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Holocaust mystery is solved in Chicago
Haunting picture of boy who survived Nazis inspires researcher to piece together his fate

By Ron Grossman
Tribune staff reporter
Published May 30, 2006

For years, a professor at the University of Amsterdam was haunted by a photograph of a boy dating to the era of the Holocaust. He came across it while researching the fate of the Jewish community of a small Dutch town.

Erik Besseling knew that the child’s parents had perished. But the boy with the youthful mop of hair survived, older townspeople told Besseling.

He was given letters the parents had written from a Nazi concentration camp and a tablecloth that once covered the family’s table.

“I couldn’t stop wondering,” said Besseling, 58. “What happens after the story breaks off?”

Besseling recently discovered the unwritten chapter: The boy is now a 69-year-old Chicago businessman. Adopted by American relatives after the war, Michael Lowenthal had only vague recollections of dinners around the family table in Edam, a picture-book Dutch town where his parents had sought refuge from Hitler’s regime in 1937.