My name is Renee Balaban and my parents are survivors: My mother is Suzanne Katz Balaban who lives with me. My father, Maximillian Balaban is deceased, Both were born in Vienna, Austria. My grandparents both deceased were: My grandmother, Johanna Diamant Katz born in Kravsco, Czechoslovakia married my grandfather Paul Katz born in Poland and lived in Vienna, Austria before moving to America in 1938. My mother has a sister, Ruth Katz Ellinger who married Maron Ellinger and they live in Florida.

We lost approx. 95% of our family in the Holocaust. They lived in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Austria. My sisters and I are the first generation born in America.

I would like to tell you a story. Approx.17 years ago when my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, my sisters, neice and I took them back to Vienna, Austria. We arrived in Zurich and travelled around until we reached Vienna. I asked to see a concentration camp and we visited Mauthausen. My mother carried with her an old telephone number of my grandmother’s cousin who married someone not Jewish in order to save herself. Without going into a long story, it took a few days until someone picked up the telephone to tell us that my grandmother’s cousin lived in another apartment and gave us her telephone number. We were able to make contact with her and found a new part of our family who are not Jewish. Over the last 17 years we have become close to them and my sister and their son decided that we should try to find family descendants of my grandmother’s grandmother whose last name was “Sofer” and have a family reunion.

In July, 2005 we had a family reunion in the Austrian Alps. Those who gathered came from Israel, Austria, The Czech Republic, and America. We found relatives in Chile but they were not able to attend. The ironic thing is that the Americans are Jewish, as are the Israelis. The older generation from the Czech Republic are still Jewish, the next generation are Christians, and the third generation are mixed Jewish & Christian. The Chilean older generation is Jewish and everyone else Christian. The Austrians are all Christian. From having only a few family members, we now have become a larger family.

The 2005 Family Reunion was an opportunity to listen to the older generation telling us their stories as a young person through the holocaust and up to today. The next generation was able to learn about each other and their families. Not many of the third generation joined us at the family reunion but those who did left ready to tell the others that they need to be part of the next one. We had planned the next Family Reunion in May 2007 but many people asked to have it cancelled because of the situation now. Some of us will travel to Israel anyway in May to see family and travel around the country showing our supportl. My mother, sisters and I have been to Israel numerous times and loved it.

Renee Balaban