Four books stamped with his name, the only tangible keepsake that Moshe Hofstadter has of his father Abraham, who was murdered by the Nazis, were returned to him in a moving ceremony at Yad Vashem on Wednesday.
The return of the books marked the culmination of an unusual sequence of events. Three years ago, Christoph Schlegel, the grandson of a senior Austrian Nazi officer, found several books that had been stamped with the unfamiliar name Abraham Hofstadter in the home of his grandmother. After making inquiries, Schlegel learned that his Nazi grandfather had been stationed in Rzeszow, Poland, in 1941, and had apparently acquired the books from a Nazi storehouse containing stolen Jewish property.
Schegel began to research the name stamped in the stolen books, and eventually found it online in Yad Vashem's Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names. He learned that Hofstadter, a Jew from Rzeszow who was killed in the Holocaust, had been commemorated in a Page of Testimony filled out by his only son, Moshe, the sole survivor in his family.
Schlegel contacted Yad Vashem for help in locating the family so he could return the books. Yad Vashem connected the grandson of the Nazi officer with the survivor, and the two began corresponding.
"It's just a few books I'd like to return to their rightful owner, but I know the feeling of touching an object that belonged to a loved one," Schlegel wrote. He sent the books to Israel, and, 72 years after they were taken, Moshe was presented with them at Yad Vashem on Wednesday.
"This is the only thing I have left of my father," Moshe said at the ceremony. "I am very happy to have the books."
Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev said: "Just recently the project to memorialize the names of those killed in the Holocaust on Pages of Testimony was added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register [LINKTO: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=10135]. This incident testifies to the uniqueness of the collection of Pages of Testimony, which in addition to memorializing those who perished is also a tool for obtaining information about the fate of many people."
Pages of Testimony are forms designed by Yad Vashem to commemorate Jews murdered in the Holocaust. Yad Vashem's Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names, which aims to collect the names of all those killed in the Holocaust, contains some 4.2 million names.