Holocaust survivor returns to home of family who hid and saved him 80 years later
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Featured Image Credit: MyHeritage
David Rossler was just one year old when WW2 started in 1939, and if it weren't for the generosity of one family from Belgium, he may not have lived to see the end of it.
The Holocaust survivor, who was born Daniel Langa, lived with his family in Brussels when the Nazis began persecuting Jews.
Hear more about David's story below:
The family moved several times to try and avoid capture, but at one point, David's father and uncle were arrested, and never returned. They were later determined to have been among the millions of Jews murdered in a concentration camp.
David and his mother were taken in by the Catholic convent in Brussels, but they lost their safe haven when the convent was raided.
But thanks to the brave actions of the Mother Superior, the family members managed to escape, and it was then they were taken in by the Bourlet family: father Georges, and his four young adult children, Paul, Jacques, Anne-Marie, and Christiane.
As the Nazis continued their raids throughout 1944, David and his mother remained hidden in the Bourlet family home in Auderghem in Brussels.
Later, David reflected on how Georges was afraid of being caught and denounced towards the end of the war. To help avoid capture, he quietly feigned sickness to his employer and spent his days avoiding attention in a nearby cafe.
Thanks to the generosity and risks of the Bourlet family, David and his mother survived the war and were able to continue their lives.
David's mother remarried, and David went on to welcome two sons and multiple grandchildren.
One of David's sons, Lionel, commented: "Because of his heroic action, Georges was able to save the lives of my father and grandmother. Nine people were saved thanks to what he did; my brother, myself, and our children would not be here today if not for his courage and kindness."
After the war, David and his mother lost touch with the Bourlet family, but as he learned about Georges' courage, Lionel became determined to find the family who had saved his father and grandmother.
He tried for years to track down living members of the Bourlet family, but with no luck.
Determined not to give up, Lionel decided to resort to social media. In January 2022, he posted a message on Facebook which read: “I am looking for the descendants of the family Bourlet (…) This family was composed of the father, two daughters, and two sons…”
Amazingly, the post caught the attention of Marie Cappart, a renowned Belgian genealogist and the Country Manager for the global family history site MyHeritage.com in Belgium.
Marie got in touch with Lionel, saying she thought she could help him.
Speaking to UNILAD about her decision to help, Marie said: "I really felt for David's story and also the fact that it was a race against time to fulfil his last wish to find the family.
"David is really poorly and I didn't know how much time I had in front of me, so I knew I had to get straight to work. While I couldn't make any promises, I felt I could help as I knew the wealth of information MyHeritage makes available in its online historical records collection.
"By a sad twist of fate, my own mother sadly passed away last month and she was also very poorly and I could so relate to Lionel. Both my husband and I lost family members during the Holocaust and I felt it was a way to pay tribute and pay forward the support our families received."
The genealogist set about browsing records and cross-referencing data, and she managed to find an Anne-Marie Bourlet, born in Auderghem in 1929.
Marie discovered that this Anne-Marie had married someone with the surname Dedoncker, with who she welcomed five children. More research led her to Xavier, one of Georges Bourlet’s grandsons.
Marie managed to contact Xavier, who knew a little about the Holocaust survivors his grandfather had hidden in his home all those years earlier.
She was then able to get in touch with other descendants of Georges, including some who still owned the family home in Auderghem where Georges hid David and his mother.
Amazed by the discoveries, members of the respective families decided to reunite at the Auderghem home.
With the help of MyHeritage, Lionel was able to accompany David as he returned to the home that saved his life for the first time since the war ended.
Footage caught the moment David returned to the home, where he met Georges' relatives including his granddaughter Christine.
Christine told UNILAD that the family feels 'great pride' for Georges, adding: "We were very emotional to have met David and Lionel and the family, who, thanks to the courage of my grandfather and despite all the anguish he must have felt for his own family, helped David and his mother to live and avoid the camps for a little boy.
"That commands a great deal of respect. The extra great joy of having found cousins thanks to Marie Cappart's beautiful action of this reunion has only added to this precious experience."
Lionel agreed that the entire day was 'incredibly emotional' as he got to see with his own eyes the place where his father was hidden and kept safe during the war.
"My father returned to the place where his life was saved for the first time in almost 80 years, and had the incredible opportunity to personally thank the descendants of his rescuer for all they did for him and for us," Lionel said.
"In Jewish tradition, there is a saying that “He who saves one life saves all of humanity”; Georges Bourlet saved humanity nine times over.
"It was a day I will never forget, and I am very grateful to Marie and to MyHeritage for making it possible," he added.
After his search for the Bourlet family reached its end, Lionel stressed how important it is that younger generations hear stories like David's and 'understand that there must be no more hate and no more war'.
"The cost of war, as he experienced it, was too great. We hope and pray that this message will be heard, for the sake of all those still suffering from violence," Lionel said.
Maria also stressed the importance of sharing David's story, saying: "I hope this event inspires others to never lose hope. Where there is a will, there is a way."
Lionel and his family now plan to submit testimony to Yad Vashem: The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, in the hope that Georges will be recognised for his heroism and granted the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
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