Tag Archives: family

Boleslawiec Pottery Pieces Create a Feeling of Despondency

15 Jul

Lately I have been seeing the name of the city, Boleslawiec, quite a bit because of the beautiful Polish ceramic pottery that is created there and sold throughout the world.   As I walked through the historic section of St. Charles, Missouri, I saw a store dedicated to this pottery.  My sister in law and I walked through and admired all the lovely blue-toned, designed pottery.

Later that month, I was in Tuesday Morning, a discount store, that had a selection of this pottery as well.  Here, I actually purchased a piece of the pottery in the shape of a heart as a memory of my grandmother who grew up in Boleslawiec.  But my remembrance of my Grandmother is not her love of her home town, but rather to remember how much my grandmother hated Boleslawiec.  How excited she was when she was 16 to get her exit visa to the USA.  Leaving Boleslawiec was the best thing that happened to my Grandma.  It really was not a friendly spot for Jewish inhabitants.

In 1925 there were 103 Jewish people in Boleslaweic.  In 1933 the town of Boleslawiec had over 19,500 people, but only just over 100 Jewish residents.  By 1938 there were just 64 remained. My family was among those who lived there.  And after World War 2, there were no Jews left in the city.

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The special visa for 1931 visit to Boleslawiec.

My Grandma left Boleslawiec in 1922 to escape to the United States.  In 1931 she returned to Boleslawiec with my mother and uncle.  They stayed for several months.  We even have a special visa in the passport used by my Mom and Uncle that gives them permission to be in Boleslawiec.

It was during this visit that Grandma became aware of how bad it was for Jews in Europe.  Upon her return to the USA, she immediately began to work to get family members out.  She was able to rescue her father and her sister, who she brought to the United States. She could not rescue her two brothers and their spouses, but they did survive. Her mother, my great grandmother, Sara Manes Szenk,  died in 1919 as did a younger sister. (See blogs below.)

She was right to worry.  On Krystalnacht, November 9-10, 1938, Jewish business and the synagogue were set on fire.  They were destroyed.  Now just an empty lot is left.  The cemetery was also destroyed.  The few tombstones or matzevot left are at The Museum of Ceramics.   So my Great Grandma Sara’s grave — Sara, who I am also named for — is now unmarked, as are the other relatives who died before the Shoah.  An empty field marks the spot of the Jewish cemetery.  Luckily my great grandfather and aunt were already in the USA by then.   And my great uncles had fled.

Members  of Grandma’s family were murdered in the war. (See Blog about Speaking Yiddish below.).  I have not been able to find everyone.  But since the names Manes and Szenk were the surnames of her parents, I will claim all the Jewish people who lived in Boleslawiec who perished and had those surnames or maiden names.  I cannot claim for sure that they are related to me.  But in a town with just 100 Jewish members, I feel a strong level of confidence that they are my family.

Moshe Schenk and his wife, Yenta Fridel Schenk, from Boleslawiec died in the Chelmo Death Camp in Poland in 1942.  Moshe’ siblings died as well:  Hana Leah and Bluma, also Bluma’s daughter Sara.  Two people wrote testimony for Moshe Schenk/Mosze Szenk: an uncle and a cousin.  That cousin also left testimony for Hana Leah, while the daughter/sister of Bluma and Sara, left testimony of their murders.

Many people who died in Chelmo were transferred there from the Lodz Ghetto in 1942.  So I will assume that these relatives were taken from Boleslawiec, to the Lodz Ghetto before their murders at Chelmo.  The Lodz Ghetto was the second largest ghetto in Poland.  Later, when the ghetto was destroyed in August 1944, many were taken to Auschwitz as well. Of the 68,000 Jews who were imprisoned there, 877 Jews remained hidden and were liberated by the Russians. When the war was over, only 10,000 Jews of Lodz Province remained alive. (Wikipedia).

Besides my Szenk/Schenk family who were murdered, there were at least four members of the Manes family killed: Franka Manes and three of her adult children: Sara, Eli and Reize.  Their sister entered the testimony in Yad VaShem.

I know that others perished as well because I met some of the survivors of Boleslawiec. I still cannot find their names, and that truly disturbs me. But the Manes family was from another small town nearby.  I have not yet completed my research about what happened in that village, but it was also in Lodz.  So I would assume the same route, Lodz Ghetto then Chelmo or Auschwitz.

When people think of the Polish city of Boleslawiec, they think of the beautiful pottery.   And only that.  I wish I could think that way as well.  Blue is my favorite color, and the pottery truly is lovey.  I know people who collect it.

I look at the lovely ceramic heart on my kitchen counter, and I think that it is amazing how a piece of lovely pottery that brings joy to so many people, brings me a feeling of despondency.   It is a symbol to me that people can create beautiful objects,  but carry biased hatred in their hearts. Even allowing that hatred to contribute to the deaths of others.  Unfortunately, I see that hatred rising again and happening today. So I look at the heart and I hope that kindness overcomes hatred.

Three websites, besides Wikipedia,  have helped me in the search about my Grandmother’s family who lived in Boleslawiec, Poland, located in the Province of Lodz.   Thank you to Jewish Gen; Vtrual Shtel; and my obsession, the Yad VaShem Database.

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

https://zicharonot.com/2017/12/04/the-us-passport-a-matter-of-life/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/10/01/the-rosh-hashannah-card-has-a-story/

My Grandma Was One Determined Lady!

9 Jul
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My elegant grandmother.

This is my favorite photo of my paternal Grandmother.  Every time I look at it, I just have a moment of joy.

Grandma was born in November 1898 in New York City.  I am thinking that this photo was taken in the about 1918 – 1921.  It is definitely before my grandparents married, as I do not see a wedding ring on her finger, and they married on February 26, 1922.

I love this pose!   The message I always got from this photo is that Grandma is ready to go and conquer the world.    She is elegant.  I love all aspects of this outfit from the hat, to the fox stole, to the beaded purse.  I especially love the high heeled shoes. Grandma had a long history with shoes!

Grandma was a force to be reckoned with on any topic.  And this photo makes me think she was that way as a young woman as well.  She is not facing forward like 95 percent of the other photos I have seen.  No! She is posed ready to move… elegantly of course.

She married the tailor who worked with her father.  She had three children.  She worked for years as an executive secretary for a shoe company, which had its offices across the street from Macy’s.  (See blog below.)

Grandma worked until she was 77.  The only reason she quit was because of a subway accident.  She was pushed/shoved on the steps to the subway.  She might have been mugged.  I believe her purse disappeared that day.  She broke her arm in the fall.   After that incident, her three, now adult, children said, “Enough!  She had to quit her job!”  They did not want her taking the subway anymore.

Grandma did not want to quit.  But she did in 1975.  Part of her willingness to quit might have been the timing. The shoe industry was no longer flourishing, in fact it was dying anyway due to the cheap imports coming from overseas.

When I saw the play Kinky Boots, I thought of my Grandma. I had so much empathy for Charlie and his efforts to save the shoe factory! I remembered how difficult it was for my Grandma as the shoe business disappeared.  You would have thought she owned the company!

After she retired Grandma spent much more time knitting sweaters and afghans for her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. She was a wonderful baker. And always made us great treats.  When I was away at college grandma would send me care packages of baked goods.  She was an inspiration to me. (See blog below.)

To me this photo is the essence of my Grandma. Perhaps others will see something else in this photo, but to me it is a young woman doing something a bit differently.  This photo also reminds me of one of my cousins.  She also likes to do everything her own way.  And in this profile, I see them having the same face.

I try to imagine what Grandma was thinking when this photo was taken.   But more important, I think about who she became and the impact she had on those who loved and cherished her.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2017/11/22/i-love-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/02/13/knitting-and-crocheting-brings-love-and-memories/

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

 

 

 

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.

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/

My Father’s Tallit Comes to Family Weddings

20 May
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Dad ready for his bar mitzvah.

My father was bar mitzvah in September 1941 in the Bronx.  A few months later, the world would change for the USA.  But on this day, my Dad celebrated with his family.  He stands here on the roof of his building, posing so that they had this photo of him.

He used to tell us stories about  studying for his bar mitzvah.  He and his best friend would meet with the Rabbi together.  Their bar mitzvahs were held just weeks apart.  They were not the best students and often got in trouble.  His favorite story was telling us about the time they were wrestling while they waited for the Rabbi.  They accidentally broke the leg of the table where they studied.  Quickly they fixed it as best they could. But the leg was just loosely holding up the table.

Their Rabbi had a habit of banging his hand hard on the table whenever my Dad or his buddy, Willie, would make a mistake. This day things went wrong.  While they were chanting the service, the Rabbi slammed his fist on the table in anger. On this day the table and all the books fell to the floor. The table was broken.  The Rabbi thought his angry slam caused the table to break. He apologized and sent them home.

Dad loved to tell this story.

The tallit he is wearing in this photo was in his night table drawer.  I found it after he died.  There was a second, larger tallit made of the same material in the drawer as well.  My siblings and I think he got the second one when he and Mom got married.  It is traditional to get a tallit at your wedding.  In fact, some men do not wear a tallit to synagogue, even after their bar mitzvah, unless they are married…or going up for an Aliyah.

Dad had a third tallit; the one my Mom purchased for him when he became president of his synagogue.  Dad had been using a shul tallit for years, as his two were worn and really not useable.  The new tallit was lovely. My Mom selected not only the tallit, but also a velvet bag and a lovely silver tallit clip with in the form of the word, Shaddai, on either side.  Dad wore this tallit every time he went to services.

When we planned his funeral, we brought all three tallisim to the funeral home for them to bury with him.  The consultant who was with us throughout this difficult time advised us to keep the newest tallit.  “Bury the older ones with him,” he said.  “But keep this one. It is so beautiful. Isn’t there someone who needs a tallit?  Or use it for his grandchildren’s weddings.”

We listened.  I do not think any of us really wanted to bury it, so we kept that tallit.  My siblings agreed that my son could have this tallit.  We also agreed that it would be used for all the grandchildren’s weddings.

The first wedding was my daughter’s two years ago.  During the ceremony the tallit sat under the huppah with them. That evening for the first night of Sheva Brachot, seven blessings, they wrapped the tallit around them while the rabbi chanted the blessings.

My father’s tallit is the huppah at my niece’s wedding.

It will be used again in June, when my niece marries.  She chose the date of my parent’s wedding anniversary for her wedding date. My parents got married on Father’s Day in 1951.  My niece will marry on Father’s Day 2018.  And my Dad’s tallit, purchase with love by Mom, will serve as their huppah.