Holocaust stories pieced together with photos

This is a remarkable story of one of the enduring tragedies of the Holocaust: the shattering of so many families. Parents, brothers and sisters vanished -- their fates unknown.

Seven decades later, as CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason reports, there's now an effort to piece together the stories before they're lost forever.

Pulled from the archives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington are photos of children -- more than 1,100 of them who were orphaned or displaced by the Nazi persecution.

These portraits were taken by aid workers trying to reunite the children with surviving families.

"Most of them were in hiding during the war and after the war, they were put into children's homes all over Europe," said Lisa Yavnai, who heads a new project called "Remember Me."

The museum has posted the pictures on its website in hopes of finding out what happened to all of these children.

"There's a story behind every one of these pictures," Mason commented.

"Every one, there's a story," said Yavnai.

Website puts Holocaust victims' records online

Albert Reingewirtz, now living outside Philadelphia, stumbled on his own picture on the website. It was a photograph of him as an 11-year-old that was taken at a French orphanage in 1947. After the war, an American family wanted to adopt him.

"You didn't want to be adopted?" asked Mason.

"I didn't want to be adopted," said Reingewirtz. "I was waiting for my parents."

"You believed they were going to come back?"

"I was hoping they would come back."

Reigewirtz's parents, Nachman and Sarah, were arrested in 1942 by the Gestapo and French police respectively.

"I'll never forget those steps, going up the stairs," recalled Reingewirtz, "There was a knock on the door. My heart was exploding."

"Did you understand what was happening?" asked Mason.

"Of course I understood! Of course. They were taking away my mother!"

His father lasted four months at Auschwitz. His mother was listed "dead on arrival." Only recently did Reigerwirtz discover what that meant.

"So what you found out was that they sent her straight to the gas chamber?" Mason asked.

"That's right," said Reigerwirtz.

"How can it feel to be finding out these things now?"

"It's so horrible. You have no idea. At night, I wake up...and that's it, no more sleeping."

The Holocaust Memorial Museum is slowly learning more and more of these stories. Already more than 230 survivors have been identified and interviewed.

After the war -- Albert Reingewirtz was raised by surviving relatives. He moved to America in 1967. For years he resisted speaking up until now.

"It is my duty," he said. "I have to speak, I have to."

  • Anthony Mason

    CBS News senior business and economics correspondent; Co-host, "CBS This Morning: Saturday"

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