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SEARCHERS: American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing and Information Center Chair Warren Zorek, left, speaks to those assembled inside Edith Schapiro’s home in Wurtsboro regarding Project Search, which helps victims of war find loved ones and receive reparations for damages.

Red Cross' Project Search Has Local Impact

By Dan Hust
WURTSBORO — April 18, 2000 -- For decades, Liberty resident Dorothy Shapiro and her family thought they knew what had happened to her uncle, a Jew caught in France during World War II.
The story had been that he’d been shot by the Nazis while climbing out a window, but a relentless Shapiro, through the help of the American Red Cross, found out the truth one day.
Her uncle had been captured and taken to the infamous concentration camp at Auschwitz, where he died in 1942.
Terrible as his fate may have been – and as difficult as it may also have been for his family to come to terms with that fact – Dorothy Shapiro does not regret learning such information. Indeed, she is extremely grateful to the Red Cross for helping her in her search for truth.
“They delivered the news in person,” she recalled. “That was so thoughtful. In the Jewish faith, it’s important to have closure.”
But Shapiro didn’t stop there. In conjunction with Wurtsboro resident Edith Schapiro (and with the help of Sullivan County Community College’s media department in modifying an existing Red Cross piece on the same subject), she made a video about her search – and the Red Cross is now including it in its regional informational packets and sessions on what is called Project Search.
The video debuted at a gathering of Red Cross supporters Sunday at Schapiro’s home, and none other than Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing and Information Center Chairman Warren Zorek was in attendance.
“I think it’s wonderful what they’re doing,” said Zorek, speaking of Shapiro and Schapiro. “They’re getting the message out to the public.”
Zorek himself spread the message that afternoon to approximately 30 attendees. He shared stories of tearful reunions and tragic endings, of his own life in Germany as a nine-year-old during the Holocaust, and of his subsequent passion for finding out what happened not only to his own loved ones but the millions of others affected by the horrors of that time.
Through the Red Cross – in which he has been a volunteer for 42 years – he has been able to see many of those questions answered – including his own. The Red Cross provided communications between Zorek and his family during the war – until the Nazis killed his family at Auschwitz.
Yet, like Shapiro, it was information he needed to know to have closure, and it’s made him Project Search’s most vociferous proponent.
Perhaps its second most outspoken advocate is Edith Schapiro.
“For thousands of people, the search has brought the solace of learning, after years of uncertainty, what happened to loved ones,” she explained.
Schapiro added that there is no charge for the service, although it takes volunteers and financial contributions to keep it going – a significant amount of both, actually.
“There’s a tremendous amount of interest in Project Search,” remarked the director of the Red Cross’ Sullivan County chapter, Bette Popovich. “We’re just delighted so many people turned out [for Sunday’s presentation].”
During Sunday’s event, those in attendance learned that Project Search not only helps people find out about their loved ones’ fates during the Holocaust (and other wars) but also reunites separated families and obtains documentation to aid the dispossessed in receiving pensions and other reparations for forced labor, evacuation or imprisonment in the concentration camps.
And Dorothy Shapiro is one who considers herself living proof of the program’s success.
“You never know how far-reaching you can be,” said Shapiro. “I’m just privileged to be a part of it.”
For more information on Project Search, call the Sullivan County chapter of the American Red Cross of Greater New York in Mongaup Valley at 583-8340.

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