SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — A Jewish woman who as a baby was hidden from the Nazis in the attic of a Dutch family was reunited in New Zealand with the sons of her rescuers.
Elli Szanowski, now 70, hid for 2 1/2 years in the attic of Johanna and Frits Hakkens’ family home after the Nazis murdered the young baby’s father.
After the war Szanowski was reunited with her mother, who had escaped to Switzerland, and went to live in Argentina. The Hakkens family, who moved to New Zealand in the 1960s, never saw Szanowski again until an emotional reunion Wednesday at Wellington Airport between Szanowski and Marcel and Richard Hakkens, the two sons of Szanowski’s rescuer.
Marcel Hakkens’ wife, Gloria, never gave up the search to find the 18-month-old baby who survived in the attic, according to a report in the Dominion Post. All she had was a sepia-toned photograph.
Visiting the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam three years ago strengthened Gloria Hakkens’ determination. She tried Yad Vashem and other museums without success, but in March 2010 she again contacted Yad Vashem after her grandson saw a movie about the Kindertransport. Israel’s Holocaust museum suggested publishing an advertisement in the Dutch magazine Aanspraak, which is widely read by World War II survivors.
Szanowski’s sister, Leny Radziner, who lives in Los Angeles, saw the ad and knew they were searching for her sister.
"I am still up in the clouds,” the Dominion Post reported Szanowski as saying Wednesday. “I knew about their mother and father, but did not know they had children and grandchildren."