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Holocaust Survivor Finds Answers through Red Cross
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Douglas Lent
January 17, 2008

In July 1942, at age nine, Rachel Miller’s mother gave her a new name and sent her to live in the French countryside. Three days later, her mother, two brothers and her only sister were taken to Camp Pithiviers, one of the Nazi regime’s "transit camps" where detainees were held before being deported to concentration camps in Germany.

The American Red Cross helped Rachel Miller find answers regarding the death of her brothers during the Holocaust. (Photo: American Red Cross)
The American Red Cross helped Rachel Miller find answers regarding the death of her brothers during the Holocaust.
(Photo: American Red Cross)

Miller never saw her family again.

After the war, Miller emigrated to the United States but was haunted by unanswered questions about whether her relatives might still be alive. Desperate for answers, she contacted her local Red Cross chapter. 

Through the American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center, a national clearinghouse for persons seeking the fates of loved ones missing since the Holocaust and its aftermath, Miller was able to ascertain from German documents not only that her brothers died at the hands of the Nazis, but also the exact date and locations of their deaths as well as specifics about what they experienced during their imprisonment. 

The Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center is unique in that it is the only service that actually traces survivors.  The tracing center receives documentation from the International Tracing Service (ITS), archives throughout Europe and Eastern Europe, as well as through partnerships with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem (Israel's official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust established in 1953), and other museums and agencies.

“As long as you don’t hear anything you always imagine that maybe they’re alive,” Miller says about the results of her Red Cross tracing inquiry. “It was a relief and it was a form of closure.”

Miller was personally guided through the process by Kathy Lass, director of International Services at the St. Louis Area chapter. Lass even delivered her findings in person. Because of the emotional impact this news can have on a person the Red Cross ensures caseworkers, psychologists or psychiatrists are available to those seeking information.  

“It is such a wonderful organization,” Miller says of the Red Cross. “We are so grateful and so appreciative of the information that you get to us and I hope that you will continue to do it for all of us.”

Thanks to the dedicated work of hundreds of American Red Cross volunteers around the country the American Red Cross has reunited 1,300 people thought missing for 60 years or longer. The service has documented the war-time experience of more than 12,000 individuals.

“I know we’re getting older,” Miller says. “But even before we close our eyes we would like to know what happened to our families.”

Survivors needing documentation of internment or information about the fate of missing loved ones can obtain information by contacting their local American Red Cross chapter. Survivors living overseas can contact their national Red Cross society.  In Israel, that society is called Magen David Adom. 

The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.

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