Two black-and-white photographs.
They are the only things that remain from Elvira and Renato Zarfati’s childhood.
The siblings, along with the rest of their Jewish family, spent the German occupation of Rome during World War II in hiding throughout the city, said Elvira Zarfati.
Sometimes they hid inside ruins, sometimes in basements, and other times in sewers.
“We were always moving around, and running around, and hiding. So we couldn’t take any of our belongings,” said 80-year-old Elvira Zarfati.
A couple of months ago, they found their childhood photographs.
“This can’t be me,” she said when she first saw her photo.
The siblings are among the more than 300 Holocaust survivors worldwide who have been identified through their childhood photographs by the Remember Me? project, part of the Washington D.C.-based United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Remember Me? began in 2011 when 1,100 photographs of Jewish children growing up during the Holocaust were posted on a website, http://rememberme.ushmm.org/.
The Zarfatis are the only people so far in South Florida to be identified through the Remember Me? project.
The project is meant to identify the people in the photos, and to record their stories in an attempt to broaden understanding of the Holocaust and preserve the era’s history. Remember Me? has also helped survivors reconnect with loved ones from whom they were separated during the chaos of the war.
“We wanted to document as many of their stories and experiences before it was too late,” said Jude Richter, historian at the museum who also works on the project. “Because this is such a young subset of the survivor population, you are going to have a lot of people who are still within reach.”
The ubiquitous presence of Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites in which photographs are often shared make now an ideal time to launch this project, he said.
Within the first two days of the project’s inception, three survivors saw their photos online and were identified.
“C’est moi,” or “It’s me,” wrote Michel Sztulzaft to the Remember Me? project after he recognized himself in a photograph which depicts a 3- or 4-year-old boy with curly hair and plump cheeks.
Sztulzaft was one of the first people to be identified in the photographs.
As more survivors were interviewed, the title of the project, Remember Me?, took on a new meaning.
“You see these faces looking out through the screen at you asking if you remember them,” said Richter. “But as the survivors are telling their story, they are not asking you to remember them anymore – they are telling you.”
In a way the question mark at the end of the title, turns into an exclamation point, emphasizing the importance of remembering the Holocaust, he said.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum obtained the photographs from a World Jewish Congress collection at The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, Ohio. In addition, some of the project’s photos were obtained from the Greta Fischer collection at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, as well as from the Museum of Jewish Heritage, A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City. .
Browse the pages of the Remember Me? project website, see the faces of the children, then read their stories of survival and loss – told nearly 70 years later.