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What is the DNA Shoah Project ?

written by: smyke•edited by: Paul Arnold•updated: 12/13/2009

An ambitious attempt to construct the biggest DNA database ever created. It's to help identify victims of the Holocaust and reunite Jewish families torn apart during World War II.

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    What is the DNA Shoah project ?

    The DNA Shoah Project started at the University of Arizona with the purpose of reuniting families separated during World War II and identifying unknown Holocaust victims (Shoah is the Hebrew word for Holocaust). The idea is simple: they will take DNA samples from Holocaust survivors and their relatives and pre-war immigrants. The aim is to reunite families, and to provide Shoah orphans with information about their biological families.

    This project was started and is coordinated by Syd Mandelbaum. Mandelbaum is a scientist, who is the child of two Holocaust survivors. The DNA Shoah Project employs techniques that were developed to try and identify the World Trade Center disaster victims, as well as ideas that first came up during the Indian Ocean Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina natural disasters.

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    The Shoah project in numbers

    Six million Jewish people were killed during World War II. Even though two million people were cremated, and so their remains are lost forever, there are still four million graves (including mass burial sites) with unknown people in them. “We hope to find them and then be able to make a Jewish burial and I will be able to say kaddish," the Jewish prayer for the dead," says Joseph Mandlebaum, Syd’s father.

    As well this more than ten thousand orphans are scattered throughout the world, many of them having no idea where their parents were taken or if they survived. The DNA Shoah Project aims to reunite families or at least give these orphans the chance to bury their parents with a proper ceremony.

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    How it works

    The technique for getting the DNA samples is very easy. A kit containing the tools required for a simple cheek swab is sent free of charge to anyone that requires them. All the data and the paperwork can be accessed from the official site, with the guarantee that none of the information will be shared to anyone without consent.

    Time is of the essence with the DNA Shoah Project. The average age of a holocaust survivor is about 80, so each passing day is essential for gathering information.

    The DNA Project has its own website which can be found at

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    Source of Quote

    Online edition of the Jewish Magazine