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How The KinderTransport Touched My Family

5 Nov

I have always been intrigued by the KinderTransport that saved 10,000 Jewish children during the Shoah as they were transported out of Nazi territory and on to England by train and then across the English Channel.  In my mind I imagined the heaviness of heart of the parents as they put their children’s safety first and sent them to live in a foreign country with people they did not know.  What brave parents they were to know they might not survive, but to give their children a chance no matter the peril!

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My interest sparked me to read books about these trains.  And even brought my attention to the orphan trains that brought children from the east coast out to the middle of the country on Orphan Trains. In my mind the two were linked together.  The KinderTransport children were not yet orphans, but many would be by the end of the war.  The Orphan Train children were often in orphanages or living on the streets when they were sent away.

But I did not know of anyone who actually rode the trains to a new life brining the children to safety away from the horrors of Europe, except for a man I met on a cruise several years ago.  (See blog below.)

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The sisters,  Martha and Rosa, who I now know survived thanks to the KinderTransport.

However, recently that all changed.  I now know that two of my relatives survived the Shoah when their parents put them on a train to England from Breslau, Germany.  Their mother was my grandmother’s first cousin.  These two girls were around the age of my mother, their second cousin. Except for a photo I found and wrote about, we would not have known about the sisters.

Their mother, Celia, perished in the Shoah.  I thought they had as well.  All I had was a photo of two girls and a brief inscription on the back.  But from that inscription, I was able to find out that at least one of the girls survived.  I did not know how she survived, but I knew she lived and wrote a Yad V’Shem testimony for her mother.  From little information I had,  I wrote a blog (see below) about a year ago, wanting to know more.

Recently that blog was read by someone in England, who gave me the news that both girls had survived and had come to England on the KinderTransport.  That one girl, Martha, had lived with this person’s in-laws during the war. The families had been in touch until Martha’s death.

Now I have new wonders.  Did my grandmother know that her cousin’s children had survived?  Did anyone know?  The testimony was not written until 1999 from Australia.  So perhaps not.  Perhaps the sisters had been lost to the family forever because of the Shoah. I think this is a question that will never have an answer as anyone who might have known is long gone.

I wish I knew more.  I have reached out to the person who contacted me to see if she has more information.  I have not heard back.  But I thank her for contacting me at all and helping to solve another Shoah mystery for my family.

My searches continue.  I must admit, that this one at least gave me some hope and some joy. The KinderTransport touched my family; saved two lives.  That is the best knowledge of all.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2017/04/06/cruise-conversations-that-linger-in-my-heart/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/26/amazing-what-information-two-photos-can-provide/

 

Finding My Heritage In Spain

28 Oct

Our trip to Spain and Portugal had a special purpose for besides wanting to see places I had not seen. I also wanted to see the bits and pieces left of the Sephardic Jewish imprint on Spain. I have written about my maternal grandfather and his family’s Spanish roots in an earlier blog (see below). Now I wanted to see what I could see.

I was on a mission that started in Barcelona. I had been to this lovely city before and heard the story about the Jewish cemetery destroyed and replaced with a Christian cemetery. Now the only Jewish aspect was the name of the hill: Montjuic. However, in Barcelona you can visit the site of the Major Synagogue. A small space that you must walk down to see, this tiny space reflects the rule that no religious site would be bigger than the smallest church. So it is small. But I was glad to see that it has been found and reclaimed. There is a guide on site who gives a 10 minute presentation about it. So I am glad we went. Most places do not even have that!

Our next stop with a bit of Jewish history was surprising to me. We went to the small city of Sagunt or Sagunto near Valencia. I was not expecting what I found. First they were having a festival to celebrate their Middle Ages history, and as we entered I saw a menorah symbol on banners. The town had its Jewish quarter still designated including one of the original arches, called the Blood Arch. The tour guide did not know why. I have my own ideas. You actually walked through the Jewish Quarter in order to get up to the Roman teacher.

The narrow, hilly streets are picturesque, and walking through the quarter you come to the top where a private house stands on the site of the original synagogue, with an iron Menorah window. We were also able to see the archeology site of where they think the mikveh was located.

I have since researched and learned that in ancient days this town was called Morviedro. Here the Jews were protected from massacres in 1391 and Jews from other areas took refuge there. When the 1492 decree was made, the Jewish residents arranged safe passage out about 500 people.

In fact almost every city we went to had some remains of its Jewish inhabitants. In Malaga, the birthplace of Picasso, we found it was also the birthplace of Yehudah Ben Gabriel, who revitalized Jewish literature. And we found the Jewish Quarter nit far from the Picasso Museum.

Gibraltar had a thriving Jewish community and still does. We saw people walking the streets wearing kippot. We walked to the old Flemish Synagogue and took a photo of the door to the walled area. Unfortunately we could not go in.

Only in Cadiz was all remnants of the Jewish community destroyed. Probably because of the 1755 earthquake and tsunami. But at one time there was a thriving community that had to escape due to the forced expulsion of the Jewish people. In fact 8000 Jews left Cadiz and traveled to North Africa.

A sign in Sintra

In Portugal we went to Sintra to see the Pena Palace. But while walking through the narrow streets of the city, I found a cork store where I purchased a purse. Then I noticed its address: Beco Judaea. The street of the Jews.

Church of Sao Domingos where Jewish citizens murdered in 1500s

The Jewish Quarter.

But it was in Lisbon that we had the most in-depth experience. Besides visiting some of the important sites like the palace of the inquisition and Rossi’s Plaza where the Crypto Jews were tortured, we visited the church, Sao Domingos, where the massacre of Jews began in the 1506, walked the Jewish Quarter, and learned how King Manuel I tricked the Jewish population and baptized them all without their permission. He wanted to marry the daughter of the king of Spain, but he also wanted to keep his Jewish citizens. This was his solution.

Finally we visited the Lisbon synagogue built in the early 1900s that still has services today. Portugal was a neutral country during the war, a Lisbon was a place of refuge. Today 2000 Jews live in Portugal.

Https://dis.bh.org.il murviedro-sagunto

Do I Need A Thimble? I Guess So.

23 Oct

When I first started sewing and doing needle work like embroidery, my paternal grandmother gifted me two thimbles. One was hers and well worn, the other was brand new and silver. She told me that I needed a thimble because it would make sewing much easier and would protect my fingers from calluses and cuts.  She was probably right.

I still have these two thimbles, but to be honest, I actually hated using one.  I tried for the longest time to get comfortable having a metal hat on my finger.  I usually did not wear the thimble all the time, rather I just put it on for a moment when I had a tough, stubborn stitch to get through layers of fabric.

My paternal grandparents are the ones who nurtured my interest in the sewing/knitting/crocheting arts.  Grandma taught me how to knit and crochet.  Grandpa was a tailor who helped me with the intricate details of sewing like the best way to match plaids, especially around pockets.

He also taught me how to cut/design a pattern to fit a specific person.   This came in handy as my maternal grandmother had scoliosis, so when I made her dresses, I had to make one side of the dress two to three inches shorter than the other side without it looking weird. Thanks to my grandfather, I was able to accomplish these designs. I have written about my grandfather’s tailor shop on Delancey Street.  See blog below.)

The gifts of the two thimbles were part of that nurturing and encouragement.  I kept them close in my sewing basket for those times when I did need them.  But after a while, I put them in a safe place, because I did not want to lose them.

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My printer’s box and almost all my thimbles.

Eventually the two thimbles became the start of my thimble collection.  It is not large, about 60 thimbles in all.  Although I have not purchased a thimble in years, I still have them on display in my kitchen’s printer’s box – the perfect spot for tiny collections.

Printer’s boxes were popular about 35 years ago, when printers went from hot type to computer generated type.  As a journalism student, I actually learned to set type and had to memorize where the different letters and spacers and numbers were kept in this box.  I still remember some.  My first cousin gave me my printer’s box as a gift.  It was the perfect for me for my journalism background and for my thimbles.

Most of my thimbles came from places I visited.  They were the perfect item to remember a trip, as they did not cost too much and were convenient to carry.  I have thimbles with Disney characters; others showing famous sites like Golden Gate Bridge or the Alamo or Mount Vernon; some depict cities like New Orleans.  Most are from different states in the USA that I visited, but others come from other countries like Budapest, Hungary; Dominica; Spain.  I even have three thimbles from NASA! Two depict the space shuttle, and one shows an astronaut floating in Space.

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A close up of my printer’s box, you can see my three Nasa thimbles and the top left is my limoges one.

Some thimbles are so lovely with hand painted landscapes or designs.  One is made of cloisonné, another is from Limoges.  I actually have a little sewing machine from Limoges in my printer’s box. I am sure my Mom got them for me as they are pink and red.  I would have purchased blue!  But my Mom often got me items in the warm tones.

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The case holding my Spanish scissors and thimble.

I do have one other special thimble purchased for me by my parents.  It is housed in a red leather box with a pair of scissors. Inside the box is marked with the words, Artes De Toledo.  I believe my parents purchased this set for me when they went to Spain about 30 years ago. Toledo has a history of making both swords and damascene metal inlay.

My scissors and thimble are definitely Spanish!  They have the look of damascene metal inlaying, but with colored inlay.  I know that Toledo is famous for its steel work. But I  have never seen anything else like it, so I googled Spanish scissors and found scissors very similar to mine.  They were labeled “Toledo antique embroidery scissors”.  Makes sense, as I used my set for embroidering as well.  I will say that  mine is in much better shape than the ones shown on Pinterest!  There were even four cases with matching scissors and thimbles, similar to mine!  All from the 1920s and 1930s.  Which makes me wonder, where exactly this set came from!

I have not looked at my thimble collection for years.  I see them in the printer’s box, but I don’t really look at them and remember when I purchased them.  The special case from Toledo, I keep up in my sewing room, closed and put away.  Thus, I must say thank you to AtticSister and her blog post about a thimble case, which sparked my search for my red leather box and to look more closely at my thimbles.  You can read her blog here:  https://atticsister.wordpress.com/2018/10/12/antique-walnut-thimble-case/

Earlier blogs I wrote about sewing.

https://zicharonot.com/2015/10/10/12-delancey-street-and-my-family/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/29/my-birthday-sewing-machines/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/12/27/why-i-gave-away-a-bit-of-my-moms-memory/

 

Grandma’s Crystal Debacle

1 Oct

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Recently I had a women’s event at my home and I decided it would be nice to use some of my nicer, crystal pieces to serve the desserts. So early in the day, I went to my breakfront to remove the items I wanted in order to rinse them off and plan my settings.

I have to admit, whenever I open the door to my glass-shelfed cabinet, I feel a sense of dread.  Will something fall and break?  Will the shelf break?  Will all my crystal pieces — Waterford, Mikasa, Lenox — and other family heirlooms fall to the ground in a giant glass, crystal and ceramic mess?

Sounds a bit bizarre and as if I am over reacting, I know I do.  But I have a strong evidence that this type of disaster can happen in an instant.  It happened in my family.

Many years ago, when I was young and married, but not yet a mother, I received an extremely stressed out phone call from my mother.  It seems my paternal Grandma had decided to clean all her crystal and china in her curio cabinet.  I know that cabinet well.   It had glass doors and shelves, so you could more easily see all lovely pieces. Many piled one on top of the other.

Grandma was in her 80s, I cannot tell you her exact age.  Grandma lived in a small one-bedroom apartment with my grandfather in Co-Op City in the Bronx. I cannot remember if my Grandpa was still alive.  And I don’t know why she decided to clean on her own, without any help, I don’t know. Except I will say she was an extremely independent person. I assume a holiday was coming, so she wanted everything to shine!

No matter the reason, the crux of the story is that after she had cleaned all her pieces and put everything away, the very top glass shelf fell!  It must not have been put back in properly.   Does not matter.  What does matter is as it fell, everything under it was destroyed in an instant.  It was probably one of the most agonizing moments, which she watched in horror. She could do nothing but watch.

Grandma was hysterical.  These family heirlooms that she had purchased over the years, and a few that were her mother’s (my great-grandparents always lived with my grandparents) were destroyed.  They could not be fixed. They were just shards of glass. Grandma was distraught.

I believe my aunt, went over as soon as Grandma called.  But there was nothing to do but to clean up the mess as carefully as possible.

Eventually everyone knew about the great disaster.  When my mom found out, she called me and told me to call Grandma.  That Grandma needed emotional support now!  It was at a time when long distance phone calls cost money.  But Mom told me it had to be now. As soon as we hung up!

I did as ordered. But I did not mind.  I spoke to my Grandma weekly anyway.  I called Grandma.  I acted as if I knew nothing.  That I was just calling to say hello.  Usually we would speak for about 15 or 20 minutes, as I told about what was going on. And she told me about her week and gave me wonderful advice.

That tactic did not last long. As soon as Grandma heard my voice she started to cry.   I heard the entire horrible story.  She had planned to pass her crystal on to her grandchildren. Now there was NOTHING LEFT! NOTHING!  (Grandma’s emphasis.).
“Grandma,” I said.  “We don’t need anything.  It is not like someone died.  You are fine.  It is fine.  We have you.”  I thought that would help.  But it did not.  The crystal items all had memories attached to them.  Each piece had a story that needed to be told.  And memory of loved one to never forget.  But now with the destruction of her crystal was the loss of these memories. These pieces that when held brought back the essence of a person.

I just cried with Grandma. There was really nothing else to do.

Years later, when Grandma died, my parents selected a set of six glass plates for me to have from Grandma.  I have them on the bottom shelf of my breakfront.  I do worry about Where they are placed.  In fact, I worry that my children will have no idea what memories these crystal and ceramic and glass pieces have intertwined in their existence.

I have decided to tell the story of my breakfront and all its many heirlooms.  Then,  even if a crystal debacle occurs in my home, at least the memories attached to the items will not disappear. Their memory, tied up with the memories of loved ones will continue.

Puzzle Mania After Visiting the Springbok Puzzle Factory

25 Sep

It finally happened!  My husband got to visit the Springbok Puzzle Factory in Kansas City.  A member of our congregation owns it and was kind enough to let my husband come for a tour. (See previous blog below.)

It surpassed all of his expectations.

For days there was the build-up of excitement as my husband counted down to the actual visit.  When the day arrived, he was almost impatient to go to work, because he knew that afternoon was puzzle factory time.

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Puzzles resting before being cut.

But the build-up was nothing compared to his joy in actually going and seeing how jigsaw puzzles are made!  He took photos of the process; he took videos; he took photos of himself and his kind host.  The visit was beyond what he imagined.  His host went around with him for a private tour!  So kind!  To be honest, I think he enjoyed my husband’s enthusiastic excitement.

I actually told the owner that when my husband retired, I hoped that they could hire him to work in the factory, since that was all I heard about for days.  I suggested that he be hired as a tester!  Just to put puzzles together each and every day.

From that point on, my husband wanted one thing only, a 2000-piece puzzle.  Up to then he thought that 1,000-piece puzzles were the best. But while at the factory he saw much larger puzzles.  And the size that tempted him the most was 2000.

When he got home that day and for the next few days, he spoke continually about the puzzles. He watched puzzle videos of people putting together large puzzles, including some guy who used his entire basement floor to do an 18,000-piece puzzle.  That was out of the question for our house.  Although he did ask if he could order it.  I think he was joking, but I said ‘NO’ emphatically.

When my daughter and her husband were in town in June, she and I went to a store where she purchased a 2000-piece Springbok puzzle for my husband’s Fathers’ Day gift.  It was a grand success.  He could not wait to get going on it!  But had to wait for a few days as we had an out of town wedding to attend.

Our usual puzzle table was not big enough for this monster puzzle, so I allowed him to use our dining room table with the caveat that he had to be done by early September.  Every evening after work and on weekends, he worked on it.  I sat with him and worked part of it as well. I like the blue pieces.

Labor Day weekend was a puzzle feast.  We had company who helped as well.  But my deadline was not fulfilled even with all the help.  Those white pieces were impossible.  They even stumped an engineer!

I needed my table. But we could not take the puzzle apart.  It was a stressful situation!  I even posted our dilemma on Facebook.  Thank goodness I did.  A friend had the answer in the genius idea of us putting our table pads over the puzzle!  It was an excellent idea, saving the puzzle, my holiday meal, and probably our marriage!

The puzzle kept him busy for three entire months, till mid-September.  It is now packed away in two one-gallon ziplock bags to go to the home of another puzzle addict.  I plan to let him work on his 1000-piece puzzles for a few months before I surprise him with another giant Springbok jigsaw puzzle to feed his mania.

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One piece left. He always leaves the last piece for me.

https://zicharonot.com/2018/01/13/jigsaw-puzzles-and-true-love/

China Pieces Connect Two Grandmothers

22 Sep

It amazes me that two women living a 1000-miles apart, who never knew each other, could have such similar tastes.  Perhaps it was their age, the world they inhabited.

My maternal grandmother grew up in Poland and moved to the United States when she was 16 years old.  She was born about 1906. With my grandfather, she built a wonderful business and life. And she loved china tea cups and other items.

Among my maternal grandmother’s items was a lovely little Limoges leaf.    I always loved the gold edging and bright flowers decorations that adorned it.  When I was asked what I wanted, I chose this little dish, and added it to the collection in my breakfront.

I assumed it was a little candy dish. In later years, I looked on line at antique Limoges pieces, and found a similar shaped dish described a trinket pin dish.  Which makes it perfect.  I love trinkets!

Grandma also had an English china bouquet of flowers that seem to be sitting in a bowl or basket.  Handcrafted in England, this little piece also intrigued me.  And I chose to have it in my home as well.

Meanwhile in the St. Louis, Missouri, area, another woman was born about 1903.  This woman was the mother of my husband’s step mother.  I knew her for a few years before she died.  My daughter was a toddler, who loved to sit in Gretchen’s lap and visit with her.

When Gretchen died, my mother-in-law, asked me to choose something from the collection of items she inherited from her mother.  She felt that since we knew Gretchen, we should have some pieces.

In the basement were several boxes filled with pieces wrapped in newspaper. Imagine my surprise when I found a small Limoges Leaf that was an exact match to my grandmother’s leaf.  I chose it.  It seemed to me that I was meant to take it.

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Among the other wrapped items was an English china bouquet of flowers in a basket…handcrafted in England.  It called out to me as well.

I brought both pieces home and set them with to the items from my grandmother.

My mother in law told me she wanted someone to look at her mother’s pieces and remember her.  I try.  I close my eyes and I see my daughter sitting on Gretchen’s lap and petting her arm.  My daughter never knew my maternal grandmother.  I have no images of them together, but I have many memories of my grandmother.

My grandmother passed away in the early 1980s.   I met Gretchen a few years later.  Through these two pieces of china, I imagine that they would have been friends.  For me these four china pieces connect them forever.  May their memories continue as a blessing.

 

A Trolley Car Stops, Too!

12 Sep

Holidays always make me think about my grandparents.  We spent all of our holidays, when I was growing up, at one of my grandparents’ homes.  My paternal grandparents in the Bronx were in charge of Passover and Hanukkah.  We went there every year and celebrated with all my cousins.  One year, at Hanukkah, I had to have a tooth pulled and could not eat all the treats. But Grandma made me my very own potato kugel!  I still can taste it!

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My store bought rugelach and honey cake, and candies. Still wrapped in plastic like Grandma would before the holidays.

Every so often something happens that sparks a memory and bring me back in time to the apartment in the Bronx.  During Rosh Hashannah, such a moment occurred.  As I was preparing my dessert plates and covering them with clear plastic wrap, my mind flashed to my paternal Grandmother. She was a great home baker.  One of the high lights of going to her home for the holidays was her magnificent dessert table covered in her treats!

Before dinner, the dessert platters were covered with plastic and put high on a cabinet in the spare bedroom.  We, all the grandchildren and children, knew the desserts were there. But also knew the penalty if we took snuck in and took some.  My Dad and Uncle, known noshers, often snuck in.  But the grandchildren were more careful.

Several of my boy cousins and my brother were eventually tall enough… and sneaky enough… to climb up and reach the sealed plates to get a few treats before dessert.  But we were very careful.  There was always a cousin on guard duty.  We were never greedy, we never took too much in fear of being caught by the sight of an empty plate.

The best part of the holiday was when the dishes were cleared from dinner and food was put away.  Then out came the desserts.  My Mom and Aunts and Grandma could bring all the home baked treats out and put them on a long table against a wall.  Among my favorites were the rugelach sticks and the thimble cookies.  But my all time favorite were the apricot candy.  So thick and gooey.

There were cookies and cakes and even homemade candies.  During Passover there were also Barton’s candies.

Thanks to one of my cousins, I have the recipes for three desserts.  I was bemoaning that I miss them years ago. I found out that my cousin had the recipes.  So smart.  His wife emailed three recipes to me…in 2006!  At the time she told me that they had high calorie count.  And she was right.  Each recipe is chuck full of sugar.

To be honest most of my desserts are store bought.  But for you bakers, here is one of Grandma’s recipes:  Apricot Candy:  Wash ½ pound of apricots.  Boil in 1 cup of cold water. When water is boiled away, mash the apricots.  Add 1 ½ cups sugar, ¼ pound almonds.  Cook for 1 hour, stirring constantly.  When thick, pour out into a pan, and when cold, cut into squares and dip in sugar to prevent sticking.

If you have crowns on your teeth, do NOT eat this!!. It is delicious.  I love apricots and dried apricots and this apricot candy.

One dessert they did not have the recipe for was Taiglach, a mixture of nuts and honey mixed together and baked into a gooey hard mess of deliciousness.  You had to be careful biting into this dessert.  I remember one year my Dad actually broke his tooth biting into this!  He was not so happy that holiday.

My grandfather had a role at all these family events.  He would sit at one end of the table and guard it.  Seriously!  If any of the grandchildren (or his children) took too much dessert or came back too often, he would intone, “A Trolley Car Stops Too.”

When I was little, I had no idea what he was talking about.  But when I got older, and found out what a trolley car was, I realized he meant we were eating too much.  That even a trolley car, which ran constantly, would stop occasionally.

My brother, and my boy cousins were often the recipient of this advice. I heard it as well, but not as often.  It really did not matter.  We all would conquer our fear of Grandpa, in order to have a sweet delectable dessert.

As for his saying, we use it often, especially when something is happening that we think needs to end.  I still can see my Grandpa nodding at me and saying in a deep voice:  A Trolley Stops Too!