TRUE. The Navratil brothers, Michel Marcel aged three and Edmond Roger aged two, had been taken by their father in a custody kidnapping. Michel Navratil Sr, who was originally from Slovakia but at this time was living in Nice, France, had married an Italian woman, Marcelle Caretto, in 1907 but he separated from her in 1912 over business difficulties and an alleged affair on Marcelle’s part. Marcelle had custody of the children, but Michel kidnapped them during a visit at Easter, planning to take them to America. He travelled to England from France via Monte Carlo, and boarded the Titanic at Southampton.
On board he pretended to be a widower under the name of his friend Louis Hoffmann and kept the boys close, although he once allowed a Swiss passenger, Bertha Lehmann, to look after them while he played a game of cards.
As the Titanic was sinking, Michel and another passenger dressed the boys and took them up on deck, where they were put on board Collapsible D, the last boat to be properly launched. Michel Sr was lost in the sinking.
Michel Jr and Edmond spoke no English, so survivor Margaret Hays, who was fluent in French and had looked after them on the Carpathia, took the boys into her New York home until their relatives could be found. Eventually Marcelle, recognising her sons from newspaper photographs, was brought over to New York by the White Star Line and reunited with them on May 16 1912. The reunited mother and children then sailed back to Europe together on the Oceanic.
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