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The Shoah Victims' Names Recovery Project

Connections and Discoveries

Lost and Found

Sioma Slovin (center) with his daughters Talya Taiz (right) and Ilana Shulman; on the table are pieces of silver returned to him thanks to the Central Database of Shoah Victims Names. May 2006Sioma Slovin (center) with his daughters Talya Taiz (right) and Ilana Shulman; on the table are pieces of silver returned to him thanks to the Central Database of Shoah Victims Names. May 2006

“I have just received a phone call from someone in Australia named William Buckingham, who told me he has some silver items belonging to my family. I couldn’t believe my ears. I was the only member of my family to survive.” So related Sioma Slovin of Haifa recently to delighted staff at Yad Vashem’s Hall of Names. Soon after contact between Buckingham and Slovin was established, the items were dutifully returned to their owner — over 60 years after they were entrusted to William’s mother Vera for safekeeping.

Born in Riga, Vera emigrated to Australia with her mother, Salme Krums, in 1949, The women brought with them a great number of personal belongings, including silver utensils. Vera married soon after, bearing three children, the youngest of whom, William, was born in 1958.

Although William had always been aware of the silver, he only noticed some 10 years ago that some of the items were not inscribed with the family initials. “My mother told me that a Jewish family in Riga had given them to her mother Salme during the Nazi occupation, in order to ‘keep them from the hands of those bloody Germans,’” William says. “She explained the items belonged to the Slovin family, from whom she used to buy fabric for clothes. The relationship between the two families had gone beyond that of storeowner and customer; they were also good friends.” William began to make efforts to locate the Slovin family, but his search remained fruitless until Yad Vashem uploaded its Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names onto the Internet. During a search of the online Pages of Testimony, William found a number of Pages submitted by Sioma Slovin for members of his family killed during the Holocaust, and with the help of dedicated staff at the Hall of Names, managed to located his correct contact information.

Sioma Slovin had left Riga in 1935 for Palestine, to study at the Technion in Haifa. When the war broke out, he volunteered for the Jewish Brigade and served on the Libyan front. In 1944, he was sent to the Austrian border, where he helped smuggle Jews into Italy and then on to Palestine. During his service, a family friend told him the fate of his family: “While I was fighting against the Germans, I discovered I was alone in the world, that my entire family had been annihilated in the Holocaust…  Although my world was in ruins, I told myself: ‘I’m going to go on living,’” he recalls.

Slovin received the silver items sent from Australia. Opening the package was an emotional occasion shared by his entire family: “I felt a pang in my heart when I saw the family silver,” he says. “I remembered my decision to survive — my two daughters testify to that promise. Now I can pass on to them a ‘gift’ from my parents’ house.”

“I was delighted to hear that I had found the rightful owner of the silver,” concludes William. “For me, this was the right thing to do — I know it is what Vera would have wanted.”

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