The Inside Stories


Each case we work on is so rich in detail. We offer this page to our colleagues to post their own reflections and remembrances about the cases we have worked together. Thank you to each and every person who has contributed along the way.

11 Responses to The Inside Stories

  1. catniphill says:

    Thank you, Colleen, for allowing me to be a part of your team, working with the US Army Casualty Office to identify next-of-kin and DNA donors for those servicemen killed and missing in action in the Korean War, and in Pacific Ocean action in WW II. With your guidance, many families were contacted and may have closure in the future as more and more remains are being repatriated and identified.

    I found the work extremely rewarding and exciting and hope to be able to do more of it in the future.

    Marilyn Hamill
    Catnip Hill Genealogy

  2. Barry Resnick says:

    Since early 2009 Colleen has worked tirelessly with me in uncovering the truth behind the claims of Alex Kurzem in the book, “The Mascot.” Her work has drawn unsolicited accolades from reporters and researchers around the world. Recently she was asked by the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center to submit her findings (pro bono) for the Center’s review.

    The Kurzem investigation has required us to research internationally and sometimes travel on our own expense in an attempt to determine if Mr. Kurzem is indeed a Jewish Holocaust survivor or another in a line of recent Holocaust fraudsters. Recently I returned from Israel having met with the head of the Wiesenthal Center. It was evident Colleen’s detailed research in her efforts to find the birth parents of Mr. Kurzem was greatly appreciated. Unlike a search through U.S. records, this project has involved working with records in Latvia, Belarus, Israel, and Australia to name just a few countries. Colleen’s excellent command of multiple languages has greatly assisted our efforts.

    I have been in academic research for many years and understand what characteristics one must possess to be an effective researcher. Few individuals in my experience possess the integrity and work ethic I have witnessed while working with Colleen.

  3. In May, 2008, I received an e-mail from a friend of mine which had been sent to ten addressees. The message told me to read the attached heart-warming story and forward it to ten more friends. The story was written by a Polish Holocaust survivor by the name of Herman Rosenblat and summarized his six-year ordeal in ghettoes in Poland and concentration camps in Germany. The thrust of the story was about how for close to seven months a 9-year old girl threw him daily an apple across the fence of a camp called Schlieben.

    This story instantly didn’t pass my smell test. From my point of view, that of a survivor of six German concentration camps, the story had some elements which were highly implausible and others which were simply contrary to verifiable historical facts. I found further that the story had been floating about for a number of years and proliferated on the internet. Herman and his wife Roma — the girl who had thrown the apples across the fence 54 years earlier — had appeared on the Oprah show several years earlier and were already famous. They had been interviewed on radio, on TV, and on a number of internet sites. And in each interview, Herman, who reveled in the limelight, added further embellishments to the story which simply defied belief. But the gullible public, from Oprah on down, absolutely loved it.

    I posted my skeptical view on every site I came across. And soon I found out that several scholars had expressed serious doubts about the veracity of Herman’s stories. The first of these was Deborah Lipstadt, chairman of Judaic studies at Emory University; then Colleen Fitzpatrick and Sharon Sergeant, both forensic genealogists and general sleuths extraordinaires; Dan Bloom, an expatriate American reporter with a sharp nose for news; and Kenneth Waltzer, chairman of Judaic studies at the University of Southern Michigan. Ken Waltzer happened to have done a lot of research on the notorious German camp of Buchenwald, where Herman Rosenblat claimed to have spent two years [it turned out that he spent exactly six days there!] Schlieben was a sub-camp of Buchenwald; it was a slave labor camp run for the benefit of a German firm that produced anti-tank weapons. Herman claimed that he spent seven months there and that fact was the only part of his story that was true. And it was here that he claimed that the daily apples sailed across the concentration camp fence, thrown by little Roma. He further claimed that he and Roma met on a blind date New York City after the war and, upon recognizing each other, instantly decided to get married.

    By the time the scholarly researchers and I, on behalf of Holocaust survivors, got into the act, a children’s book about Roma had been published, entitled “Angel Girl;” a literary agent had sold the rights to Herman’s story to Berkeley Books who had paid Herman an advance; and a self-styled Hollywood producer called Harris Salomon announced plans for what he termed “a major motion picture” about the Herman and Roma story. It had as yet no name and I tried to be helpful by suggesting, “An Apple a Day Keeps the SS Away.” Salomon immediately attacked me and threatened to sue me for libel. Ultimately, he also attacked each of the researchers and threatened them with lawsuits.

    At this point Colleen Fitzpatrick and Sharon Sergeant decided to change tactics and pursue a new avenue of inquiry. While all of us concentrated on Herman they were going to research the background of Roma. The latter claimed that she and her Jewish family had been hidden under a false identity in the small town of Schlieben. The claim about the fake identity turned out to be true, but they discovered that the town where they had been hidden was some 200 miles distant from Schlieben. So, here was the smoking gun: no Roma in Schlieben, no apples across the fence.

    The final outcome came at the very end of 2008 when The New Republic published an expose of the story under the title “The Greatest Story Ever Sold.” A couple of days later the New York Times ran a similar report that started on page one.

    The main thing to add is the fact that the single motive of everyone involved in this effort was to uncover and publicize the truth. I myself, as a Holocaust survivor, believe that the fake story caused irreparable damage to the truth about the Holocaust and that is what bothered me most. We Holocaust survivors are a dying breed: within a couple of decades we shall be extinct. It is of utmost importance to me that the testimony we leave behind be authentic, truthful, and historically accurate. That is what Colleen Fitzpatrick, Sharon Sergeant and their wonderful colleagues helped me to establish.

    Peter Kubicek
    Author of “Memories of Evil — Recalling a World War II Childhood”

    • Thank you for writing and clearly explaining how facts were discovered through research across the world that links together a chain of irrefutable information that exposes those who even as survivors of The Holocaust care more about fame and monetary compensation than the preservation of the truth about The Holocaust.

      Your article shows how easily people who have the ability to check into the veracity of information do not do so, are duped, and may care more about a “hot” story than the truth. As a reader, lay person researcher, and as a Jewish woman who lost many family members to The Holocaust, I thank you and all of the undaunted researchers and investigators who you’ve noted above. Your and their refusal to give up and to leave no stone unturned to find the evidence that can debunk and shed light on those who clearly care more about manipulating and fabricating information about The Holocaust to gain personal fame and fortune above all else, means the world to me. I am honored to read about your and their dogged and intricately thought out searches to right wrongs and to try to expose fraud in the stories of those who care nothing about permanently damaging what truly happened during The Holocaust.

      What struck me most that you shared with us and that grabbed my heart to a point near bursting were the following words, “I myself, as a Holocaust survivor, believe that the fake story caused irreparable damage to the truth about the Holocaust and that is what bothered me most.” What you wrote above SHOULD be the most important issue to everyone. I am not naive however, so I know that it is not. It is though to me.

      It is clear to me that what you wrote that follows, was, is and will always be true, “The main thing to add is the fact that the single motive of everyone involved in this effort was to uncover and publicize the truth.” The newly exposed and the continued efforts to expose additional fraudulent stories and lies about The Holocaust is more important now than ever before because as you say, “We Holocaust survivors are a dying breed: within a couple of decades we shall be extinct. It is of utmost importance to me that the testimony we leave behind be authentic, truthful, and historically accurate.”

      Thank you, Mr. Kubicek.

      To anyone who has read Mr. Kubicek’s article above: If you want to read unvarnished and intimate truths about the Holocaust, I highly recommend that you read Mr. Peter Kubicek’s memoir, “Memories of Evil: Recalling a WWII Childhood.” It is available on online sites such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble and more.

      • Elizabeth,

        You have eloquently summarized Peter’s dedication to preserving the truth about the Holocaust. He is a modest man of high integrity. The contrast between Peter’s memoir “Recalling a WWII Childhood” and Alex’s Kurzem biography “The Mascot” underscores Peter’s selfless efforts to reach the next generation, not for personal gain, but to ensure that the phrase “Never Again” really means “Never Again”.

        Peter’s story can be fact-checked in every detail. He has been forthcoming with names, places, and dates that can be verified historically and by other people who knew him from the camps. He has not experienced substantial financial gain from his book. You don’t see him on talk shows or granting interviews to the international press. You see him, just as you see most other survivors, offering his testimony to school children for free or giving an occasional interview to a local paper. And he has withstood withering attacks for his role in exposing Herman Rosenblat’s apple story fraud – all for the sake of perserving the truth about the Holocaust.

        But what about Alex Kurzem? His story has now been published in 13 languages. As an international bestseller it has made millions, yet the story has not been verified either through historical documents or through other survivors who can conclusively identify him as Ilya Galperin. The different language editions of his biography vary considerably from the documentary and from each other. He has given numerous interiews in the international press about his personal experiences, but has shown minimal interest in the Holocaust itself. Are you aware of other survivors who refuse to share their Holocaust video testimonies with the public? Do you know a survivor who has agreed to take a DNA test to confirm his identity – but only if you pay him $100k – or who has agreed to have a doctor confirm he is circumcized for $50k. What’s wrong with this picture?

        Thank you Peter for what you have done and continue to do to perserve the truth about the Holocaust. I look up to you as a colleague and am grateful to have you as a friend.

        Colleen Fitzpatrick PhD
        Identifinders International

  4. Kevin A. McGregor says:

    Northwest Airlines Flight 4422 crashed and disappeared into a remote Alaskan Glacier on March 12, 1948. My expedition partner and I found it in 1997 and made the project public in 1999. We found one human arm and hand in 1999 which took another 8 years to identify. In working to identify it, we had a huge problem-we had to locate very specific living relatives of the thirty men who died. Those relatives would be Mitochondiral Dna donors. Finding these people, nearly 60 years after the crash, was extremely difficult. It was Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick’s outstanding genealogical work over several years that led us to the ONLY possible mitochondrial Dna donor in the world, and he lived in Askeaton, Ireland.

    As a key member of our world class forensic team, Dr. Fitzpartick’s tireless efforts made this possible through amazing, dogged genealogical research here in the USA and in Ireland, using everything from the most basic paper records research techniques, to the latest in computer techonology. Even plain old person to person phone calls became important when she sensed the need. Indeed, she seems to have a sixth sense that allows her to go beyond the limits of most researchers.

    Dr. Fitzpatrick is a true professional, and is relentless when it comes to finding answers. If an answer exists, she will find it! Working with her was a true pleasure and we couldn’t have done it without her.

    Kevin A. McGregor, Major (Ret) USAFR
    Captain, B-767, Delta Airlines
    Flight 4422 Project, Researcher and Expeditioner

  5. Bobbi Sexton says:

    Thank you Colleen for your help in discovering my husbands biological fathers last name. I know that without your guidance and suggestions we wouldn’t have a last name. I know that we are going to continue to work together to find is his father and siblings. You have been great to work with. You have been the professional that we needed in our search for information. I look forward to working with you in the future. You are a true Angel.

  6. Hadassa Birnbaum says:

    Hadassa Birnbaum says: About three years ago I read a book called, The Mascot by Mark Kurzem, that is purported to be the true story of the author’s “father’s Nazi childhood”. It is a very interesting story that became very personal for me. After over 60 years the author’s father, Alex, begins recalling events from his childhood and flies over from his home in Melbourne, Australia to tell Mark about these flashbacks. As Mark encourages his father to reveal more and more details of his traumatic childhood, Alex reports an amazing story. He tells Mark that he was a child of about 5 living somewhere in Europe when his mother tells him that the Nazis are planning to murder them the next day. She asks him to please hold the hand of his younger brother because she will be holding his baby sister. While in bed at night little Alex thinks to himself that he doesn’t want to die. He runs out of the house all alone and escapes through the forests and fields in the freezing winter, hungry and cold. He claims that he witnesses the murder of the Jews in the town, including his own family. Many months later Alex is picked up by a battalion of SS Latvians who take a liking to him. After checking him, one of the Nazi soldiers knows that Alex is a Jewish boy, but the soldiers decide to “adopt” him as their SS Mascot who will bring them good luck. The little boy, supposedly about 6 at the time, doesn’t remember his name or where he came from. The soldiers give him the name, Alex Kurzem.

    Alex tells his son that he remembers only two words that his mother taught him, Panok and Koidanov. Neither father nor son knew the meanings of these words. Mark opens up a map and, lo and behold, finds that there is a town 18 kilometers from Minsk in Bylorussia called Koidanov. He insists on taking his father to that place in order to solve the mystery of his father’s roots. By the way, neither Mark, nor his mother or brothers had any knowledge that Alex was born Jewish. In Koidanov they supposedly find Alex’s house and learn from two elderly gentile women that the name of the family that lived there was Halperin/

    Someone told me to read this book because it was an interesting Holocaust story. But when I came to the part where Alex is told that his name is Halperin, I became so excited because my maiden name was Halperin also. As far as I knew, I had no relatives that survived the Holocaust, and I knew from my parents that my father and his parents and siblings had emigrated from Minsk. Now I learned that Koidanov was a suburb of Minsk. Could this Alex Kurzem, born a Halperin, be my cousin?

    At about this time I learned that a distinguished forensic genealogist, Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick was researching this story without monetary compensation because of her integrity and her disgust for people who exploit the subject of the Holocaust. I contacted her and we began sending emails back and forth. While I supplied her with details about my family who had immigrated to the U.S,in 1910,she supplied me with documents, one after the other, of immigration records from Ellis Island, records from Yad VaShem, and countless pieces of information regarding the Kurzem story and Alex’s possible family. I learned from Colleen what serious work she was doing to discover if this story was really true. Colleen introduced me over email to Dr.Barry Resnick who first suspected that the Mascot story was fiction almost 4 years ago while watching Alex’s interview on 60 Minutes. Together they are an unbelievable team, honest, professional, voluntarily searching for the truth.

    But I had a personal interest in this story: could Alex be the sole member of my father’s family to survive the Holocaust? Then came the astounding discovery that I made wnen I found the passports of my father and his parents from 1909. My father and his family had come, not exactly from Minsk, but from nearby Koidanov! My father and his father were Halperins from Koidanov and if Alex was a Halperin from Koidanov, maybe we were cousins. I was so excited! On Colleen’s suggestion, I convinced my brother, Arthur, who lived in Florida to do a DNA test in order to compare his with Alex’s. I called Alex in Australia some months ago and asked him to please do a DNA test. In the past he had told Colleen he would do so if he was paid $100,000. I appealed to him to do the test so that we could find out if we are cousins. He did not give me an answer, and he never did the test. Colleen Fitzpatrick has contacted many people and numerous institutions all over the world in an effort to discover the truth and to help me in my roots search.

    I am truly grateful to Dr. Fitzpatrick for her untiring efforts to help me learn the truth about my Bylorussian roots. She is an amazing researcher with proven integrity; her thirst for the truth is unquenchable. And I feel I must add that all of the work she has done together with Dr.Resnick to uncover the truth about The Mascot has been at their own expense.

    Hadassa Birnbaum, Israel

    • Gideon Intrater says:

      Hadassa,

      My great grandfather was born Itzhak Halperin in Koidanov at around 1870. He later changed his last name to Rivkind to avoid being drafted to the Tsar’s army. I know his father’s name and I know that he was connected to “Seder Hadorot”, but I am yet to find other Halperin family members from Koidanov. Is there a way on this web-site to connect with you privately?

      Gideon, California

      • Hi Gideon,

        Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. I have been traveling a lot this year, and sometimes have had little time to access email.

        I believe we have met in person and you gave me pictures of your family from Koidanov. I will be glad to put you in touch with Halperins from Koidanov. I am in touch with one family in particular who would be very happy to correspond with you.

        I live in S CA. You can write me directly at colleen@identifinders.com

        Colleen Fitzpatrick

  7. The Missing Identity website http://www.missing-identity.net/ wants to present child survivors of Holocaust who to different degrees have lost information about their original identity and their past. Because of the uncertainty regarding so many aspects of their early lives, the texts include possibilities, theories. Few things are certain till you manage to really check them out, and it can take years to do that. Input from readers can therefore be an important help.
    Internet has of course been a wonderful help.

    Among the most difficult cases are those where the child survivor more or less only has his face and body to perhaps hint to that of his lost parents and relatives. There are several cases like that on the website.

    My involvement in this started back in 1993 in Israel when, by a chance, a neighbor told me ( I am a teacher by profession) that she was a child survivor of Holocaust and had tried to find her own identity all these years. In 1999, we succeeded in locating her paternal aunt in South America! Through my neighbor, I got to know other child survivors of Holocaust. Some of these survivors were later featured in several Israeli TV documentaries called “Zehut Avuda” (Missing Identity) made by Vered Berman. I have helped with the background research for the documentaries. After the TV programs, Anika Kanter Movchine built the Missing Identity website and has since then been the webmaster. I do most of the research.

    When Colleen contacted the Missing Identity website, we were first doing some regular genealogical research together. Quickly I understood that Colleen had knowledge in so many areas that I don’t. After her detailed research into the story of Michelle Annette, she suggested using DNA to help child survivors, and managed to obtain a few free DNA kits for some of the Missing Identity children. Personally, I have no knowledge of reading the DNA results, but Colleen is not only doing that, but teaching me some as we go along. I had never heard about forensic genealogy before.

    DNA testing was only the first step. Then Colleen located others who had done their DNA tests and were found to be possible second, third or fourth cousins. These were persons who had already built their own family tree, but wanted to see if they could find more relatives through DNA. Colleen wrote to these family researchers to know exactly what they know about their own family trees.

    Will it be possible, through paper work, to find where the child survivor and her/his family fit in these trees?

    Colleen is doing an incredible job making geographical family maps, corresponding with those who may help , sometimes adding to their family trees – in short, I am more and more optimistic about the outcome of some of the riddles we have tried to solve before Colleen came into the picture.

    Thank you Colleen!

    Eva Floersheim,
    Moss, Norway

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s