- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 12, 2007

BEACHWOOD, Ohio (AP) — The letter brought a bittersweet end to Sol Factor’s 17-year search for his mother, a Holocaust survivor who disappeared in the aftermath of World War II:

“We regret to inform you that we located the above mentioned person, but she would not like to be contacted by the inquirer,” reads the message from Magen David Adom, the Israeli counterpart of the American Red Cross.

Mr. Factor, who had found clues to his past with the help of the Red Cross and a vast archive of Nazi records, knows only that his mother, now 83 years old, is living in Israel.

“Of course, I’m disappointed because one likes searches like this to end with happy reunions,” he said from in his home in this Cleveland suburb. “There’s a sense of actual relief, too, because now some of the mystery has been solved.”

Mr. Factor, 60, was born Meier Pollak in Munich in 1946 to Romanian-born Rosa Pollak. He has found documents showing that Miss Pollak and her newborn son were discharged from a maternity hospital on July 9, 1946, and soon after went to a U.N.-sponsored hospital for refugees in Munich. Within days, they became separated.

Mr. Factor was adopted in 1950 by an American couple in Belmont, Mass., and began looking for his biological mother in earnest in 1990.

The International Tracing Service (ITS) archive in Bad Arolsen, Germany, provided a half-dozen documents offering tidbits about Mr. Factor and his mother, including a handwritten notation that she might have been headed to Palestine. That reference helped Mr. Factor direct his research to Israel and its refugee resettlement records.

The ITS archive, operated by the International Committee of the Red Cross, holds an estimated 30 million to 50 million pages of Nazi concentration camp documents. Since 1955, it has handled more than 11 million requests for information, but under the international agreement that governs the collection, it rarely has allowed anyone but Red Cross staff to see the material.

In April, an agreement to unseal the long-closed archive won endorsement from Germany, giving the accord a majority among the 11 nations overseeing the documents. When the agreement is ratified by all 11 nations, survivors will be able to see their own files and researchers will be allowed to examine them.

In early May, the Red Cross office in Cleveland gave Mr. Factor the message from Magen David Adom, which investigated his inquiry. The letter was relayed through the Holocaust and War Victims Tracing and Information Center of the American Red Cross in Baltimore, which has checked on more than 40,000 people missing since the Holocaust and World War II.

Mr. Factor, a retired high school teacher, said he was holding out hope that his mother might change her mind and agree to meet, or at least exchange notes.

Speculating on a possible reason why his mother didn’t want to meet him, he said: “Many survivors, they want to put the past behind and not have it brought back to them.”

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