He Was Killed in the Holocaust. His Family Just Got Back His Book of Scripture.

ATV photo by Heti Naplo
Bela Englman was 13 when he was murdered by Nazis. His name is written several times in a decades-old Book of Exodus that was recently unearthed in his hometown of Bonyhad, Hungary.

Bela Englman arrived at Auschwitz concentration camp on July 9, 1944, in Nazi-occupied Poland. He was murdered in gas chambers that day, along with his mother and sister. He was 13.

Bela’s few family members who survived the Holocaust – including three sisters and a brother – had no record of his existence; no birth certificate or photograph to prove that he was ever even alive. All they had were memories, some too harrowing to think about.

Recently that changed, when one of Bela’s childhood belongings suddenly surfaced about two months ago in the family’s hometown of Bonyhad, Hungary.

ATV photo by Heti Naplo
Dov Forman holds his great-uncle’s book of scripture for the first time, opposite Hungarian antique book collector Zsolt Brauer, with wife Erica.

It was a Book of Exodus that belonged to Bela, his name stamped inside the book of scripture in blue ink next to his neatly written signature.

A Hungarian antique book collector, Zsolt Brauer, bought a box of books from a store in Bonyhad, and it contained the relic. The collector’s son, Teofil Brauer, was browsing through the box of books one day in June when he noticed “Bela Englman” written repeatedly in one book. He recognized the name from a memoir about the Holocaust he had recently read.

Courtesy of Dov Forman
Dov Forman with his 99-year-old great-grandmother, Lily Ebert.

The memoir, “Lily’s Promise,” was written by Holocaust survivor Lily Ebert, 99, and her great-grandson, Dov Forman, 19. The book mentions Ebert’s youngest brother, Bela Englman, and his horrific death.

Ebert and Forman – both of whom live in London – have been chronicling her Holocaust experience on social media since 2021, amassing more than 2.1 million followers on TikTok and nearly a billion views on all platforms. They’ve shared hundreds of videos educating people about the horrors of the Holocaust, as well as other videos celebrating Jewish life.

They started posting on social media amid rising rates of antisemitism around the world – which coincided with the dwindling number of living Holocaust survivors.

“It felt like a matter of utmost urgency,” Forman said.

Teofil Brauer originally heard about Ebert and Forman’s social media presence in a local news report, and decided to read their memoir. Flabbergasted by his finding in June in his father’s stack of books, he decided to reach out to Forman to let him know he believed he had uncovered his great-uncle’s book of scripture.

“He sent me a picture of the book, and straight away, we knew it was Bela’s,” said Forman. “That moment was just incredible.”

When he showed his great-grandmother the photo of Bela’s signature, she was completely stunned. She never expected to find a relic of her brother.

“This is the only link I have to my youngest brother,” said Ebert. “I am so emotional about this book.”

The family communicated with the collector about the best way to get the book back, and they decided that it was far too fragile – and precious – to ship. Instead, Forman and his mother traveled to Bonyhad – which has a population of about 14,000 people – to retrieve the timeworn text on July 16.

ATV photo by Heti Naplo
Dov Forman visiting his great-great-grandfather’s grave in Bonyhad, Hungary.

Holding the book in his hands, Forman said, “was both remarkable and very emotional.”

He traced his fingers over the many doodles and childlike drawings etched on the pages. He stared sorrowfully at his great-uncle’s name, which was stamped – and handwritten – in several places.

Given that he is not much older than Bela was when he was murdered, Forman reflected on “the future that he might have had.” It pained him to think about it.

He and his mother sat with the book collector as they peered over the pages for the first time.

“We are so glad that we can give it to Aunt Lily,” Zsolt Brauer said in Hungarian in a video recording during their meeting. “And we are also speechless.”

In addition to reclaiming the book of scripture, Forman and his mother visited the place where the Englman family home once stood, as well as the grave of Ebert’s father, Ahron Englman.

“My great-grandmother always says her father was lucky to have died before the Hungarian Holocaust,” Forman said.

Ebert’s father died of pneumonia in 1942. Two years later, his wife and five of his six children were deported to Auschwitz.

The other child – a boy – ended up at a slave labor camp and survived. Ebert’s mother, Nina, as well as her brother Bela and sister Berta, were sent to the gas chambers, and she and two other sisters, Renee and Piri, were selected to work in the camp. The three sisters were transferred a few months later to a munitions factory in Altenburg, Germany, where they toiled until they were liberated in 1945.

After the war, Ebert moved to Switzerland with her surviving sisters, and later to Israel, where she married and had three children. The family moved to London in 1967, and Ebert went on to have 10 grandchildren and 36 great-grandchildren – including Forman.

“The Nazis did not win,” Ebert said.

When Forman returned to London with Bela’s Book of Exodus in tow, Ebert was in the hospital, recovering from a broken hip. He brought her brother’s book directly to her. When she saw it, she was moved to tears.

“Receiving this book from my great-grandson, Dov, was so surreal,” said Ebert, who described her brother as a serious and studious young boy, who was deeply devoted to religious studies and proud of his Jewish heritage.

“The fact that Bela’s name is stamped and is also written in his own handwriting is so special,” she said. “I am so happy to have this, 80 years after the Holocaust – the last time I saw Bela.”

Ebert’s extended family is grateful to have the book, too.

“The Nazis destroyed entire families and entire communities. Not only did they destroy the people, but they also destroyed the books and any sign of Jewish life,” Forman said. “The fact that this has survived almost 80 years since is inconceivable.”

Now, Bela Englman’s legacy lives on through more than merely memories. There is a tangible object that not only reinforces his existence, but also his commitment to his Jewish identity and faith.

Although Ebert’s brother did not survive the Holocaust, somehow, a small part of him did.

“This is really a miracle find,” she said.

ATV photo by Heti Naplo
Dov Forman brought his great-grandmother the book while she was in the hospital recovering from a broken hip.