Twin Jack Yufe dies at 82; a Jew separated for years from his ex-Nazi Twin Brother
Twins separated at birth, one growing up Jewish and one growing up in Nazi Germany. The story of Jack Yufe and his brother Oskar Stohl isn’t about their blunt differences, but about the exceptional similarities they share. After being separated for decades and being on the opposite sides of the world, when the two men came together they were surprised to learn how similar they were to each other. They dressed alike, walked alike, and also had the same quirks and personality traits, along with the same love for the same type of food.
Nancy Segal, CSUF Professor of Psychology and Twin Expert, discussed how they are a great example of identical twins and how despite being raised in different environments they ended up being so much alike, which helps fuel the controversy over nature versus nurture. Segal has participated in multiple research regarding twins being reared aparted or separated at birth, one of the famous being the Minnesota research project and another being twin children of Auschwitz – Birkenau. Out of 137 pairs of twins looked at in the Minnesota study, 56 of them were fraternal and 81 were identical. Segal is still actively participating in research regarding twins and is shining light on a subject that a very few think about. As a previous student of Segal, fraternal twin, and biologist, I admire her work she has done and the major implications it has for genetics and overall twins.
Out of the identical twins being researched in Minnesota, Yufe and his brother Stohr were a special case because of how dramatically different their backgrounds were, especially due to the fact one of them was involved in Jewish genocide while his brother was grew up Jewish in another nation. The twins were born in Trinidad in 1933 and were about 6 months old when their parents split up, Oskar went to Germany with his mother who was Catholic, and grew up in the Nazi influenced Germany, and ultimately joined the Hitler Youth Movement. Surprisingly enough Oskar had a dream about shooting and killing his brother in an aerial fight and Jack had the same dream. For Jack, the war seemed more of a distant threat since he was still growing up in Trinidad at the time. When he was about 15 he moved from Trinidad to Venezuela, and then eventually to Israel and joined the Israeli navy. Jack then decided before he would move to the US he would travel to Germany to look for his brother, the twins were 21 when they met for the first time. Peculiarly, the reunion did not go well, due to the language barrier, as well as Oskar being worried about people knowing his Jewish heritage and wanting Jack to hide the luggage tags showing that Jack had come from Israel. One of the most upsetting things they both agreed on was how similar they dressed and looked, which was absurd since they both bought their clothes from different countries. After this encounter, they did not see each other for another 25 years.
They were brought together once again when Jack’s wife, Ona, showed Jack an article about other twins who were separated at birth and just met up and were also surprisingly very similar to one another. These two twins from the articles had become recent subjects of the Minnesota twins study, which intrigued Jack enough to think he and Oskar should also participate.
“I thought it perhaps would be a good idea…to meet in neutral territory to hash out all this, all the hidden feelings,” he recalled in an interview with The Times in 1979.
The excited researchers quickly jumped on the chance to have the twins in their study and they became the 7th set added.
Although meeting for the second time provided the brothers with a better opportunity for getting to know each other, especially through the study, their relationship still never lost its barbed edge. Oskar and Jack both had the same competitive nature and the rivalry between them was very apparent.
“They had an extraordinary love-hate relationship,” said Segal, who wrote about the brothers in her 2005 book “Indivisible by Two: Lives of Extraordinary Twins.”
“They were repelled and fascinated by each other. They could not let go of the twinship,” – Nancy Segal, California State University, Fullerton Psychology Professor
Segal once asked Yufe if he loved his brother. She mentioned from a previous observation that the two spent no more than a month together throughout their whole lives, he replied: “Love each other? We don’t even know if we liked each other.”
What he did know was that he could not blame his brother for the circumstances that put them on opposite sides of World War II and ultimately the discontent they had for each other.
“Children have no say in what they are taught,” he told Segal. “If we had been switched, I would have taken Oskar’s place for sure. It doesn’t bother me, but I’m glad I was not on the other side.”
Oskar died from lung cancer in 1997 in result from working years in the mines. Jack did not attend the funeral, mainly because he was anxious about being painfully reminded of their tumultuous relationship. Jack, died this Monday, November 9, 2015 in San Diego, California from stomach cancer at age 82.