Holocaust Memorial Museum brings family from opposite sides of the world together

We've all heard those stories of reunions with long-lost relatives: mom meets adult daughter, siblings reunited after being adopted by separate families, etc. But what about meeting relatives you never knew existed?

We've all heard those stories of reunions with long-lost relatives: mom meets adult daughter, siblings reunited after being adopted by separate families, etc.

But what about meeting relatives you never knew existed?

That's exactly what happened to Suzanne Crago-Shneider of Davis, California. She's now 62 years old and finally getting answers she has been searching for her whole life.

Suzanne's mother Erika was forced to leave her home during World War II when she was just 10-years-old.

"I've talked to my kids about different type of heroism," said Crago-Schneider. "[Looking at Anne Frank's] date of birth, she was born in the same year as my mother. And I just started crying. This could've been my mother."

Erika and her mother Nelly converted to Catholicism so they could flee to Brazil. Eventually, Erika settled down and started her own family in California.

"People who survive the Holocaust, not just the ones who were in camps, they don't really want to talk about it," said Crago-Schneider. My mother never said anything to me."

But Crago-Schneider said she's always wondered.

"I'd see these t-shirts that say like 'Cooper Family Reunion,'" said Crago-Schneider. "Jews don't have that, so many are gone. So many don't know what happened to their relatives."  

What Crago-Schneider knew was that her grandmother had two siblings: Maria who went by Mitzi and Leo. She wouldn't find out what happened to them until more than 70 years later.

With help from the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the International Tracing Service, Crago-Schneider now has more information and even documents to add to her collection of family history: birth certificates, certificates of passage and entry into different countries, even a letter from Albert Einstein to her great-uncle Leo, acknowledging his work.

Turns out Leo left Vienna for Russia where he worked as a researcher for the University of Moscow.

"He would write to his sisters in German, so they executed him in 1938," said Crago-Schneider. "In the 50s, they exonerated him."

Crago-Schneider adds that he was recognized for his work and wonders what he could've accomplished had he not been killed.

"As awful as it was to find out he had been executed that way, it was some closure," said Crago-Schneider. "We now have the cousins [in Russia] and keep in touch through a translator."

Crago-Schneider would also find out that she had distant cousins, literally, in Australia through her grandmother's other sibling Mitzi.        

"They weren't even long lost. I didn't even know they were alive," said Crago-Schneider. "When I met [my cousin], I said 'It's so wonderful to find out about you!'"

However, her cousin from Australia said she didn't even know her grandmother had siblings and that they were very close.

When asked how it felt to meet at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Crago-Schneider replied it was filled with mixed emotions.

"I found myself crying, but not because of the sad, I mean there's plenty of sad, but crying at the people who were good," said Crago-Schneider. "In the worst of times, there are people who are good."

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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