A Memorial and a Name: Recovering the Missing Names

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Monday, March 2, 2020


In Jerusalem Yad Vashem, the museum and memorial for the Jewish people who were killed in the Holocaust has a goal of giving a name to all 6 million Jews killed. To this day, approximately 4.8 million names are archived in Yad Vashem. It seems unlikely that all names will be archived especially as survivors are passing away regularly and may not have been old enough to really remember much at the time. A new approach may be what’s needed to bring this figure up.

On April 1 of 1988, eight year old April Tinsley was enjoying a Friday afternoon playing with her friends when it began to rain and she ran to retrieve an umbrella. Tinsley would never return to her friends and her mother would report her as a missing child later that day. A search comprising of 300 people would gather in search of her but she would not be found for 3 days until a jogger spots her lifeless body on the side of a highway. Her autopsy would reveal that she had been sexually molested and strangled. 

The monster who took her life didn’t stop there he continually taunted law enforcement as they searched for him. Buildings would be vandalized by the killer as he bragged about what he had done, even going as far as leaving pictures of his genitals accompanied by used condoms and notes on the bikes of little girls. It wouldn’t be until 2018, three decades later that John Miller would be charged with the crimes and would plead guilty to just months later. After all this time and after the case went ice cold with no leads Miller was found when his DNA which never had a match in any database was analyzed and compared to that which was submitted to genealogy sites such as 23 and Me and Ancestry.

April Tinsley’s killer isn’t the first person to be discovered this way and will certainly not be the last. Recently the Golden State Killer a man responsible for 13 murders, 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries starting in 1974 was captured in a similar manner. Modern advancements in DNA research has also exonerated some those wrongfully convicted who have gone on to live fulfilled lives. There is also the DNA Doe Project which is leading the charge to give a name to the Joe and Jane Does of the world how have all but been forgotten. 

In the last year Yad Vashem has taken an important first step in utilizing these new scientific advancements, as they partnered with Ancestry.com to digitize hundreds of their records so that anyone with Jewish ancestry can look up, or discover new ancestors that were unknown and possibly give them a name. This has also lead to people being discovered when they were presumed dead. Last year, cousins Moni Sana and Simon Phippen were reunited after being separated for decades, each assuming the other had died. Simon Phippen discovered Yad Vashem had listed him as deceased when she was alive and well. 

It may not be in our lifetime, truly it may not be anytime soon but there is still hope that every victim of the Holocaust will be given the memorial and name they deserve and which was promised in Isaiah 56.

Emilio Avelar is a 20-year-old college student pursuing a BAS in Aeronautical Sciences. He hopes to help spread conservatism on campus to people in his age demographic.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Emilio Avelar

Green River College

Emilio Avelar is a 20-year-old college student pursuing a BAS in Aeronautical Sciences. He hopes to help spread conservatism on campus to people in his age demographic.

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