Tag Archives: Tracing the Tribe

Amazing What Information Two Photos Can Provide

26 Jun

It is a wonder how two photos that I did not know were related could help find a branch of the family that I had no information about.

I have a family album that we found hidden in the bottom of a closet in the attic of what had been my grandparent’s and then my parent’s home in Kauneonga Lake, NY.  We found it when we cleaned the house out about four years ago.  Most of the photos are from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.  Many of the photos are unidentified.  But some have comments on the back written in one of many languages including, English, Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish and German. (See blog below.)

Every few months I open the book and focus on a few of the photos.  It is an emotional task, as I find that many of these photos lead me back to the Shoah.  And often the people in the photos perished in concentration camps or were murdered near their homes.  I find it a bit terrifying.

About a year ago I posted a photo of two young girls on the Tracing the Tribe website.  No one translated that one for me.  I am not sure why.  It probably got posted on a busy day. As usually these short messages are translated in a few hours.

Then about a month ago I posted two identical photos of a young man, but each had a slightly different note on the back, written in German.  I wondered why German, although I knew that my grandmother could read and write German along with three other languages.

I knew that one of the photos of the young man and the photo of the two girls were sent to my grandmother, Tova/Thelma.  And I that the other one of the young man was sent to her aunt, my great aunt Gussie.  This lead me to write about the young man Abraham Prentki/Prantki.  (See blog post below.)

I assumed he had to be the son of one my great grandfather’s three sisters , Esther, Sura or Leba, who we really had no information about.

By some serendipitous decision, I was looking for another post on the Tracing the Tribe Group when I stumbled upon this photo of the young girls who had never been identified.  So I reposted it on Tracing the Tribe and Jewish Ancestoy in Poland.   With in a few hours, I had a translation.  It was to my grandmother, their cousin.  There were names including the last name Granek. This postcard was also written in German.

My Tracing the Tribe friend, Amy, decided to search some more.  Thank you, Amy.  She found a Yad V’Shem testimony written by a Martha Granek Wynn, who wrote a page of testimony for her mother Cella Prentki Granek.   Cella’s parents were Esther Schenk and Pinkus Prentki and they lived in Breslau, Germany.  But originally came from Boleslaviec, Poland, where my grandmother grew up. Cella was murdered in Mauthausen.  The testimony is chilling.  In Place of death: it is written Mauthausen.  In circumstance of death, it is written: Oven.

The pieces were now coming together.  And although I cannot be one hundred percent certain.  This is what I know.  My great grandfather Shlomo Abraham had several sisters.  Gussie moved to the United States, where she married and had four children.  My grandmother moved in with Gussie and her family when she moved to the USA. (See two blogs below.). The postcards from the young man, Abraham Prentki were to his cousin Tova and his Aunt Gussie.  I assumed he had to be the son of Esther, Sura or Leba, my great grandfather’s sisters who we had no information on.  This leads me to believe that Abraham was the brother of Cella Prentki Granek who died at Mauthausen.  And that he was also the son of Esther Schenk Prentki.

Grandma Thelam, Carlsbad

My grandmother is sitting on the right.  Who are the other two women?

More information, we (my sister helps me with my research) know that my grandmother went back to Europe in 1931 with my mother and uncle. (see blog below.). We also know that she left the children behind with her father and then her in laws and went to Breslau to visit her family, her aunt, and go to the waters of Carlsbard/Karlsbard to heal.  The Prentki family lived in Breslau.

My sister says she agrees that this looks right. But we are not totally sure. On the page of testimony there is an address in Melbourne, Australia.  I found this address on line, in Australia.  I sent a letter to the woman who submitted the testimony about her mother, but not sure the family still lives there.  It was written in 1999, and Martha would be in her 90s now. She is probably one of the young girls in the photo.  I am hoping that some family members live there.

However, another connection.  After the war, my grandmother’s two brothers and their wives moved to Australia.  They were waiting for visas to get out of Europe and went when the first visa to Australia arrived.  They lived in Melbourne.  Coincidence?  Or did they move to be with other family who had escaped.  My mother’s first cousin is still alive. She was born in Melbourne in 1955 and now lives in Israel.  I have asked her if she knew this family. But she was a child when she left Australia.

We might never know the truth.  My sister is right,  we cannot be 100 percent sure.  But in my heart, I think these were the children of my great aunt Esther.  In my heart I believe that this was the family my grandmother visited in Breslau.  In my heart I think the mystery of these two photos is solved.  Still not sure about the photo from Karlsbard.

It is amazing what information two photos can lead to.  And that is why I keep going back to this album and searching.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/08/19/old-photographs-bring-memories-to-life/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/04/the-mystery-of-abraham-prantki/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/06/13/finding-katie/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/05/29/grandma-thelma-knows-what-she-knows/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/06/06/the-mysterious-kalsbad-photos-who-are-they/

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/

Zysel/Ziesel Feuer, Survivor

1 May
img_7280

The document that Scott G. shared with me.  Zysel is line 79.  I know that Lejzor Feuer, line 77,  was also a cousin.

I am thinking a lot about Zysel/Ziesel Feuer this week, a cousin of my grandfather’s who survived the Shoah.  This weekend another Tracing the Tribe member, Scott G. shared a document with me that lists the names of the survivors from Mielic, Galicia, Austria/Poland. And on that list is my relative: Zysel Feuer.  Even though I knew he was a survivor, seeing his name on that list just broke my heart.  I see him again in my mind, and I am sad.

Scott is working on a project to get all the names of survivors and victims of the Shoah from Mielic, Austria/Poland. I contacted him with the names I could share.  My grandfather’s entire family except for a few cousins died. The last names Amsterdam, Feuer, Brenner and Hollander were all in some way related to me.  And many perished.

I have written about Ziesel before.  He went to Israel after the war.  And lived there until his death.  I met him when I went to Israel for my sophomore year of college in 1974.  I would visit him in Tel Aviv, whenever I went there from Jerusalem where I was studying.  I first met him because my grandmother sent me on a mission.  I wrote about that in an earlier blog (see link below).

When my parents came to visit, during my winter break, I took them to see Ziesel as well.  His roommate, also a Holocaust survivor, was home when we arrived.  With no phones it was difficult to make definite appointments.  His roommate told us that Ziesel was at shul davening and we should go and call for him.  My Dad was embarrassed.  So, the man went with us.
“Ziesel, Ziesel Feuer,” he called through the doorway.  “Come here, your family is here.”  Of course, he called for him in a loud Yiddish/Hebrew whisper.  “Ziesel, Ziesel, comen ous, eir mishpacha du.”

My Dad told that story for years.  Standing outside a small shul in Tel Aviv, watching the elderly men daven. And having this embarrassing moment.  I however, was not embarrassed.  Not me, six months in to living in Israel in 1974-75 and nothing surprised me anymore.  Having to call someone out of services was no big deal.  I knew he wanted to see my parents. We had discussed their visit when I last saw him, and I promised to bring them to his apartment. He was especially looking forward to seeing my mother.

Ziesel left services as soon as he saw us.   We all walked back to the apartment.  Dad and Ziesel speaking Yiddish. Mom adding a comment or two.  They spoke about the Shoah and what had happened to him. And my mother cried. I do remember how happy he was that we came to visit him.  We had cake and tea, and then we left. For my mother it was especially difficult.

Ziesel lost his family in the Shoah.  His wife and children were murdered.  He could no longer have any other children. He told me that the Nazis did terrible things to him.  He did not remarry.  When I met him, he was working in a bakery across from the shuk in Tel Aviv. I now know his wife was Dvorah, my grandfather’s first cousin. The daughter of Zachariah. Ziesel entered her in the Yad VShem data base. But not his children.

Now I wish I could go back in time to my 19-year-old self, and say, “Ask more questions!  What did he do when he got to Israel.   How did he get there?  Ask more, be more interested.” But I was just 19. Whenever I saw him, he would mainly ask me how I was doing.  He was more interested in me, than I realized at the time.  I gave him family for a year.

I do know that it was  Zysel/Ziesel  who contacted my grandfather after the war.  It was Ziesel who told him that everyone had died.  My grandfather only had four cousins who survived.  Ziesel and one other are on this list.  The other I did not know well. But Ziesel was part of my life.  Although I have no photos of him, I really do not need one. He looked so much like my grandfather. They could have been brothers, not cousins.

In 1976 I took my grandma to Israel to see her brother and her family. (See link below.) She also went to see Ziesel.  That was a different type of meeting.  Ziesel had stolen something from her in 1931.  My original contact with Ziesel had to do with him paying off that debt. Their meeting was more an acknowledgement of the debt being paid and the past released. I think he felt relief after speaking to my grandma.

I was not a part of their conversation. That was the last time I saw Ziesel.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/07/06/a-strand-of-pearls-is-not-just-jewelry-it-is-a-circle-of-love/

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

It is a GRAVE Matter…Really

6 Jan

photo-1

My parents and grandparents are all together.

Over the years I have avoided one important part of my estate planning.  Buying a gravesite for my husband and for me.

I know this is important. But the thought of buying a grave made me sad.  I do not know why. My parents planned ahead. They purchased their graves as part of a family plot in New Jersey. In this same shared area rest all four of my grandparents, my parents and my aunts and uncles on my dad’s side.  When I was a child, no one was buried there. Unfortunately, now all but one of the assigned graves are now filled. 

At the time the graves were purchased, only my two uncles’ names were placed on the contract, as the cemetery would not allow  three names to be on it.  This left my father out. It was not a big deal until my mom died, and we found out that we had no authority to open her grave.  Same thing with my dad.  Luckily we are a close family and my cousins immediately did all that needed to be done. In fact my one cousin went out of his way to help all the cousins as he not only arranged for us to purchase perpetual care for the graves, he has also kept close watch on the care.  When we suffered the loss of our parents and his mother within a year, it was this cousin who made sure the that all three stones were placed properly. We are so thankful for his concern. As we suffered multiple losses that year.

Every year when I go back east, my sister and I make a pilgrimage to the cemetery.  Besides visiting all of our relatives, we take a short stroll to the resting place of my cousin’s other grandparents and relatives.  They are all so close together.  Remembering to bring the correct number of stones, is the hardest part.

Across from our parents, my sister and brother have a resting spot that includes their spouses. Unfortunately one grave is already occupied.   In fact it was this death about five years ago that started my quest and my inquiries about cemeteries.  But it has not been easy for me.

It was convenient for my siblings to buy for all of them as they  live in New Jersey.  But for me it is different.  My husband is from Missouri, and we live in Kansas. We have no family here.  Our daughter lives out of the country. And though our son lives near us now, who knows where he will end up.  So we have been indecisive about what to do.

Where should we eventually be buried?  OY! The best was to ignore this nagging and difficult choice.

This fall one of my close friends, a walking buddy, spent an entire walk telling me about the arrangements she and her husband recently made for their final home.  She also wanted to be sure her children would have no worries. The decision is made and paid for in advance.  It made me start thinking about our grave matter once again.

To be honest my husband does not care where we end up.  “When we are dead we are dead,” he says. “It won’t matter to us at all.”   But I think it will matter to our children if they do not have to worry about this decision in the midst of emotional turmoil.  It is hard enough when a parent dies without having to make this decision as well.  I knew my obsession had to be dealt with when I found myself reading the cemetery plot ads in the Jewish Forward.  That was a bit too much even for me.

As I am interested in genealogy, it was important to me that  our descendants  to be able to find us. I have seen the joy of discovery as people find the graves of their grandparents, great grandparents and even further back. It is so wonderful to have these in one place. So even though we belong to two synagogues, and we could buy plots in their cemeteries,  I do not want to be alone, away from everyone. It might be crazy, but that is how I feel.

The issue came to a head this past November, when my husband’s stepmother died.  She always planned to be buried on one side of my husband’s dad.  He and his first wife, my husband’s mother, are already buried there, as well as my husband’s grandparents. But things did not go as plannned.  Even though there are four empty graves in the plot, my father in law had never designated her to be buried there.  And with my father in law and his brother both deceased, the four plots are owned by the five adults in the next generation.  Since we are out of contact with my husband’s cousins, we were not allowed to bury her in this grave. It made for a tense few days. But the cemetery’s executive director would not  allow it.  (We assume the cemetery must have had lawsuits in the past over similar issues! )

No matter,  she had to be buried in a different cemertary.   But at least it was with her family. A cousin of hers who had purchased multiple plots donated one to her.   I was glad she was not alone.

This situation, the days of trying to figure out what would happen, increased my determination that our children should not have to deal with the issue of a grave site.  I was so upset. I do not want my children worrying about where to bury me. I want it settled.

But now I had a plan.  It is stupid for us to go to New Jersey especially since there are four perfectly good plots in St. Louis.   I am on a mission.  I am working with the cemetery to track down my husband’s first cousins.  It seems we are all joint owners of these four graves. I want two of these plots. It is stupid for them to stay empty when they can be used.

Even the woman I am working with at the cemetery agrees it is foolish to leave them unused.  But she says it happens often. Families drift apart and move away.  The original owner is long dead.  And the ownership continues to pass on to the next generation involving more and more descendants. And the cemetery is stuck, unable to let anyone use the graves.

Well one thing I have learned through my interest in genealogy, and my great contacts on the “Tracing the Tribe Facebook” group, research.  The person at the cemetery told me she could not find my husband’s cousins.  I took that as a challenge.  Within 90 minutes I had their names, their spouses’ names and the names of their children.  I have sent that information on to the cemetery’s office for them to be contacted.  (My research did remind me that my father in law and his brother died just over a month apart.  Even though they had not spoken to each other in perhaps 25 years, they had this connection: One died two weeks before 9/11 and one three weeks after. )

I have another back up plan as well.  My sister in law in St. Louis also has a group plot with her brothers and parents. When I unloaded my stress over finding a grave, she told me that they had some extra plots.  “You probably could buy two plots from us, if that would make me feel better and calm you down,” she laughed as she made this suggestion.  But my loving niece understands.  She promised me that she would come to visit ” her crazy aunt” in St. Louis.

My new year’s resolution for 2017:  I am focusing on resolving this grave matter.   I hope to find my husband’s cousins and come to an agreement about the graves.  Or purchase two plots from my sister in law’s family.  It is my resolution to buy two graves…   NOT that I want to use them anytime soon.
Update: we have two graves with my sister in law and her family in the St Louis area. I am at peace. My children will have an easier time with this knowledge. 

At The Cemetery Visiting Those We Will Always Love

4 Aug

It has been over two years since we finally held the unveiling for my parents and brother in law. They died over a difficult 15 months. One funeral was more difficult than the next. In between my aunt passed away as well. Four new graves in a family plot.

The unveiling was emotional and miserable. Not just because we uncovered all three stones on the same day, but because it was held during a deluge of rain. The heavens were crying for us, as well as the over 80 people who showed up to remember our parents and my sister’s husband.

I have not been back to the cemetery since then. I live in Kansas. The cemetery, Beth El, is in New Jersey. I have not wanted to bug my sister about It when I was in town. But when I was in New Jersey this past March, I mentioned it. And she seems oaky.

Now I am back in New Jersey with my son to spend 12 days with my sister, niece, brother and other family members. We already spent a weekend at our Catskills home. It is filled with memories of our grandparents, parents and others. Over the weekend, I once again mentioned my desire to go to the cemetery.

My sister was fine. “Let’s not take the kids,” she suggested. I agreed.   They are in their early 20s. But I know that going to the cemetery is not something they want to do. It is still painful for them.

I meant to take stones from the Catskills back to New Jersey with us. But I forgot. In the last minutes as we were getting ready to leave, our children were impatient. I should have picked up some stones earlier, but we were busy visiting and just relaxing.

So this morning I went outside with a ziplock bag and searched for small stones around my sister’s home. Although my niece did not think I would be successful, I found enough stones. It is a Jewish custom to leave stones as remembrance on a grave, not flowers. And I needed at least 12 stones.

Our family plot includes all four of my grandparents, my parents, two sets of aunts and uncles, and another uncle. We are fortunate that my aunt is still alive. In fact we have plans to see her and some cousins in the City this week.

My brother in law is buried directly opposite my parents. My sister put the biggest stone on his grave. I had selected it for him, since it came from his house.

Then we turned and went to our grandparents. We went by couples, my sister putting a stone on one grave, while I put a stone on the other grave.  We read each name in English and Hebrew. We spoke about each of them, just a little remembrance: our grandparents, our parents, our aunts and uncles.

For the first time I really focused on their Hebrew names, I have begun to realize how important graves are for those studying their family’s genealogy.  Especially since I had joined the group, Tracing the Tribe.  I realized that some had left off the Levy designation.  And one did not have the Hebrew name.  Would that lead to problems for future generations? Perhaps not, since they were all together.

I had a stone left. I had picked up 13. We knew just a short way down from this family plot was our cousins’ grandparents. So we walked to visit them as well. We stopped and put a stone on Grandma Rose’ grave, we read her name and remembered her. And although we did not have a stone for him, we read the name of Grandpa Asher. My sister did not remember him as she was only three when he passed away. So I told her something about him.

In the same plot are the graves of one of their son’s in laws. So we read their names as well, and I remembered them.

My sister does not remember Grandpa Asher and the other couple as well as I do. Three and half years in age makes a difference. But I felt it was important that all of their names be remembered.

After we were done, I took photos of all the graves. Do other people do that? Or is it a Jewish custom? I am not sure. But since I am so far away, I wanted this memory.   I am not sure when I will be at their resting place again.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, I started to cry, a little.  My sister admonished me.  “NO crying when we are driving.  If you cry I will cry.”  I stopped.  Driving and crying are not allowed.

So on our drive home we spoke about our great grandparents. Two perished in the Shoah. We have no idea where they are buried, or even if they were buried or burned. One died in Europe in the 1920s. Not sure if her grave still exists, so many were destroyed by the Nazis and the townspeople. Four are buried in the NYC area. We need to visit them at some time. We know were two are, thanks to our cousins. But the third and fourth we are not sure. And one we think is in Seattle, Washington.

I remember one of my great grandmothers. She passed away when I was not quite three. My sister is named for her.

We say in our tradition, “My His or Her Name Be a Blessing.” We name our children for those who passed before us. My brother, sister, cousins and I are all named for our great grandparents. Our children are named for the grandparents who are buried in the plot in New Jersey.

These are the graves of people who were blessings in my life, in my family’s life. I am glad we went to the cemetery this morning and remembered those we loved and still love. Those whom we will always love.