Today’s Gesher Galicia Special Interest Group’s luncheon featured author Daniel Mendelsohn in his first public event connected to his new book, "The Lost: A search for six of six million."
"I may just have been a strange child," he says, explaining that he was interested in family history from an early age and created family trees when he was 12.
As a young boy, he grew up hearing stories about his grandfather’s brother Shmil, who disappeared, killed by the Nazis.
Mendelsohn's search for Shmil and his family led to a visit to Belakhov and to the help of researcher Alexander Dunai, whom he met through JewishGen, and who found more than 100 family archival records dating to 1724.
Six years ago Mendelsohn decided to return and see what he could find. In summer 2001, three of four siblings got on the plane and went there on a mission to see if anyone remembered Shmil.
His research took him to three continents. Along the way, he found former neighbors and employees, all intertwined with stories of hiding.
"The most extraordinary coincidences kept fueling the story," he related, and each time he thought the story was over, he received another phone call with more leads.
Eventually, he matched the stories, discovering exactly what happened. The story is in the book. For more information, www.harpercollins.com/thelost