Tag Archives: family members

The Yad VaShem Shoah Database: Each Name Becomes A Memory

11 Jul

The Yad VaShem Shoah database is killing me, while at the same time becoming addictive.  I have learned the secret of advance search where you can enter the name of a person who has given testimony and find all the other people that person has remembered.

For me it has been a personal trial as I try to find all the family names, while at the same time finding so many names, knowing that hundreds of family members perished in the Shoah.  My grandfather’s family all lived in a small area of Galicia surrounding the village of Mielec.

I enter names that are common to my family and I search.  Today I found a Tova Gital Feuer (her maiden name).  Those are two names that are used over and over again in my grandfather’s family.   Gital was the name of my great-great grandmother.  This Gital Tova/Tova Gital was born in 1889 in Mielec and died when she was 54 in Belzec 1942. That is where my great grandfather and great uncle also perished:  in Belzec.  They are sure to have been cousins of some sort, since they had the same last name in such a small town.

The person who gave testimony was Gital Tova’s daughter Ruth, who survived and made a new live in Israel.  But her immediate family did not survive.  Her father, Abraham, died in Treblinka.   Two of her brothers,  Lieb Arie and Anczel/Anshel died in the Debica/Dembitz Murder Site.  Anshel was a Polish soldier, I find that amazing.  He was 21 when he perished.

Debica/Dembitz was so close to where my grandfather and his family lived. It was actually part of the same area, and one set of his grandparents lived in Debica/Dembitz.

According to Wikipedia, the Nazi’s built a military base in 1941 in Debica.  They had 15,000 slave laborers who perished, including 7,500 Jews, 5000 Soviet POWs and 2500 Poles.  Their remains were buried in a nearby cemetery.  In Debica, the Nazis forced all of the Jews in to a ghetto and then murdered most of them there and in Auschwitz.
I had not heard of the Debica/Dembitz Murder Site. So I searched some more.   I found that in a Jewish Gen document. “The Murder of the Jews of Dembitz” by Reuven Siedlisker-Sarid, translated by Jerrold Landau.

This testimony tells about the formation of the ghetto, and that until 1943 the Jews were murdered in Belzec.  I believe this description is the Debica Murder Site that Ruth meant, as reported in the testimony:

“The Gestapo men approached the rows of kneeling people,and removed about 180 or 200 men. Those were placed on transport trucks and driven by the S. S. men to the edge of the Wilicka Forest at Lisa Gora. They were brought into the forest and shot into a communal grave that had previously been prepared by the Polish Junaks. The Junaks were then called to cover over the grave at the conclusion of the dreadful murder. This took place on the 7th of Av, 5702 (1942).”https://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/debica/Dem141.html

Now I know about the murder site. All I can think is how horrible is that!   I have no idea how many members of my family died there. I have found so many horrible ways that my family members were killed by hatred.

Ruth’s parents and two brothers were not the only ones to be murdered:  In all seven of her siblings were killed: Lieb Arie and Anczel/Anshel in Debica; Shumel, 19; Simcha, 6 or 8, in Asuchwitz; Eliezar, 13; Mala/Malka, 23; Hanna, 14, Belzec.

I wish the list ended there, but Ruth also testified about the deaths of her aunts and Uncle Zlata, Sima and Hershel.   Another Aunt and Uncle: Hava and Zalman, and their 17-year- old son, Nissan.  These names got to me in a personal way.  My name is Hava, named for my great grandmother who perish in the Shoah.  And my grandfather was also Nissan Feuer.  It could have been us.

All were from Mielec.  And although Zlata and her husband Hershel and Sima were from Ruth’s father’s side, and might not be directly related to me, I claim them.  My great great grandfather on my grandfather’s maternal side was named Hershel.  He was both my great grandmother and great grandfather’s grandfather.  They were first cousins.  So many cousins married each other in Europe!

Ruth also gave testimony on several friends and acquaintances who also perished.   Ten more people.  I assume she saw them die either in the ghetto, or the death camps.  I do not believe I am related to any of them, as she did not mention a family relationship.

Of the 4,000 Jewish people who lived in the Mielec/Dembitz area only about 200 survived the war and the death camps.

I wish that I would not keep finding these horrific bits of information.  I wish I could stop searching the Yad VShem website.  Years ago, when I first tried researched my family, I tried the website database, but it was not as good as it is now.   Something makes me continue to search.   I continue to find more names to keep in my memory and in my heart.  Each name adds to my understanding of my grandfather and how important was for him to have our family.  Each name helps understand my Grandmother and her reactions when we traveled to Israel in 1976.  They lost so much in the Shoah.

For Ruth’s family, I feel a teeny, tiny less sad because Ruth survived.  She married.  I hope she had children, who had children, who had children to keep the memory and names of her parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and cousins alive.  I hope she was able to live a happy life.  She entered these names in 1999.

For me each name I find is a blessing and a remembrance that I hope will keep in the hearts of my family.

Baruch Dayan HaEmet.



Here is one other blog about my Yad VaShem searches:  https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/07/the-sorrow-of-shalom-hollander/


The Connections Keep Widening, My Family Contacts Keep Growing

16 Feb

Overwhelming, amazing, stunning, these words cannot really describe my incredible journey in researching my family history. And I have only finished two of my great-grandparents. I wonder what will happen when I research the other six?

Since researching one of my paternal great grandmothers, actually the one I knew as a small child, I have been really shocked.   I have lived in a city in the Midwest far from my family on the East Coast for over 30 years. And in the past month my research has shown me that a branch of my great grandmother’s family settled here. We just lost touch with them.

But what is absolutely amazing to me, is that I know many of these descendants. I have volunteered with them, emailed with them, see them around town. I am Facebook friends with three of these distant cousins. They are all people that I like. One of them played an important role in the life of my son, as she was an assistant superintendent of the school district where he went to school, during a difficult time in his life.

And now I find out that they are my third cousins. I know that is not a close relationship. But they are my cousins. And in Israel, where my daughter now lives, it is her second and third cousins who have reached out to her and consider her family.

But these cousins in Israel are all family members that we remained in contact with over the years. We always knew who they were and were they lived. The cousins in Israel come from both sides of my family and my husband’s family. We knew we were family, cousins.

With the new contacts it is different. These new family members were unknown, but at the same time known. These are people I had contact with in many forums, people who have had some impact in my life, and I never knew that they were also my cousins. How strange is that? To me it seems extremely strange.

But it makes so much sense. The Internet has changed the world.   Before in the 1800s and early 1900s when people moved to the USA from Europe, they had no way to keep in contact, except through mail. And mail was not always easy. They were busy learning a new culture and a new language. It was difficult to keep in touch with relatives in New York or even in Europe. So the family ties were forgotten and lost.

With the Internet and the many ways to trace family history, these lost members are found. Through websites and Facebook groups, we can make contact. It was through the ‘Tracing the Tribe Group” that I made the first contact. But it was through Geni, that I keep seeing more and more connections! It is these Internet tools and their large outreach that enhances my ability to make these connection.

Those who know me, know that I love a good mystery. And searching for my family connections is the most personal mystery. Although I am glad I have found this family branch, it is more of the success of a hunt, of finding the answers to a mystery, the mystery of my family that excites me. How lucky am I that I can actually find new branches?

When I look at them now, I can see a resemblance in character. Every one of the four women I know are strong willed, determined and intelligent. They fit into my family, as my grandmother was a strong willed, determine and intelligent woman who worked until she was 77.

In fact, we take pride in my family that we are all strong women. And these four fit right in. Wow. If I could choose family members, I would choose women like them.

I plan to meet up with some of them next week for lunch. I learned they were my cousins several weeks ago. The other cousins, I just found out about this weekend when Geni sent me a match!

It is nice to know that I have connections here. I will look at them differently now knowing what I know about our large family. The connections keep widening and my family contacts keep growing!