She said that he personally gave her the images in October in New York, calling it 'incredible' that he took it upon himself to do this kind thing.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on December 7, 2022. It has since been updated.
Blanche Fixler avoided being killed in the Holocaust because her aunt placed her in an orphanage when she was six years old during the Nazi invasion of Europe. According to The Washington Post, her father ended up in a labor camp in Siberia, while her mother, grandmother and two elder siblings were murdered along with 450,000 other Jews at the Belzec extermination camp in Poland. Since her family's flat was ransacked by the Nazis, Fixler assumed all of her family mementos were long lost. After moving to the United States following the war, Fixler—who is 86 years old and resides in New York—spent years wishing she had pictures from her childhood.
Then one day, she got a call from Daniel Patt, a Google software engineer and the creator of the website From Numbers to Names. The website uses artificial intelligence to track old photos of loved ones and kin who perished during the Holocaust. He informed Fixler that two group pictures from her childhood in France had been discovered. One of the pictures, which was shot just after the war ended, also featured her aunt and two cousins. "It meant more than you could imagine," she stated, adding that he personally delivered the images to her in New York. "It was incredible that he took it upon himself to do this kind thing."
Patt looked online for pictures of Fixler after seeing a post on Twitter from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about her that featured an old photo of her with her aunt. He then tracked her phone number and contacted her to inform her of his discovery. She confirmed they were her family when he showed her the photos.
To Bronia Bruenner, her Aunt Rosa was “the aunt that was my savior.” Living under a false name in Kraków, Rosa undertook great risk by hiding her niece from the Nazis. She was later able to ensure Bronia’s escape from German-occupied Poland. Both Rosa and Bronia survived the war. pic.twitter.com/if83NVnlT1— US Holocaust Museum (@HolocaustMuseum) July 26, 2022
It was a 2016 trip to the POLIN Jewish history museum in Poland—the country of Patt's ancestors—that inspired him to create From Numbers to Names. "Three of my grandparents are Holocaust survivors," he said. "And to the best of our knowledge, my great-grandfather was locked in a synagogue and burned alive by the Nazis." Patt explained that he couldn't help but wonder about the faces in the photos that covered the museum walls, featuring Jewish families whose lives were torn apart by the Nazi regime. In April 2021, he launched From Numbers to Names and started downloading pictures he found online from Holocaust museum collections. He revealed that he intends to add additional archives to the site when they become accessible, adding that "it's simple to use and it's free".
AI reunites Holocaust survivor with childhood photos https://t.co/ahzk0WppgO— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) November 12, 2022
Fixler shared that the only reason she survived the Holocaust was because of her aunt, Rosa Berger. Before the landlady of their flat informed German authorities that she believed Berger was hiding a Jewish child, she stayed with her aunt outside of Krakow.
"My aunt had beautiful blond hair and spoke good German, so they didn't bother her," she said. "But people wondered about me all the time." Numerous times, Nazi soldiers searched Berger's flat, but she always managed to hide Fixler.
"She would make the bed up nice and straight, then put another bedspread on top and I would lie there under the board, quiet as a mouse. I told myself, 'If you breathe or sneeze or cough, you are dead,'" Fixler recalled. She was moved between orphanages in Poland, Hungary and France when her Aunt Rosa felt the situation had become too dangerous for them.
Fixler's aunt, who had given birth during the war, spent some time living with her in an orphanage outside of Paris. "I had an instinct to live and I was not bitter from the war," Fixler said, adding that her father eventually reunited with her and they moved to America. In one image found during Patt's investigation, Fixler is seen at a camp for refugees in Barbizon, France, following World War II. "I'm very grateful to Daniel to have more photos from this period of my life," she said.