.)