Archive | June, 2018

Working on An Ancestor Mystery

20 Jun

You would think that with my niece’s wedding in two days my sister (the mother of the bride) and I would focus on the wedding. But not us. After a day of running wedding related errands, my sister and niece were putting together a display about our family weddings, when my sister and I got into a mini dispute over a wedding date.

This lead to my sister logging into her ancestory account to check the date, which of course led us into a lengthy look into our family mystery: our paternal grandfather’s family.

Once again we started searching for his family on the census documents and in other areas. We know his birthdate and the names of some of his siblings. And we think we found his family. We knew of six siblings in his family. We are now up to eight in the 1905 census. But there is one brother not yet listed. And we cannot find another census with the family listed. So we honestly do not think this is our family. We need to investigate more.

But that is not our only mystery. Sometimes the documents have all but one child born in the USA. Others show all but one born in a Russia. Some say the father, our great grandfather came in 1880 or earlier. Others say 1890. We know he was born in 1859 and his wife in 1865 we know they married in 1883 and started having children in 1885. The biggest problem is their very common names. If only we could find documents with the original last name of Grau instead of looking for Rosenberg.

We know our great grandfather abandoned the family when our grandpa was about 13. It is now looking as if grandpa might have been a bit older.

The names are so common that we have to be careful we are staying with the right family when we search. And it is difficult and confusing.

In the midst of this research, while I was looking for a post relating to my paternal grandfather’s family, I found a post I put up a while ago of two young girls which was never translated. This lead us down another path and, thanks to a Tracing The Tribe member, connected us to a relative on my maternal grandmother’s family. I need to do a bit more research before I can write about this photo.

But we have found a photo of my grandmother and what looks to be this woman. We know my grandmother visited family in Breslau in 1931, where this woman lived. And we know her mother has the same name of our great grandfather’s sister. So we are pretty sure she, this women murdered in The Shoah, is grandma’s first cousin.

My sister and I love mysteries and searching for our family in Europe. Identifying our family who perished in the Shoah is important to us. We want their names to stay in our memories.

So at my niece’s wedding, I sat with my mother’s first cousin and showed her some of the information. Sometimes she remembers a name or knew someone that my siblings and I never met.

My grandmother left Poland when she was 16 in 1922, while my great aunt stayed until 1936, when she was 22. So she had stronger connections with the extended family in Poland right before the war.

However, with this family member, my cousin had no memory to share. In fact she did not seem to know about the cousins my grandmother visited in Breslau in 1931. However she reminded me that my grandma was 8 years older than her mother.

We have one last link. The Yad Vshem testimony was submitted in 1999. I have a contact name and address. I know the person who submitted it would probably be in her 80s now. But I plan to send her a letter with our information and copies of the three photos I have. Perhaps we can make a connection.

Dragons Must Exist…Well for me

11 Jun

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When I was a teen I became entranced with the series of books by Anne McCaffrey, the Dragonriders of Pern.  I have every single Dragonrider book she wrote, and I have read them more than once.  They delighted me. They made me want to believe that dragons existed in this universe; that they were good; that we could fly on them; and with dragons we could save the world!

My dreams of dragons take me away from the everyday stress and evils.  When politics make me crazy, I think of flying away on a dragon from Pern, saving the world from the threads falling from the red planet.  Communicating solely with my dragon.  Wouldn’t that be fun?

My favorite of her books is “The Girl Who Heard Dragons.”  I so wished that was me!  She could speak and hear all the dragons.  Everyone else could only speak to their specific bonded dragon! The girl who heard dragons was special!  (When Anne McCaffrey passed away in November 2011, I was so sad that the world lost her imagination.)

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Computer Catsastrophies by R. Spangler

Because I love the idea of dragons, I am attracted to art with friendly dragons.  Two local Missouri artists’ works exemplify friendly dragon art.  And their works adorn my home.  Perhaps too much, but their art makes me happy.   The two-dimensional, lithograph works by Randal Spangler can be found on walls in almost every room of my home.  For years, I would buy my husband a Randal Spangler print for his birthday. I know I buy them for my husband, but I love them.  Kind of self-serving!  But he does not mind.

At first, I focused on the series with the astronomer and the libraries.  But over time, I just went for the dragons.  And if there were dragons and cats, even more delectable to me.

His art is fun, delightful and never upsetting.  I always find something new to see in his more intricate and larger works.   Some of my favorites have dragons and fireflies!  So joyful.

When I want to ‘feel’ a dragon, I switch to the clay three-dimensional work by Clay Images artists Melissa and Jim Hogenson.  They call their works, “whimisical designs in stoneware.” Which they are.  I purchased my first one in 1984 at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival.  And I have been buying at least one piece almost every year since then.  Even when I do not go to the festival, my children will take photos of pieces they think I would like. And then they buy them!  They know that we have to make a stop at their booth so that I can look at dragons!

I have also found it possible to contact Clay Images on line and order exactly what I want.  (Yes, I did Like their Facebook page.) It works for me.   In fact, I recently saw two pieces that I must have!

My sculptured dragons stay in the family room, kitchen and front hall of my home.  They stand guard against invaders.  And they cheer me up.  I loved the one I got last summer.  My children went to the Renaissance festival and brought home: Eclipse, a dragon wearing special eclipse sunglasses.  I saw the eclipse in Wyoming.  It would have been fantastic to have a dragon with me! Can you imagine flying over the tops of the Grand Tetons as the eclipse began to cover the world in darkness.  It would be like a scene out of a Dragonrider of Pern novel!  WOW!

Among my favorite pieces are a dragon cookie jar, two lamps and my wizards. Because I crochet and knit, my children also made sure I had dragon yarn holders.  I have two different ones that I keep together when I am not using them.  I have useful pieces like mugs and the cookie jar, but I also have ones that are just fun to look at!

Over the years I have watched a few dragon related movies and read other dragon books.  Disney’s Pete’s Dragon is fun.  While Smaug, the dragon, in the Lord of the Rings is quite scary and mean.  I loved the somewhat helpful dragon, Mushu, in Mulan.  Of course, the lovesick Dragon in Shrek saved the day, as do my imaginary dragons. And I sort of smiled through the How to Train Your Dragon books. I was scared by the dragons in the Harry Potter series and petrified of the two-headed dragon in Willow (one of my favorite movies!).  I know I need to see the animated movie Spirited Away, to see Haku, the river spirit. My son is a great fan of the animation artist, Hayao Miyazaki.

In my work space, above my computer, is a Spangler print called “Computer Catastrophies.”  Although my desk does not look exactly like that, the print gives me inspiration and joy. As do all my dragons.  On the wall to the right of my desk is Spangler’s “Science Fiction Shelf,” which depicts dragons and science fiction books.  Some of my favorite books are listed, but unfortunately, he did not put any Dragonrider books on this imaginary shelf.  That would have made it perfect.

I believe you are only as old as you feel. And with my dragon art and books in my home, I still feel quite young!  Because with them here, I can believe that dragons must exist!

Clay Images

Randal Spangler

The Sorrow of Shalom Hollanders

7 Jun

In my blog “Murdered in Belzec” I wrote about Shalom Hollander, the relative who put in the information about my great grandparents and great uncle on the Yad VeShem datebase.  I had met him in 1976. when I was 20 years old in Israel, when took my Grandmother to Israel to see her brother (See blog link below).

After I found those three names, I decided I needed to see if Shalom entered other names on the Yad VeShem website, since I could only find one of my grandfather’s siblings.  I did an advance search using only Shalom’s name as the one who put in the testimonies.  About 45 names showed up.  After going through all of them, I realized that he had duplicated some names.  Mainly his own children.  So in reality there were probably 40 names of people that were somehow related to me, of these 18 were children.

And although I was looking for my grandfather’s siblings and their children, finding these three families and their children touched my heart.  They were also my family.

Among the many names were his wife and his five children.  With this information I found out how he was closely related to me.  His wife, Cerla or Tzira Feuer, was my great grandfather’s niece and so my grandfather’s first cousin.  She was 38 when she was murdered.  (I knew two of her brothers who survived the Shoah, one settled in Montana of all places and one in England. Another brother also survived.)

Shalom’s children were:  Elish (Ptakhia), 11 years old when murdered in Auschwitz; Etla, seven years old when murdered at Auschwitz; Mordechai, five years old when murdered at Auschwitz; Gital Tila, four years old when murdered at Auschwitz; Ita, two years old when murdered in Auschwitz.  They all were murdered in August 1943.

Before they were murdered at the camp, they lived in the Tarnow Ghetto.  What a horrible short life they lived.

In the earlier blog I wrote that I thought he had no family in Israel.  I now know why.  All of these deaths.

But it doesn’t stop there.

His sister also perished: Chaja/Serka/Khala Holander Viner/Wiener also died.  I like how he gave all the names she used.  She died in Belzec.  Also dying was her husband: Pinchas Viner/Wiener. He died in a different camp, Plaszow Camp, which was first a slave labor camp. Then a death camp.

It doesn’t stop there because his parents Mordechai and Tova also perished in the Shoah.  They died on September 3, 1943, in Beredechow, Ropczyce, Krakow.  I wonder what happened that day?  Why were they both murdered then?  I tried seeing if such a date was important in some way, but could not find anything.  But I guess it was important because Mordechai and Tova were murdered that day.

His father was related to my great grandmother, an Amsterdam. But Shalom chose to use his mother’s maiden name. Or perhaps his parents never had a civil marriage as what happened to many Jewish couples in Galicia, so he had his mother’s name.

I am looking back at my 20 year old self in horror.  I remember spending several hours with Shalom and my grandmother.  We had a meal or drink together in a restaurant.  We walked around for a while as my Grandma talked to him.  I remember being a bit annoyed because I had to take Grandma by bus to a place I really did not know so well to meet him. I think it was in Haifa.  I knew Tel Aviv much better.
I still remember what he looked like.  He was relatively tall for an ‘old man.’ Probably in his mid-70s.  He had the look of my grandfather, but not as much as another relative I had met.

They spoke in Yiddish.  I tuned it out.  I was so exhausted from all the Holocaust memories I had been listening to during that four-week trip.   Can a person have delayed Jewish guilt?  Can those memories really cause so much sorrow to me now?

They do.   I went back to Israel a year later and spent over three months. But I did not go to see him again.  Other survivors who I knew, I did see. But not Shalom.

I cannot imagine what losing all those people he loved did to him.  I cannot imagine what sorrow he carried with him.   I knew another of my grandfather’s relatives who survived. I wondered if they knew each other.  Now I know that they did.  Although Ziesel and Shalom were both related to my grandfather from different sides of his family, they married into his close family by married sisters, his two first cousins.

I do remember a bit of that visit with Shalom.  I remember Grandma telling me that this visit would be different, that I would be meeting one of Grandpa’s relatives, not one of hers. And that she did not know him very well.  I remember the overwhelming sense of pain that came from him while they spoke.  My grandmother spoke to him in a way I had never heard before.  With him she was so gentle.  Almost whispering to him as they conversed.  Easing the words out of him.

I remember Grandma and me being exhausted after this visit.  I remember Grandma went to bed as soon as we returned to the hotel.  It really was too much to comprehend.  Too much sorrow.  So maybe I just let myself forget.

Now, as an adult,  I realize that I must remember Shalom and his wife Tzira; his children Elish, Etla, Mordechai, Gital and Ita; his sister Chaja and her husband, Pinchas; his parents Mordechai and Tova.  May their names be a blessing, may I use this blog to keep their memories alive.  Baruch Dayan haEmet.

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/05/murdered-in-belzec/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/05/01/zysel-ziesel-feuer-survivor/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/04/28/speaking-yiddish-always-brings-me-holocaust-memories/

https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mielec

Murdered In Belzec

5 Jun

I have not gone to the Yad Veshem website in years.  I already had all the information about my great grandparents.  But in writing about a mystery cousin, several people suggested I go see if he was listed at Yad VeShem.  He is not.  So I will assume he survived, (optimistic I know) and look elsewhere. (See blog below.)

However, the website looked so different, I decided to look at my great grandparents again. I knew that there was an entry for both of them. But when I first saw it, I could not read much of it.  Now it is all translated into English. More important, it was put up by a survivor, a cousin, someone I met in Israel in 1976 with my grandmother: Shalom Hollander.

I had not seen his name in 42 years.  When we met, in Haifa or Tel Aviv, Grandma and Shalom only spoke in Yiddish.  And at the time, although I did understand some of what they said, I did not really pay attention.  I heard so many holocaust stories when I was with grandma that month, and I was just 20.  (See link blog below.)

It has been many years since I last looked at the listing in Yad VeShem.   Besides their updated website, I have been on a mission to record what has happened to my family.

Recently I listened to an audio tape made by my grandfather in 1981.  I had it made into a cd earlier this year. (See link below.) In it he talks about the village where he grew up.  We always thought it was in Mielec.  Which it was to a degree, but it was actually in a small village near Mielec called Trzciana.

We knew that my great grandmother, Chava, was killed near her home. That she had been hidden and did not go to the concentration camps.  The Yad VeShem records confirm that she was murdered in Mielec/Trzciana.

I did not know which concentration camp my family had perished. I only knew that they had all died.   However the testimony provided by Shalom Hollander is clear.  They were murdered in Belzec.  I am not so sure I am happy about that. But I now know that is where Gimple Feuer, my great grandfather died.

In Belzec approximately 500,000 Jews were murdered. Nazis were killing people at Belzec for nine and a half months.  Thus, I now also know that my family was murdered between March 17 to December 1942.  But at Belzec the Nazis not only murdered and buried my family, when the war was near the end, the Nazis secretly dug up their bodies and burned them.   Most depressing is that of all the Jews who were sent to Belzec only seven survived according to Wikipedia.

In the past I have also tried to find any reference to my grandfather’s siblings.  My biggest problem is that I do not know his sisters’ married names.  However, the most amazing aspect of going to the Yad Veshem datebase this time is that I found one of my Grandpa’s siblings: Shimon. Born in 1910.  Single.  A merchant.  Murdered in Belzec.  I knew all my grandfather’s siblings died. But I never saw it in writing before: Murdered in Belzec.

Shalom also did the records for his own parents.  Mordechai Amsterdam, a cousin of my great grandma; and Tova (Tauba) Holander Amsterdam.  His parents were probably cousins as well, as we were all related: Amsterdam, Feuer, Hollander, Brenner.

But there it is.  Murdered in Belzec.  No one is named for Shimon.   I do not think Shalom Hollander had a family.  Or at least I did not meet them in Israel.  I guess my next job is to search for any of Shalom’s descendants.

I am still stuck on those three words.  Murdered in Belzec.

Thanks to Tracing the Tribe members for their suggestions, especially Amy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Be%C5%82%C5%BCec_extermination_camp

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/04/the-mystery-of-abraham-prantki/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/05/15/my-grandpas-voice-can-still-be-heard/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/05/01/zysel-ziesel-feuer-survivor/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/04/28/speaking-yiddish-always-brings-me-holocaust-memories/

The Mystery of Abraham Prantki

4 Jun

As I search through the photo album we found hidden in my grandparent’s attic, I am still finding mysteries and photos of people who were never identified.  But this time, I found one, or should I say two, that were different.

I found two copies of the same photo postcard sent in 1923.  The young man identifies himself as Abraham Prantki.  The cards are made out to my grandmother and to her Aunt Gussie. They say the same thing, “For friendly memories I send my picture to… “

So now the questions.  He sends the one to Tante Gussie, I think.  It might say Tante Sunia?  But the last name is the name of my great-great aunt.  I am assuming that is who he meant? Maybe?

Is he really her nephew, and my grandma’s cousin?  If so then he would be from my great grandfather’s side.  He had five sisters.  I know the descendants of two of them.  However, they were from Poland. So why is this postcard written in German?  But then, they must have read German if that is the language he wrote to them in.  Actually,  my grandmother was well educated. She spoke and read several languages.

The other odd thing… on the top right of the photo addressed to the Tante, there is writing in another handwriting. I have no idea what that says.

I would love to claim him and put him somewhere on my family tree.  He looks a bit like my grandmother’s family. Like he could be related.  But it is just too nebulous.  What do you think?  A first cousin?  A border?  A relative?  Or just a friend?

And then the date, 1923.  My grandmother had been in the USA just a year.  She was 17 and living with her Aunt Gussie.  She married my grandfather in 1925.  So I have to ask, did Abraham Prantki survive?

So many questions.  I might know his name, but I still do not know who he is and what happened to him.

(Thank you to a member of Tracing the Tribe who translated the German on the postcards for me.  Update with more translations:  It seems he did address the one postcard to his cousin and the other to his aunt.  So I say YES a cousin.  I now know that his mother was one of three women, maiden name either Sura Szenk, Esther Szenk or Leba Szenk.  I will check Yad VShem.  Thank you all!)

These two previous posts discuss my grandmother’s family.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/05/29/grandma-thelma-knows-what-she-knows/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/04/28/speaking-yiddish-always-brings-me-holocaust-memories/