Holocaust Survivor Discovers Long-Lost Cousin After 80 Years

Ann Meddin Hellman had pretty much given up on finding out more about her dad’s family, thinking she lost them all during the Holocaust. But then, about five months ago, she found out she has an 83-year-old second cousin and Holocaust survivor in Israel.

“We knew his family was wiped out in the Holocaust,” the South Carolina mom and grandma told NBC News. “That’s been the family story I heard forever.” Thanks to a MyHeritage DNA test, she found Shalom Koray and learned about his tough survival story, adding a new chapter to their family history.

“We would have never found him,” she said. “No way I could have looked him up in a phone book or found him any other way. … I bet there would have been no other way besides DNA.”

Koray, who moved to Israel in 1949, was found abandoned in a potato sack in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941 at 2 years old. Lena Küchler-Silberman, a well-known Jewish teacher and psychologist, saved him and around 100 other kids during the war. Now, more than three-quarters of a century later, a researcher digging into the history of those kids got Koray to take a DNA test, and Hellman got a second cousin alert.

“That’s pretty high up for not knowing who this person is. That’s a close relation,” she said. Hellman screamed when she heard about the discovery.

“My brother [Stuart] looked just like him,” she said. “He is definitely a Meddin.”

The plan is for them to meet in person, along with a bunch of other family members, this summer in Charleston. In a MyHeritage video, Koray said, “I was born into this reality and never knew anything else. I didn’t even know the concept of parents.” Now, Hellman is promising “the biggest hug” when they all get together, defying the odds that once seemed impossible.

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