Searching For Agi

Categories: Blog, Reading Room

Vera Spitz Herz (left) and her friend Agnes Kohn Helfman, reunited after more than fifty years.
Vera Spitz Herz (left) and her friend Agnes Kohn Helfman, reunited after more than fifty years.

By: HMC Editorial Staff – 

Vera Spitz Herz last saw her childhood friend Agnes Kohn in a Displaced Persons camp in 1947. They had been school chums in Debrecen, Hungary, when the Germans came and took them from their homes. Vera and her family had miraculously survived as slave laborers. Agnes had endured Auschwitz and was the sole survivor of her family. Both girls eventually moved to America and began new lives, losing track of each other.

But Vera never forgot Agnes. When she discovered through an acquaintance that Agnes was living in the Detroit area, her search began. With a locality on which to focus, Vera, from the Chicago area, contacted a detective agency, which put information about Agnes on the Internet. No response. Vera sent money and a plea to another detective who advertised on television. No response. She called the Shoah Foundation, but they could not help her. She put an ad in Detroit’s Jewish News and again received no response. Then she called the Holocaust Memorial Center.

Feiga Weiss, head librarian at the HMC Library and Archives, called Agi Rubin, a survivor speaker at the HMC, thinking she might be Vera’s Agnes. She wasn’t, but she knew that Agnes Kohn had moved to Florida and provided Agnes’ married name. With this information Feiga found Agnes’ son in the Detroit area. He in turn called his mother and told her of Vera’s search.

Agnes called Vera and fifty years of separation melted away. “Finding Agi after all these years means the world to me,” said Vera. “As we get older, people who shared our history, our youth, mean ever more to us.” For her part, Agnes was “stunned.” The women have visited each other and now talk regularly. “We’re more like family,” Agnes remarked. Agi Rubin, so instrumental in uniting the two friends, said that “we search for roots all our lives and when we find them, it is a wonderful thing.”

The library has numerous registers listing survivors, as well as thousands of volumes describing the Holocaust and its aftermath. The International Tracing Service is the most authoritative source for location and documenting persons, but at times written sources in combination with personal contacts work more efficiently. In the case of Vera and Agnes, the staff was delighted to be the vehicle through which these friends were united. The public is always welcome to use our resources and the staff is always happy to be of assistance.

This article is from the Spring 1997 Newsletter from the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus.