Tag Archives: Lodz Ghetto

What Happened to Grandpa’s Twin Sisters?

16 Apr
My great aunt Tova, my great Grandparents Gimple and Chava. The man driving is an Uncle. And the horses and cart they bought with the money my grandparents sent. They all perished.

Would it be horrible to say that I am disappointed to find that my grandfather’s two sisters were not the victims of Josef Mengele?  It sounds horrible even to me.  But I have been searching to find out what happened to them for over a decade.  And I thought I finally found a glimmer of hope.  I remembered that they were twins.  Perhaps they made it to the right concentration camp and were separated out. I could at least have some closure.

But no.  Another dead end, I write without a pun.  I had already searched through Yad V Shem, where I found my grandfather’s parents and one brother.  I have found my great grandparents, Gimple/Mordechai who died in Auschwitz and Chava who died in the town.  My great uncle, Shimon died in Belzec.   All three testimonies were put in Yad VShem by a cousin, Shalom Hollander.  Although he entered many other testimonies, there are none for the other three siblings.

I have searched through the Jewish Gen files.  I have found many, many, well hundreds of family members who perished in the Shoah.  But I cannot find my grandfather’s two sisters and their families and his other brother.  It is what I have been searching for since I started my genealogy searches. 

I tried the place that usually helps, Tracing the Tribe Facebook Group.  From one member, I found out about the the Arolsen Archives, International Center on Nazi Persecution, in Bad Arolsen in Germany.  And I had great hope.  I filled out three forms with all the information I had on my great aunts, Tova and Tzelia, and great uncle Nachum.  I admit it was not much.  Just their names and town of birth, parents and approximate date of birth. 

I was sure to add that Tova and Tzelia were twins.  I have a photo of Tova.  I knew she was married.  She probably had children. But by the time I spoke to my grandfather about her and his other siblings in the 1970s, he had forgotten the names of her husband and children.  So my search was based on somewhat limited information.

Unfortunately, the Arolsen Archives could not help.  For each of my requests, I received the same message. “We can inform you today that we – based on the data you provided – have made an extensive check of the documentation available to us.
To our regret, it has not proved possible for us to ascertain any information.”

Another dead end.  But I was not totally surprised.  I know that Mielec and Grandpa’s home town of Trzciana, were among the first cities that the Nazis chose to kill all the Jews.  Only 100 Jewish residents from the area survived the war.  Some were killed at the Denbica/Dembitz Murder site.  Others went to the Lodz Ghetto and then Belzec  Some died in Auschwitz.  But some died in their community, like my great grandmother.  Some were burned in the synagogue.  Some were burned in the mikve.  Some were shot. 

I have discovered many people with similar names, but not these three.

I assume they died nameless, not a number in the Nazi machine.

So perhaps not finding them is a good thing.  Perhaps they died quickly.  They did not have to suffer the indignity of being a victim of Mengele.  They did not make it to the Concentration Camps.  But what is so sad is that no family member was able to write their testimonies.  No one could enter their names in to Yad VShem data base.  And I cannot either, because I do not know what happened.

Perhaps my quest to find out the names of their children will never be achieved.  I will never find out what happened.   Each time I have found out what happened to a family member. I have had another little stab in my heart.  Perhaps it is time to let this search end.

Boleslawiec Pottery Pieces Create a Feeling of Despondency

15 Jul

(I found out on September 24, 2018, that there are actually two Boleslawiec.  The village my grandmother came from is different from the one the pottery comes from in Poland. But since they are intertwined in my mind, the blog still is accurate.)

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(Szenk) and his wife, Yenta Fridel Schenk(Szenk), 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/