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Babies Born on Holocaust Refugee Ship Meet 76 Years Later

Haganah refugee ship (Photo: wikicommons)

Of the countless lives devastated by the Holocaust, it is always inspiring to hear of those whose lives took a turn away from loss and tragedy. Our friends at JNS bring us this story of two babies - both born on a ship full of Jewish refugees escaping the Nazis - and their reunion as adults and survivors after seven decades:

Seventy-six years later, a man born on a Haganah refugee ship carrying 728 Jewish refugees fleeing from Nazi-occupied areas of Europe has finally met the second baby born on the ship.

Yehuda Oestreicher has always known that he was born 76 years ago aboard the Hilda. His mother was pregnant when she boarded the ship, but hid her belly underneath a coat out of fear she would not be allowed on board if her secret was discovered. It took months before the ship was able to sail, and Oestreicher was born three months later in the captain's cabin.

Over the years, he heard from his parents and from others that he was not the only baby born on the ship.

"They told me that a girl was born two weeks before me, and they decided to name her Hilda, after the ship," Oestreicher said. "This baby girl was always a mystery to me and I have wanted to find her for years, but I didn't know how."

An Israel Hayom article published for Holocaust Remembrance Day last year led to hundreds of calls from people asking to review their recognition as Holocaust survivors, including from Oestreicher, who lives in the central Israeli moshav of Herev Le'et, and from a woman named Bracha Ronen from Kibbutz Lahav in the south.

"When Yehuda came to us and shared the story of his birth on the ship Hilda, I was sure that I had already heard the story in the first person," said attorney Noa Shine of the Aviv for Holocaust Survivors organization. "But then I realized that this was actually because a woman had approached the organization over the same issue. I immediately put the puzzle together, and I understood that they had to meet each other."

That finally happened on Sunday. Three-quarters of a century after coming into the world on the same ship, Oestreicher and Ronen met for the first time...

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