Tag Archives: Mielec

One More Family Destroyed

6 Sep

It has been over a month since I last wrote about the testimonies of Shalom Hollander, my grandfather’s cousin who wrote the Yad VaShem testimonies for about 40 members of my family including my great grandparents and a great uncle.  I needed time away from the visions of horrors that his testimonies put into my mind as I thought of all these relatives who were lost. (See links to blogs below.)

But there was one last family that I was determined to write about because they all perished.

A family of five died in 1941-42.  They were Hirsh Tzvi Feuer, the son of Eliezer and Leah Feuer, and his wife, Dvora Amsterdam, the daughter of Tzvi and Chava Amsterdam.  As I have written in earlier blogs, the names Amsterdam and Feuer are common in my grandfather’s family.  My great grandmother was an Amsterdam, also named Chava, and my great grandfather was a Feuer. They, my great grandparents were first cousins.  There was so much intermarriage between these two families!

I have the names of all my great great grandparents and their siblings.  And, although I have the names of my three times great grandparents, I do not know the names of their siblings.  I am sure, however, that Hirsh Tzvi Feuer and Dvora Amsterdam’s parents are among those names.  Shalom identifies himself as a relative in these testimonies. Also he indicates that Hirsh was a farmer, and my great grandparents and their families were farmers in Trzciana.

Tzvi was born in 1895 and his wife, Dvora, in 1908, which make them contemporaries of my grandparents who were born in 1900 and 1906.  I would assume that my grandfather knew them when he was a child.  They lived before the war in Wola Mielecka, Poland, but they lived during the war in Trzciana, Poland, my grandfather’s home town. Wola Mielecka was close by, all the surrounding areas to the town of Mielec, Poland.

Tzvi and Hava had three children who perished.  Lea Feuer who was 4. Obviously named for her grandmother.  Chava Feuer, age 6, named for the other grandmother.  Then the third child, Eliezer, an infant, named for his grandfather.

I hope there are other children who survived. Who were older.  Hirsh Tzvi was 47 when he was murdered.  Dvora was 34.  I hope there could have been several children in their early teens?  Perhaps I am doing wishful thinking.  But in my heart, I want them to have been survived by someone besides Shalom Hollander. I do not want this entire family to have perished.

But like the family of Shalom Hollander, there is a possibility that they were all murdered along with thousands of others when the Nazi’s made the Mielec area Judenfrie.  Of the almost 4000 Jewish residents of the Mielec area, only a few hundred survived.

Baruch Dayan HaEmet.

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/07/the-sorrow-of-shalom-hollander/

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

https://zicharonot.com/2018/07/11/the-yad-vashem-shoah-database-each-name-becomes-a-memory/

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/

 

My Family’s Holocaust History Impacts My Observance of Rosh Hashannah

13 Sep

As Rosh Hashannah approaches, I have a new view of my family’s heritage, a new reality that will impact my observance and prayers this year and in all future years.

It started with a Facebook Group called, “Tracing the Tribe.” I actually was able to find a family member due to a blog I posted about my grandfather’s family history and his town in Austia/Galecia called Mielec. I met Susan when I was in New Jersey this summer. It is actually her husband who was related to me.

We spoke about the family and how we might be related. I actually found the connection. My great grandfather and her husband’s great grandmother are probably brother and sister.

She emailed me a testimonial written by her husband’s first cousin, “E”, about her Holocaust experience. “E” survived the Holocaust and settled in the USA. In this memoir, “E” recounts a story about the Jews of Mielec and how they died. She wrote that 600 were rounded up and burned alive in their synagogue. She received this information from relatives in Mielec.

What! I was somewhat stunned. No one had ever mentioned this to me before. Whenever there was discussion about our family who died, we were told that they were burned alive in the fires of the Holocaust; or that some had died in Auschwitz; or that my great grandmother had been hidden and then murdered by the people who had stolen the family farm. But this story was never mentioned. Never.

But I remember thinking, when my Mom would tell me that our family was burned alive, that in the crematorium, the people were dead before they were burned. Weren’t they? So why would I be told that they were burned alive? Could this be what happened?

My Grandfather never talked about his family. He lost almost everyone who still lived in Europe: his parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, cousins. Everyone! Only a few cousins survived. When I finally got him to talk to me and tell me about his family, he was vague when talking about the Holocaust. He would tell me a little about life when he was a boy. But he did not like to mention the names of the dead.

When I found out that Germany was giving money to those who could prove they had owned property, I suggested that he apply to get money for the family’s farm.

He was furious. “Will this money bring back my mother and my father?” He yelled at me. “Will this money bring back my brothers and my sisters and their families? NO! NO! I don’t want their blood money! Let them keep their blood money!”

I can still hear him yelling at me. So I stopped. I never asked again.

My mother told me that a relative, Zissle Feuer, came from Europe and told my grandfather what had happened. And then my Grandfather contacted the Red Cross. Everyone was confirmed dead. My mother was about 16 when they found out that everyone died. She said that every morning when my Grandpa came upstairs from the bakery she would hear him cry while sitting at the kitchen table; sobbing over the loss of his family.

Now I read this testimonial. What is the truth? How did they die? “E” was not there. She only heard about it. So I looked through all the papers I had gathered through the years. And I found one document that I guess I never read entirely. I just read the part about the city of Mielec before the war. I never read the section that was call Holocaust Years. Because there it states, halfway down the page, that on September 13, 1939, on the eve of Rosh Hashannah, 20 Jewish were pushed into a burning synagogue. If they tried to escape they were shot. Then the German soldiers put Jews into a slaughterhouse and set it on fire. Then they went to the Mikveh and killed Jews there. On the second day of Rosh Hashannah a second synagogue was set on fire.

So many burned alive on Rosh Hashannah. I do not know if it was 600, but even one is too many. What a horrible death!

How can I ever see Rosh Hashannah in the same way again? How can I understand that on this holiday my family might have been murdered, burned alive. Up until September of 1939 there were 4,000 Jews living in Mielec. When they were deported in March 1942 only 2,000 were still alive.

Did 600 get burned alive in the four buildings set ablaze during Rosh Hashannah of 1939? Did my great aunts, great uncles and cousins suffer in those flames? Did my great grandfather die there? Is this why my Grandfather could never talk about it? Did he know that is how most of his family perished? When my mother said they were burned alive, did she know as well?

Was it just too horrible to tell us?

Mielec, the home of my family, was one of the first to be totally depleted of its Jews. This report said only 200 Jewish people survived the war: 200 out of 4000. I know that four of them were cousins of my grandfather. I met them all: one settled in Montana; one in England; two in Israel. They have all since passed away.

On Rosh Hashannah we chant the Unetanah Tokef.   It is a prayer that has always made an impact on me. But this time when I read “who by water and who by fire,” I will be wondering: “Who died this way? Who?”

And I will chant Kaddish.