A 99-year-old woman has been reunited with a schoolbook that belonged to her younger brother who was one of the 565,000 Hungarian Jews who died in the Holocaust.
It is an incredible story. Eighty years since it was last held by a member of their family, a bible belonging to a murdered 13-year-old boy has been returned to his relatives in the United Kingdom, the only tangible link to his existence.
Bela Engleman was one of some 565,000 Hungarian Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. Killed at Auschwitz in 1944, he had written and stamped his name in the schoolbook.
Remarkably, it survived and was eventually unearthed by a Hungarian antique book dealer. Some of his remaining family members travelled to the country to receive the book.
Nina Forman, Bela’s great-niece, was emotional as she read his name written in Hebrew on the inside cover of the book.
"This is the only thing to show that he was alive, we have no birth certificate, no photograph. Nothing, just this," she said.
It is a touching story that began with Bela’s older sister Lily, who survived the Holocaust. She began researching her past three years ago, with the help of her great-grandson, Dov Forman.
A viral post on Twitter led to Lily being reunited on Zoom with the children of the American soldier who liberated her in 1945. Since that meeting and the coverage that followed, footage of Lily from that time was uncovered by interested researchers.
That resulted in a breakthrough with regards to Bela.
"Someone watched us on TV, wanted to learn more, read our book, and then realised that their father, who was an antique book collector, actually might have had books from Lily’s family and Lily’s community," said Dov.
Without worldwide publicity, it is unlikely the book would ever have been found. In Lily’s hometown of Bonyhad in Hungary, only one Jewish person remains - a once vibrant community destroyed by the Nazis.
The success of the story also brought Dov to Hungary on a mission to reconnect with his family’s past.
"I think if you would have told me before it happened that it could happen, I probably would've laughed and not believed you,” he said.
Sitting in the lounge with Zsolt Brauer and his wife, Erika, to collect the book, Nina and Dov said were astounded to be there.
“It's a miracle that this book survived,” Zsolt told them. “And we are happy to give it to Lily.”
Back in London, the book is brought to Lily, now 99, recovering in hospital following a hip operation.
"To be able to give her this tangible link to her brother's existence was so special," said her grandson.
Dov, who has family photos of Lily’s older brother and younger sisters, would now like to find a photo of Bela to add to the collection.