Beverly woman traces her family’s Holocaust story

SHARE THIS STORY

HELP SUPPORT JEWISH JOURNAL

Beverly woman traces her family’s Holocaust story

Beckah Restivo with her great-uncle Ed and grandfather Hy.

BEVERLY – From an early age, Beckah Restivo wondered what happened to her great-grandfather, Felix Auerhan, during the Holocaust. Although she was raised a Christian, she spent a lot of time with her Jewish mother’s uncle and father, who filled her with stories about growing up in Germany before World War II.

Now 31, Restivo, who lives in Beverly, said her interest began when she learned about the Holocaust in middle school while growing up in San Diego. It was when she started college she began to ask deeper questions and recording her conversations with her great-uncle Ed and grandfather Hy.

“Now they are gone, I still can hear their voices,” she said. Ed passed away in 2014, at 89, and Hy in 2016, at 94.

Her great uncle remembered being separated from his father Felix, but was unable to recall how he got to the US in 1940. Her grandfather had been sent to safety in California in 1936 as Jewish oppression was building in Eastern Europe. Somehow, Ed and Hy were reunited in Los Angeles.

While attending George Washington University, Restivo spent a semester abroad in Europe. She traveled to Germany, where she was able to find some documentation about her great-grandfather, Felix, who was sent to the Riga Ghetto in Latvia.

Restivo was working in Los Angeles when she found out the Holocaust Memorial Museum was holding a 20th year anniversary commemoration on February 17, 2013. With a thick binder in hand, she was able to sit down with museum researcher Sara-joelle Clark for three hours. A file from museum archives confirmed that her great-grandfather was taken to Riga, and was very likely among nearly 50,000 Jews who were killed there.

“We were actually able to find, to cross-reference his prisoner number and we got more info on him,” Restivo said. “It was the first time in my research that I could be sure of something.”

Restivo later had her great-grandfather Felix’s number tattooed on her back, and included the phrase: “We must bear witness,” a quote from Elie Wiesel.

Later, she found her great-grandmother, Kamilla, also perished during the Holocaust.

Restivo continues to research her family, and plans yearly visits to the museum in Washington, D.C. Her dream, she said, is to someday write a book about her findings.

She has remained friends with Clark. “Beckah is a third generation survivor, and we need to engage a new audience,” Clark said. Lately, Clark said, she is finding that people in their 30s are becoming interested their family’s Holocaust legacy.

“I have such pride about what my family has endured, and the fact that there is a place where I can go and find the information I want,” she added. “What a gift to the people who died in the Holocaust.”

Restivo recently posted a picture on Instagram – she with her great-uncle and grandfather – for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, with the following tribute:

“To my heroes, who survived what millions did not. It has been nothing short of an honor to spend my life dedicated to preserving yours. I am still deeply moved by your stories of persecution, internment, and war, but your legacy lies elsewhere. Your legacy is as husbands, fathers, and grandfathers… Your long and loving lives are testament to the failure of history to take away your identity. You are both deeply loved and missed. Thank you for leaving our story behind.”

In honor of #holocaustremembranceday.

She also posted a letter, written by her great-uncle:

“Please, learn about The Holocaust. All of you and your children have a close stake in it. You have avoided it. It’s part of your history nearly as much as it was mine. Just learn, you don’t have to dwell. Without an immeasurable amount of luck my life would have been just a statistic. Ashes and dust to join six million others and my first family.”

3 Responses

  1. Thank you for doing the research!
    This story was kept quiet way to long
    I will pass this to others as well.

    1. trying to reach Beckah Restivo, would appreciate her email or
      phone #.
      Would like to spread her story via Chelsea Jewish foundation.
      will appreciate your response.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Jewish Journal is reader supported

Jewish Journal is reader supported