Then, at about age 6 or 8, a carefree childhood ends and life becomes a story of horror and deliverance. Germans massacre his family and he flees into the woods where he endures a bitter winter. He is captured by Latvian soldiers sent by the Germans to kill Jews. They dress him in uniform, make him their mascot and protect him for the rest of World War II, apparently unaware he is Jewish.
After the war he immigrates to Australia. He forgets his mother tongue, hometown and real name and becomes a Melbourne suburbanite. Finally he sets out to rediscover his identity, but finds more pain than answers. Now grey-haired and in his 70s (he is still unsure of his age), he tells his story in a book, The Mascot, written by his son and published this month in the United States. But still the search is incomplete.
His quest has led him to Dzerzhinsk, a village in Belarus, which he has visited four times and come to believe is his real birthplace. Here lies the mass grave from the 1941 massacre of 1,000 to nearly 2,000 Jews. It has never been exhumed, but he thinks his mother, brother and sister are buried in it.
Text and Images: Associated Press