British exhibit unveils Jewish gems hidden during Black Death

A hoard of jewels and coins, probably hidden by Jews fearing reprisals when the Black Death plague sweeping Europe was blamed on them, has gone on display in Britain for the first time.

The collection, including a delicate 14th-century wedding ring, intricately decorated cups and dazzling jewels, was unearthed in Erfurt, Germany, in 1998, close to the town's 11th-century synagogue.

Although historians cannot be sure, they suspect that the treasures were concealed in or around 1349 by Jewish families expecting to return and collect them later.

But whether because they were forced to flee, died in the plague or were among around 1,000 people killed in a pogrom in Erfurt in March that year, the items were left undisturbed for 650 years until excavations for a block of flats revealed them.

Some of the most precious pieces from the collection are on display at London's Wallace Collection alongside items from a second hoard found in France in 1863.

"There is a very poignant edge as these two treasures were almost certainly buried by Jewish families at the time of the Black Death when Jews were used as a scapegoat," said Stephen Duffy of the Wallace Collection in central London.

Among the highlights is a display case containing the three earliest known examples of Jewish wedding rings inscribed with the words "good fortune" in Hebrew and designed in the form of miniature houses.

Also on show is what the Wallace says is the only surviving medieval toilet set in the world, complete with an ear cleaner and perfume bottle. Only a handful of such hoards have been discovered.

"People in medieval times knew that Jews had hidden their jewels, and so they looked for them," said exhibition curator Karin Sczech, although she did not rule out more such discoveries being made.

Organizers said the London exhibition, which runs until May 10, could be the last time the rare items were allowed to travel. From the autumn the Erfurt treasures are to go on permanent display in the old Erfurt synagogue.

After 1349 the building was abandoned and converted into a warehouse, before being used as an entertainment space and dance hall from the late 19th century. The Nazis held dances there, unaware it had once been a Jewish place of worship. (Haaretz).

  • Click here to read the entire article.
  • Click here to read about this exhibit when it was displayed in the Yeshiva University museum in NY from September 9–January 29 (WITH PICTURES).

Berlin gives US museum list of Jews in Nazi Germany

The first comprehensive list of Jews who were living in Germany when the Nazis came to power was given to a US museum on Wednesday, providing a detailed picture of the population before the Holocaust.

German culture minister Bernd Neumann gave the list of Jewish residents in Germany from 1933 to 1945 to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in a ceremony in Washington on Wednesday.

From some 2.5 million pages of data, about 600,000 people of the Jewish faith have been identified so far. The directory is to be continuously updated with information from the German national archives, and will be being used for historical purposes as well as for family research.

...the document provides an overview of the names and residences of Germany's Jews, including records detailing their migration, imprisonment or deportation during World War II, as well their as dates and places of death.

The list was first given to the Yad Vashem memorial, during a visit to Israel by Neumann last year. The data will now be made available to researchers and family members in the United States for the first time. (CJP)

Click here to read the entire article

A Jewish Valentine Story: How People Meet

By Ann Rabinowitz

Whenever Valentine’s Day, February 14th, comes around each year, my mind often ponders the mechanics of how people meet and fall in love.  And, before we start on that discussion, it might be of interest to note that Jews have their very own day of romance which is Tu B’Av, the fifteenth day of the month of Av (August), and the last festival of the Jewish year.  It was utilized in the Second Temple days as an occasion for matchmaking and later as a propitious time for weddings and it is celebrated in Israel today.

Our ancestors, very often, were fixed up by a shadchan or matchmaker and had no real choice in the matter.  Very often, the bride and groom did not see each other until their wedding day.  Theirs was not usually a match of love, but of commonalities and family ties and of the proper yichus or proper pedigree.  It was hoped that the Yiddish term beshert for the Talmudic concept that G-d makes the choice of a soul mate for each person would prove the case in these matches.  

The shadchan has been a long-standing fixture in Jewish communities and in today’s world the tradition continues in such permutations as the third generation shadchan Patti Stanger, the millionaire matchmaker on the American Bravo television channel.  One is even reminded of matchmakers in regard to the on-line dating services which are so popular nowadays.  This includes the ubiquitous which bills itself as the “modern alternative to traditional Jewish matchmaking” and “a source of Jewish romance around the world”. 

Music even reminds us of them as in the “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” tune from “Fiddler on the Roof”.  The result of the matchmaker’s art can be seen in many references which give the researcher a wonderfully rich view of one of Judaism’s primary life milestones, the wedding.  One can see this in the Yiddish play “Khasene Shtetl” (a wedding in shtetl) which was performed by the well-known Burstein family which focused on love in “der heim” and its complications.   The play can be heard on the Judaica Sound Archives site here.
Other resources include the book about life in Galicia entitled “A World Apart” by Joseph Margoshes, which can be found on Google Book Search, and discusses, in part, matchmakers and other such things.  A discussion of the role of the matchmaker and the wedding can even be found on JewishGen in a piece about the shtetl of Postovy, Lithuania
There are also photographs of weddings and celebrations which can be found in many places such as the following wedding in Uzpaliai, Lithuania, where the whole town turned up for the festivities.  It can be found on the Uzpaliai shtetlinks site:
A Wedding in Uzpaliai, Lithuania

Sometimes, it is one’s own family that can illustrate the customs and quirks of Jewish matchmaking and marriage.  Collecting stories from relatives about how one’s family met their loved ones can be quite helpful in enhancing your family’s history.

For instance, some couples in “der heim” were matched rather early, in their teens, but were married a bit later when they were more mature.  This was the case with my maternal grandparents, Lewis and Rose Fink, who were from Drohobycz and Boryslaw, Ukraine, and were matched when Lewis was 17 and Rose was 15.  Their marriage ceremony took place two years later in 1891.  They remained happily married until Rose’s untimely death during the Flu Pandemic in 1917. 

The coming of the modern age and the family’s emigration to England signaled a new way of finding one’s true love.  One of my mother’s brothers found his beshert on his own, but she died of consumption before they could marry.  Devastated, his family suggested that he resort to the time-honored use of a shadchan to find his chosen one.  He did and found the woman he eventually married. 

My mother’s sister Sadie met her husband Abe on a train coming back from an engagement party in Leeds.  A nicely dressed gentleman sat next to my grandfather on the train and started to chat him up as my mother and her sister sat quietly by during this conversation.  He made a very good impression as he had a steady job, he was a solid person and was intelligent and easy to talk to.  As they were about to get off the train, the gentleman asked if he could come and take my aunt out.  My grandfather approved and, the next thing you know, he showed up on the doorstep at lunchtime the next day with candy and flowers.  They later married. 

Very often relatives provided the introductions to couples as was the case of one of my grandmother’s relatives, Mina Schlisselhein, who regularly introduced couples and was the unofficial shadchan of the family.  In addition, my mother’s sister Bessie provided introductions for relatives including her cousin Julia and her future husband Phillip.

Family celebrations were also venues for introductions such as engagement and wedding parties and also bar mitzvahs and even landsmannschaftn meetings.  Unattached members of the family would be placed next to each other at the same tables with the hope that the close propinquity of the event would foster a lasting relationship.

In the case of my mother, she found her beshert at a dance in the middle of war-torn Manchester, England.  Her beshert was an American soldier who chanced to come to the dance whilst on leave.  Out of all of the girls at the dance, he happened upon one of the few Jewish ones, my mother, whom he was married to for forty-three years.

 Bill and Fay Rabinowitz

In my father’s family, his father and mother met in a rooming house in Manhattan owned by my great grandfather.  My great grandparents brought four daughters with them to America from Kupiskis, Lithuania.  What better way to find a chasen (bridegroom) for them than by marrying them off to their borders.  It so happened that several of these borders were brothers, so there was added reason for the families to remain close.  My grandfather was also from the same shtetl as my grandmother and this added to the positive aspects of their marriage.

As men and women went out into the workforce and toiled together side by side, it became common to find one’s future spouse on the job.  This was especially true of couples who worked in sweatshops and factories.  One fellow, Solly, a friend of my mother’s brother, came to America to make his mark and went to work in an electrical lighting company.  There, he met the boss’s daughter and fell in love.  He found both his beshert and his livelihood in one fell swoop.

Another venue was education where immigrants attended English classes or other such means of increasing their adjustment skills to their new homelands.  Other gatherings for labor unions, religious groups, political organizations, social groups, all played their roles in providing a venue for romance.

After all these years though of individuals moving away from the formalized matchmaking of the shtetls, it is strange to learn that people are going back to some of the old ways of doing things in the romance department.  They let their parents introduce them to viable candidates and they use actual matchmakers.  Perhaps they are finding that the world is just too large and complex to depend on their own means of choosing a life mate.

Whatever the modus operandi, the romantic genealogist has a broad canvas to research and paint a vibrant story of their ancestor’s lives.  It is well worth the  effort to find and explore these clues to the past. 

JewishGen Blog...Speaking Your Language

This should be filed under the "how cool is that" category.
Google has come out with another great feature that allows users to automatically translate a web page to another language of their choice. As you can see, the snapshot above is the JewishGen blog translated into Hebrew. (Check out the gadget on the upper right side of the page).

As with most things associated with a computer, the translation is only as good as its programming. Google acknowledges this and permits users to update the translation if necessary. So go ahead and see what happens when you try to translate pages into different languages and be sure to check back often because this tool is continually being updated.


Care Packages and How The Mail Got Delivered

By Ann Rabinowitz
Whilst doing research on families in Lithuania, I have often seen in the tax and other records notations that the person was being supported by family from South Africa or America. It is interesting to determine what exactly was meant by that notation. For one thing, many families, particularly in the pre- and post-World War I eras were sent care packages and checks to get them through the hard economic times. Much of this was brought on by various economic restrictions as to allowable occupations or what one could sell or not sell and a general lack of jobs opportunities for Jews. The wartime conditions and the creation of the new Lithuanian national state also affected the condition of the Jewish communities.
I have often wondered how the care packages were sent to family in "der heim" and how they arrived there. Further investigation revealed the following:
  • Items had to be chosen and then purchased in the most economical fashion.
The items were often purchased in bulk and sometimes from vendors who were associated with the group making up the packages. For instance, an example can be taken from the landsleit of Kupiskis, Lithuania, who often utilized the products of the factory in Johannesburg, South Africa, owned by their President Abe Esrock.
  • Items to be sent needed a container to be mailed in.
In the days before one could easily obtain cardboard boxes for mailing purposes, barrels were used depending on what and how much you wanted to mail. The barrels were large and commodious and could be filled with all sorts of items including breakable ones such as china and reach their destinations with the items mostly intact. However, they were rather heavy to transport and despite their wooden structure could be damaged easily and when filled with certain items could leak.
Times changed and with the advent of the sewing machine, a much used container for sending packages became burlap, canvas or cotton sacks, often a 100 pound size, which had been used for flour, oatmeal, salt, or for cattle, chicken and hog feed. It was very sturdy with its double stitched seams and could be filled with all sorts of items and then sewed shut or sealed in other ways. In some cases, the sacks had a printed pattern and, if the sack withstood the journey well, it could then be used to make dresses, tea towels, pillow cases or other household necessities. In today's world, feed sacks have made the transition to the modern age and are made from polypropylene or plastic.
The following is a photograph taken on the Lotzoff farm in South Africa, which shows several family members next to feed sacks. This is an example of the feed sacks which were utilized later on for shipping packages. From this photograph, you can see how commodious these sacks were and how much they could actually hold.
Mrs. Lotzoff and her great niece and nephew
  • Agents were required for the forwarding of packages outside the country.
At the time of the mailings, the postal service in Lithuania was controlled by Russia. In order to send parcels, they had to go through an agent in London and thence onto Vilnius, all via mail boats.
  • Postage was needed and permissions to cross borders.
  • A post office was required at the final destination and a dependable delivery person.
Very often, shtetls had postmen who were given tips to deliver important mail such as packages or envelopes containing checks. In Kupiskis, in the pre-War period, there was a separate Jewish mailman who could be depended upon to make sure these valuable packages were delivered.
Given these things, there is documentation of, at least, three shipments of care packages in the post-War period in 1951, 1954 and 1957 by the Kupishoker landsleit. These packages were sent to both Lithuania and to Israel and were either food or other items. Since there were no Jews who remained in Kupiskis after the War for any substantial length of time, most of the packages were sent to the larger cities such as Vilnius, Kaunas or Panevezys, as well as larger Polish cities where the Holocaust survivors congregated.
Much of what was sent to Russia and Israel were staples and those things which could be used to either earn a living or to sell and get money to pay the rent or purchase food or medicine. For instance, lengths of suit material were often included in the parcels, particularly to those who were tailors. If the person was not a tailor, he or she could sell the material for profit and many did enabling them to purchase tickets to depart from Lithuania for Israel or other places. Other popular items were shirts, underwear, stockings, sugar, coffee, tea, and tobacco, canned meat, cheeses, etc.
According to the late Percy Berger, of Cape Town, SA, who was involved in the shipment of the care packages for the Kupiskis landsleit, the annual subscription fee to the Society was two and sixpence, but some gave as much as 5 shillings. 
Before the war, the monies raised by the Kupishok Benevolent Society were sent to a Mr. Dinnerman in London, who acted as their agent. He bought rolls of material, nylon stockings, and underwear and sent these goods to Kupiskis. In Kupiskis, these items were then sold to raise money for the recipients and their families. After the war, the money was sent to wherever there was a Kupishoker in need – Lithuania, Russia, and Israel. Mr. Israel Trapido, formerly of Johannesburg, SA, and then Israel, was in charge of distributing the money in Israel.
The Kupiskis landsleit kept records of who sent packages and to whom they were sent which included addresses at both ends of the transaction. Sometimes, the person sending the package chose a relative or friend and, oftentimes, it was to a perfect stranger and was a pure act of charity. Examples of these records are the following:
Morris Trapido, P.O. Fishers Hill, Transvaal, SA,, sent a package to Leia Eiof, Shiluto 7/3, Vilnius, LT.
Harry Oshry, 68, 14th Street, Orange Grove, Johannesburg, SA, sent a package to Smerl Tuber, Gedraico 25/3, Vilnius, LT.
Nahum Brozin, Hendrik Potgieter Street, Middelburg, SA, sent a package to S. Kotler, Newezio 5, Panevezys, LT.
These care packages, either prior to the war or thereafter, were lifesavers for the recipients and got them through the hard times which were so prevalent then. It is amazing that with all of the tumult of the post-War years that these items reached their destinations and it is proof that the mail usually arrives no matter what.

The Youngest Corporal In The Nazi Army

This is a story of survival - the incredible story of how a six-year-old Jewish boy survived the Nazis' final solution and kept how he survived a secret for more than 50 years.

It's the story of Alex Kurzem, who at the age of six watched his family being shot by the Nazis. He escaped and wandered alone for months until he was captured by Nazi soldiers. But instead of killing him, they made him their mascot.

Click here to read the rest of the story from CBS 60 Minutes, or click the link below to watch the video.

29th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy Announces Keynote Speaker: Father Patrick Desbois

By: Anne Feder Lee
On behalf of the 29th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, we are extremely pleased to announce that the distinguished French priest, author, and humanitarian, Father Patrick Desbois, will be the keynote speaker at the opening session in Philadelphia, Sunday, August 2, 2009. His speech will be, "The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest's Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 million Jews," which is also the title of his book.

The grandson of a deportee to the Nazi Rawa Ruska forced-labor Camp in Ukraine, Father Desbois is best known for his work in searching for and uncovering mass graves in Ukraine and for his book, "The Holocaust by Bullets."

"My book is an act of prevention of future acts of genocide," Desbois said. Winner of the B'nai B'rith International Award for Outstanding Contribution to Relations with the Jewish People, Father Desbois is secretary to the French Conference of Bishops for Relations with Judaism, advisor to the Cardinal-Archbishop of Leon and advisor to the Vatican on the Jewish Religion. Father Desbois is the president of Yahad in Unum, whose mission is to increase knowledge and cooperation between Catholic and Jews.

Commenting on Father Desbois, Conference Co-Chair David Mink said, "We are extremely pleased to have Father Desbois speak at our conference. He has performed selfless acts of kindness for the many people of Jewish heritage who trace their ancestry to Eastern Europe and have not been able to record the death of loved ones on their family tree." The Conference in Philadelphia, August 2-7, 2009, will include programs featuring archivists, researchers and genealogists from around the world. For more information, click here.

Be sure to register for both the hotel and the conference before March 28 to be eligible for a drawing for a free hotel room during the conference.
The Philadelphia '09 conference discussion group is now starting. Information about registration, the hotel, the drawing for a free room, the discussion group and more is available here.

Information about programs will be coming in March. Hope to see you all in Philadelphia this summer.


By: Joan Parker

After a three-year "hiatus" the JGS of Greater Miami will be meeting with the
genealogist librarian on Sunday, March 1, 2009 at the:
Main Library 
101 W. Flagler Street Miami, FL
Phone: 305-375-2665 
(Click here for a map or call the number above for directions.)

12:45PM to meet on the patio to enter the library at 1PM
when doors open. Library closes at 5PM on Sundays.

Please be aware that although the library is here in Miami, the collections are not limited to the southern states but has all the US census microfilms and City Directories and many newspapers.  
Attendees will have access to the librarian after the 20-30 minute introduction on the collections, All six computers in the genealogy department are reserved for us and attendees can bring their own laptops,thumb drives and their own wireless cards. The genealogy section has three readers which can print and save, and two for reading only, but there are other readers in other parts of the library. 
Also, there are other computers throughout the library as well. While there  we will have access to HeritageQuest and other sites that can only be accessed from the library, not from home.
If, like our JGS members you have not checked out the library for a while,this is a great opportunity to do so. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you will find there.

Joan Parker, President
JGS of Greater Miami, Inc

JGS of Greater Miami Program Notes

By: Joan Parker
September 2008 - February 2009

As most organizations do for their September meeting the guest speakers are from their group who attended the Chicago IAJGS Conference in August. Our attendees were Marcia Finkel, Barbara Musikar and Fran Waxman.
Marcia took the Jewish Roots tour and told us about meeting a family member in a cemetery in Akron, Ohio, her side-trip before returning to Miami.

Barbara brought us up to date on the IAJGS proposed by-law amendments and reviewed a book by Omar Baitov, “Erased.”

 Those of us who have attended past conferences could relate quite well to Fran’s description of her first conference. We all just about experienced whatever she did as in “Been there, done that” our very first time. She wrote her story in the last issue of Branches.

October brought us our own DNA guru, FIU Professor Abe Lavender, VP/Programming, with his edifying presentation on the “Jewish Female DNA Comparing Ashkenazi and Sephardi Women” based on recently released research was the essence of his lecture.  His presentation with hand-outs gave the results of that research.  This was followed by many interesting questions.

November: We were treated to a comprehensive talk about Jewish life in the small mountain town Ioannina, Greece by our guest speaker, Dr. Annette Fromm . She told us of many cultural customs indigenous to the area.  Jewish life was present in Ioannina for centuries, possibly from the time of the Romans sacking Palestine, but certainly from ancient and Byzentinian times.

According to records in 1920, 4000 Jews lived there.  There were two Hebrew schools, one for the boys and one for the girls, and two synagogues.  About 10 years ago, the Jewish community shrunk to about 70 members, but of all ages.

We learned about the Greek custom of naming the children.  The first son was named after the paternal grandfather (living or dead); the first daughter was named after the paternal grandmother; the second son was named after the maternal grandfather; and the second daughter was named after the maternal grandmother.

Questions and comments were taken after the talk.

December: Annual Hannukah party with a guest speaker.  We celebrated Hannukah as usual with Hannukah decorations, delicious refreshments and the Grab Bag (put one in, take one out) for Gifts. Our speaker was noted author, Seth Bramson.

Seth reviewed his book, “L'CHAIM!  The History of the Jewish Community of Greater Miami.” It starts with the early (1896) Jewish pioneers such as Isidor Cohen, his wife Ida, their daughter Claire who married Sydney Weintraub, Joe Weiss, Edward E. “Doc” Dammers, and “Pop” Lehman and continues on to recent times.  He also spoke about Jewish life, restrictions on Jews, Miami Beach Senior High School, Jewish Home for the Aged, Jewish Museum of Florida and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation where we meet.

His collection of Miami-area images is the largest in private hands in America and his collection of "restricted clientele" memorabilia is the largest in public or private hands in the country."

There was a lively question and answer session following his presentation.   He presented an autographed copy of his book, to Dr. Abe Lavender, who in turn donated the book to our JGS library. Thank you both.

January 2009: Once again we had our annual Question and Answer Bring Your Brick Walls program this year to be moderated by Abe Lavender. We were fortunate to have a surprise to some “drop-in” visitor whose schedule while he was in Florida allowed him to attend.  The IAJGS Salute Award winning Steve Lasky from the JGS in Long Island.

Steve is the "curator" and creator of the Museum of Family History for which he  received the award. In the beginning he answered mainly New York specific questions about cemeteries but later focused on brick walls. He and Abe continued to moderate and answer the many various questions posed by the audience. It was a lively Q and A session as members had many problems and Steve was able to direct most people to "sources."  Also some of our members were able to add to the discussion and provide answers. Example:  Marcia Finkel was able to provide information about death records in Ohio and what is online. What a great bunch of people we have in our JGS.                                                                                                          

Steve stayed a bit longer so that people could see and hear on his laptop what is available at his Museum.

February: Our 20th Anniversary Special Event Celebration complete with a decorated cake, delicious refreshments and balloons.  Our special guest was the multi-award winning creator of the fabulous One-Step databases, Steve Morse back  by popular demand. 

Prior to beginning his lectures Eleanor Laub, our Registrar was acknowledged as one of the original members, a Founding Mother.  Also in attendance and recognized as members from the first year were Lynn Wruble, Treasurer and Caryl Chassman, Corresponding Secretary.
                                                                                                    Steve’s presentations were "Hodgepodge" a follow up to last year's well-received  and informative Potpourri.  These were the many little-known gems from protecting against Identity Theft to problems with genealogical searches and touched briefly on DNA.

His second presentation was a humorous, but very informative look at the Jewish Calendar Demystified   through the eyes of Adam and Eve. He explained the workings of the Jewish calendar cycle and how to read tombstones, especially the dates that are written in Hebrew.

As always there were many questions and answers following the close of his lectures. A complete listing of his One Step Web-Pages and information on how to use them can be found at

So far we have had an excellent series of programs and look forward to the remainder of our season.

Abe Lavender (l) listens attentively to Steve Lasky answering a question
Seth Bramson answering a question
Steve Morse during his Hodgepodge presentation 

New Berlin exhibition shows blueprints for Auschwitz death camp

As a follow-up to this this post from November, the blueprints of the Nazis plan to expand the Auschwitz death camp have gone on display at an exhibition in Berlin. Click here to read the article.

There Were Actually Jewish Soldiers in the Russian Empire

By Ann Rabinowitz

Many times researchers either hear or read comments about the many Jews who fled conscription in the Tzar’s Army.  However, there were Jews who did serve both then and later.  There were records of Jews serving Napoleonic times as well.  Some were conscripted and others volunteered.  What prompted my interest of late was a photograph of a Jewish POW who served in the Russian Army during World War I.

             Joe Furmanovsky, POW (seated far right)

The photo, at first glance, is of a group of soldiers, all with black arm bands which state in Russian that they are POWs.  When one looks carefully there are many things worth noting.  For one, most of the soldiers are dressed in a wide variety of uniforms or combination of parts of uniforms from various countries.  However, generally, they are all wearing a Russian Army visored peaked cap with its oval Tzarist eagle badge which would have been in the Romanov colors. 

In 1909, the Army changed its basic look and one can see that in the soldier standing, fourth from left in the photo, who is wearing the typical high-collared jacket.  A photo of the Tzar in the new kit is shown below.

Tzar Nicholas II in the new Army Kit, 1909

Some of the uniforms in the photo are for artillery, others infantry, cavalry, and one is naval in origin.  The soldier standing, last on the right, is wearing a typical short summer tunic which would have usually been accompanied by a distinctive rolled great coat across his left shoulder which was a known Russia Army affectation.  Several of the men in the front row of the photograph are wearing their great coats.  This leads one to surmise that it is fall or winter.  The trousers also have the strip of a cavalry soldier.  All of the soldiers appear to have boots in shined and good condition.  Many of them are smoking cigarettes.

An unusual item to be noted is the chain which crosses the chest of Joe Furmanovsky.  The chain would ordinarily have had a whistle hanging from it.

There are other photos of Russian POWs in Lithuania such as the one below where the men look very much similar to the original photograph.  The exception is that none of them are wearing a great coat which may indicate that it was spring or summer rather than a colder time of the year.  Looking closely too, none of the men are wearing boots, but most are wearing the ubiquitous cap.

                   Russian POWs in Lithuania

Apart from the POWs, there were also many photographs of Lithuanian Jews who were serving in the army.  One such photograph is the following one taken in Kupiskis, Lithuania, during the winter which shows a group of Jewish soldiers being blessed by the official State Rabbi who may have been Rabbi Ephraim Oshry’s father.

In addition to group photographs, there are individual photographs such as the following ones for V. Rudavicius taken in Anyksciai, Lithuania, in 1930 (on the left) and Joseph Shneiberg, taken in Vilkaviskis, in 1904 (on the right):

There are also photos found in Yizkor Books on JewishGen such as those in the Dusetos Yizkor Book and also in the JewishGen database of 1,200 Jewish Conscripts 1900-1914.  In addition, the JGS (NY) has a membership only perk of a database of the Memorial Database of Jewish Soldiers, Partisans and Workers Killed in Action During Nazism.  Another resource is the Vilna Gaon Jewish Museum Tolerance Center in Vilnius, Lithuania, which presented an exhibit on Jewish volunteers for Lithuanian independence (1918-1923) which included a listing of sixty soldiers who were killed during those times. 

One has only to look and there are photographs and so many resources to be found, especially on JewishGen.  It is worthwhile doing a search to locate these resources.

How a Shtetlinks Site Helped Locate a Family Connection Between Branches Who Survived the Holocaust

By Ann Rabinowitz

There are a few basic tools which every genealogist should take advantage of in order to find Holocaust survivors.  A case in point is the recent reconnection of Krengel and Meyerowitz “mishpocha” through JewishGen ShtetLink resources and those of Yad Vashem.

JewishGen provides the capability to find information on families through its ShtetLinks sites which cover many different countries around the world.  These can be found at:

These sites have links which give researchers data, photographs, histories and connections which can enable them to find other family members as well as surviving relatives.  As an example of the serendipitous melding of data and what it can bring to researchers is the Kupiskis, Lithuania ShtetLink Site,  The site is an outgrowth of the Kupiskis SIG group, one of the oldest such groups.

The Kupiskis site has a Photograph Album link which focuses on specific families and has many photographs of those families.  In addition, there is a Holocaust section which provides the names of those who were killed in the shtetl.  All of these links are a result of many years of research, gathering data, and development of the information into a useable format to put on the Internet. 

To continue . . . one day, Anna Krengel was googling her name and found a reference to what she thought might be her father’s brother, Shmuel Krengel, on the Kupiskis ShtetLink Site.  She looked at a family picture on the site and found that Shmuel Krengel did indeed look like her father Berel Krengel. 

She contacted the coordinator of the Kupiskis SIG group, who happened to be me.  I knew exactly who the Krengel family was and who they were related to.  From that point on, I looked through all of my available records and searched the Yad Vashem database.  There, I found the Pages of Testimony which had been submitted by the nephew of Shmuel Krengel’s wife Breine Meyerowitz.  The Pages specified that Shmuel was the son of Menashe Krengel and Rachel Zilberman of Kalvariya, Lithuania. 

Sure enough, when I gave this information to Anna Krengel, she recognized that this couple was her very own grandparents.  They had five sons and a total of ten grandchildren and Anna and her brother were the only surviving grandchildren out of this large family. 

The grandfather, Menashe Krengel, had a huge bee hive, honey and wax business and some of his children had a varnish and oil business.  All of these were in Marijampole and signs with the family name were found on a number of buildings throughout the city attesting to their prominence in business.  

With the information I gave Anna, she could now be in touch with the descendants of the family of Breine Meyerowitz Krengel, who had left South Africa and now lived in Israel, Australia and America, and they, in turn, could be in touch with her and learn more about their aunt’s husband and his family.  As it turned out, the descendants of Breine Meyerowitz Krengel’s family had been instrumental in the erection of a Holocaust Memorial in Kupiskis where Shmuel Krengel was listed.  And, Anna had photographs of all of her uncles and their children including one which had her uncle Shmuel’s wife Berta (Breine) and their child Fraidele. 

Here, both families, the Krengel’s and Meyerowitz’s could now share memories of their respective families, who were no more.  It was a poignant and bittersweet result of what started as a basic Internet google search and reached into the JewishGen ShtetLinks site for Kupiskis, and thereafter into the Yad Vashem’s database.

Woman who hid Anne Frank from the Nazis marks her 100th birthday

Anne Frank called them the "Helpers". They provided food, books and good cheer while she and her family hid for two years from the Nazis in a tiny attic apartment. On Sunday, the last surviving helper, Miep Gies, celebrates her 100th birthday, saying she has won more accolades for helping the Frank family than she deserved - as if, she says, she tried to save all the Jews of occupied Holland.

"This is very unfair. So many others have done the same or even far more dangerous work," she wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press this week.It was Gies who gathered up Anne's scattered papers and notebooks after the hiding place was raided in 1944. She locked them unread in a desk drawer to await the teenager's return.

Anne died of typhus in the German concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen seven months after her arrest. British and Canadian troops liberated the camp two weeks later.

Gies gave the collection to Anne's father Otto, the only survivor among the eight people who hid in the concealed attic of the canal-side warehouse. He published it in 1947, and it was released in English in 1952 as "The Diary of a Young Girl." Retitled "The Diary of Anne Frank," it was the first book about the Holocaust to win popular appeal, and has sold tens of millions of copies in dozens of languages.

A new edition of her 1987 book "Anne Frank Remembered" is due to be published this year.

Gies was born in Austria, and came to the Netherlands at age 13 to escape food shortages and live with a foster family. In 1933 she was hired as an office assistant in Otto Frank's spice business. Frank asked her in July 1942 to help hide his family in the annex above the company's warehouse and to bring them food and supplies.

The family, joined by four other Jews, hid for 25 months before they were betrayed. Repeated investigations by police and historians failed to definitively identify who turned them in.

Click here to read the entire article.

Olmert inaugurates Holocaust survivors' help line

A new center and telephone help line aimed at providing Holocaust survivors with information about their social welfare rights and financial benefits was officially inaugurated on Thursday morning by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. 
The initiative was approved by the cabinet more than a year ago.Despite what Olmert called the "first real attempt by an Israeli government to improve the living conditions of Holocaust survivors in the last 60 years," survivor advocacy groups greeted the center's creation with caution, saying only time will tell if it accomplishes its goals.
An estimated third of the 250,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel live below the poverty line, with many forced to chose between food and medicine.
"These people have suffered enough," Olmert said as he officially opened the center in Givatayim. "They went through hell and then came here to help build the State of Israel. It is only fitting that they receive the recognition that is owed to them."(Source: JP)

Click here to read the entire article.

ShtetLinks Project Report for January 2009

By: Susana Leistner Bloch

We are pleased to welcome the following webpages to JewishGen ShtetLinks. We thank the owners and webmasters of these shtetlpages for creating fitting memorials to the Jewish Communities that once lived in those shtetlach and for providing a valuable resource for future generations of their descendants.
Goniadz (Goniondzh), Poland
Created by Michael Rothschild
Illintsi (Linitz), Ukraine
Created by Rick Kolinsky and Richard Collins
Vitsyebsk (Vitebsk), Belarus
Created by Esther Rechtschafner and David Feldman 
Some of our shtetlpages were created by people who are no longer able to maintain them.
We thank them for their past efforts and wish them luck on their future endeavors.
We are happy to announce that one of these shtetlach were recently "adopted":

Siauliai(Shavel), Lithuania
Shtetlpage adopted by Assaf Urieli

ShtetLinks webpages recently updated:

Kormend, Hungary
Created by  Judy Petersen

If you wish to follow their example and create a ShtetLinks webpage for your ancestral shtetl or adopt an exiting "orphaned" shtetlpage please contact us.

GOOD NEWS!! As a result for our appeal for HTML volunteers we now have a team of dedicated people who will help you create a webpage for your ancestral home.
Please contact us if you would like help in creating a ShtetLinks webpage.

Susana Leistner Bloch, VP, ShtetLinks, JewishGen, Inc.
Barbara Ellman, ShtetLinks Technical Coordinator

Town-Wide Research: Bringing Your Shtetl to Life-JGSCV March 1 Meeting

The Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County (JGSCV) will hold a general meeting, co–sponsored with Temple Adat Elohim, on Sunday, March 1, 2009 at Temple Adat Elohim 2420 E. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks, 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Program: Town-Wide Research: Bringing Your Shtetl to Life

The Ariogala Research Group has been able to “re-create” the life of their ancestral shtetl in Lithuania, typical of eastern European villages, whose centuries of Jewish life were destroyed in the Holocaust. This presentation provides methods for you to paint a rich picture of your ancestral town. Using a variety of sources and documents from 1765 to 1940, the history and life of typical Lithuanian town will be described. Though the focus will be on Ariogala, Lithuania, this approach can be applied to hundreds of Eastern European shtetls. Dozens of types of records, maps, photographs, and memorabilia obtained from archives, museums, survivors, descendents, personal visits, newspapers, and current residents will be presented, to illustrate how to bring your shtetl to life.

Speakers: David B. Hoffman, Ph.D. organized the Ariogala Research Group. He is the President of the Litvak Special Interest Group and the Jewish Family History Foundation, and serves on the Board of JGSLA as Editor of its journal, Roots-Key.
Sonia Hoffman is Past President of JGSLA and coordinates the Grand Duchy Project of the Jewish Family History Foundation.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County is dedicated to sharing genealogical information, techniques and research tools with anyone interested in Jewish genealogy and family history.

There is no charge to attend the meeting. Anyone may join JGSCV. Annual dues are $25 for an individual and $30 for a family.

For more information contact: or see our website

Jan Meisels Allen
President, JGSCV

Part of Shanghai's Jewish history is under threat from bulldozers.

Ruan Yisan, a professor at Shanghai's Tongji University, has launched a campaign to try to save historic buildings in the Jewish quarter. 
In the 1930s, Shanghai was the only place in the world to offer visa-free sanctuary to Jews fleeing Nazism — 20,000 ended up in Shanghai. In 1943, the Japanese restricted them to a one-square-mile area, which became known as Little Vienna.
A pianist and a violinist used to play popular music for customers at the White Horse Inn, or Das Weisse Rossl...the menu featured Wiener schnitzel.

But the White Horse wasn't in Austria or Germany, it was in wartime Shanghai. And for the city's wealthier Jewish refugees, it offered a memory of homes that no longer existed.

"My wedding party was in White Horse Inn, which was fantastic," remembers Kurt Mosberg, now 90 years old and living in Sydney. "It was mostly my friends, mostly Jewish people, about 120 people. Thinking that it was in Shanghai, it's an amazing thing, you know."

Mosberg's parents started the White Horse Inn in Shanghai in 1939 and ran it for five years as a nightclub.

Today, the building still stands. It's easily identified by a distinctive fluted circular turret. Below that, painted on its wall is the Chinese character "to be demolished." The White Horse Inn is among a number of buildings inside the Jewish district to be knocked down to make way for a widened road.

As they start work, the demolition crews are uncovering layers of the past, like unwitting architectural archaeologists. By knocking down shop facades, old shop signs beneath are revealed, like one for Wuerstel Tenor, a sandwich shop, which had been covered for decades.

They will pull down other fading shop fronts at the heart of Little Vienna, as well — those of Cafe Atlantic and Horn's Imbiss-stube (Horn's Snack Bar).

"The existing refugee coffee shops [and] restaurants were a shining light in the lives of the refugees, who did not know how long their isolation and misery would last, should they survive," says Rena Krasno, who has written about her experiences living through World War II in Shanghai.

"In these eateries, they felt they were back in Europe … and for a short time eliminated their painful fate from their minds," she says.

Dvir Bar-Gal is an Israeli journalist who is writing a book about Shanghai's Jewish past. He also leads tours around the Jewish quarter. For him, the question is how important it is for a society to keep its past. If the demolitions go ahead, he fears there will be less and less to show visitors, and he fears the little-known story of Shanghai's Jewish past will be in danger of being completely forgotten.

"People will stop coming. There will be no interest in the almost forgotten story of the 1940s, the people who were saved here from the Nazis," he says. (NPR)

Click here to read the entire story

Chai Anniversary for the JGS of Palm Beach County

By: Jacqueline Fineblit
We are proud to announce that Paul A. Shapiro, Director, Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum will be the guest speaker. Shapiro’s topic is Opening the Archives of the International Tracing Service,” a subject of major importance to all genealogists.
Shapiro, keynote speaker at the 2007 IAJGS Conference, is the leader of the group that went to negotiate the release of the International Tracing Service Holocaust records stored at Bad Arolsen in Germany. Through the efforts of his committee, 50 million pages of records, on 16 miles of shelves, will be digitized, and many are now available on line. Shapiro will not only demonstrate how to search these records, but will also show how to use other research information available at the Holocaust Museum.
The committee is hard at work making this Chai Luncheon (celebrating our 18th year) a most outstanding event. You are invited to join us Sunday, March 1, 2009, 11:30 am, Crowne Plaza Hotel, 1601 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach, FL.
For further information go to our web site, or contact Natalie.
All the best,
Jacqueline Fineblit,Publicity and E-mail coordinator
Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County Inc. FL

Click here for the printable registration form.

The Conference Is Coming!

Yes it's true, it is almost time for the next IAJGS Jewish Genealogy conference, which is scheduled to take place this summer in Philadelphia from August 2nd through August 7th. The video below (from Roots Television) contains an interview with Mark Halpern and David Mink that is sure to make the weather outside feel just a little bit warmer (at least if you are on the east coast)!

Once you watch the video, click here to visit the conference site.


JewishGen: Update

Photo Credit: Nasa Gallery

As you have probably noticed, JewishGen is up and running...running very FAST that is! However while the databases are now up and running, we are still experiencing some technical difficulties sending email to,, and selected other domains.
We are working on resolve this issue and appreciate your continued patience and support.

Enjoy the speed!

Yikzor Book Update

The JewishGen Yizkor Book database has been updated. Click here to search the general database or here to search the necrology database.

Below is a quick list Yizkor Books that have have been updated recently:
We are always looking for volunteers to manage a translation project. For more information, pease click here.

End Of Hunt For Nazi Doctor?

CAIRO — Even in old age the imposingly tall, athletic German known to locals as Tarek Hussein Farid maintained the discipline to walk some 15 miles each day through the busy streets of Egypt’s capital. He walked to the world-renowned Al Azhar mosque here, where he converted to Islam, and to the ornate J. Groppi Cafe downtown, where he ordered the chocolate cakes he sent to friends and bought the bonbons he gave to their children, who called him Uncle Tarek.

Friends and acquaintances here in Egypt also remembered him as an avid amateur photographer who almost always wore a camera around his neck, but never allowed himself to be photographed. And with good reason: Uncle Tarek was born Aribert Ferdinand Heim, member of Adolf Hitler’s elite Waffen-SS, and medical doctor at the Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen concentration camps.

It was behind the gray, stone walls of Mauthausen in his native Austria that Dr. Heim committed the atrocities against hundreds of Jews and others that earned him the nickname Dr. Death and his status as the most-wanted Nazi war criminal still believed to be at large by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Dr. Heim was accused of performing operations on prisoners without anesthesia; removing organs from healthy inmates, then leaving them to die on the operating table; injecting poison, including gasoline, into the hearts of others; and taking the skull of at least one victim as a souvenir. After living below the radar of Nazi hunters for more than a decade after World War II — much of it in the German spa town of Baden-Baden where he had a wife, two sons and a medical practice as a gynecologist — he escaped capture just as investigators closed in on him in 1962.

His hiding place, as well as his death in 1992, have remained unknown until now. (Source: NYT)

Click here to read the entire article.


By Joan Parker

We are so excited.  Mark your calendar in red for February 8, 2009! Help us celebrate our 20th Anniversary with world-famous genealogy expert Steve Morse as our special guest at the Federation on February 8, 2009 at 10:00 AM.

Steve is returning to Miami, by popular demand, with two great presentations: Hodge Podge, a follow-up to his excellent and popular Potpourri presentation and then Jewish Calendar Demystified. What have Adam and Eve to do with the Jewish Calendar? Come join us and find out.

Non-Member guests will be charged a $5 admission fee, which includes the special refreshments to celebrate our anniversary, but any guest who joins that day will be admitted free. Please contact Joan Parker via email or call (305) 266-3350 if you plan to attend and for information.  Reservations are not needed but we need to plan  for refreshments.

Hope to see you there for this special day.

Joan Parker, President
Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami, Inc.
Miami, FL

Google Book Search

By Ann Rabinowitz
Very often we overlook older resources for our American ancestors or the towns they settled in.  These resources can usually be found in libraries, but with digitization of books, many can be found on-line and for free.  Recently, I found a resource on Google Book Search. The book was entitled “Eminent Jews of America:  A Collection of Biographical Sketches of Jews who Have Distinguished Themselves in Commercial, Professional and Religious Endeavor” which was published by S.B. Goodkind in 1918.  The biographical sketches or, what amounted to who’s who entries, were accompanied by many hard to find photographs which were further reasons for viewing this book.
One of great things about digitized books is that they can be searched easily and this book is no different.  For instance, one can use such search criteria as the person’s name, town of birth, where the person lived in America or his/her profession.  In this particular book, there is no standardization of spelling for town names from overseas.  The author generally spelled them as he heard them from the individual being interviewed.  So, for instance, there is Vilna, Vilne, etc., and such peculiar spellings as Keltz, guberne, Russia, or Oshtchiluga, Poland.

An instance, of what one would find when looking for a town in America, is the information provided for those individuals who were either born in Detroit or who came there to settle.  There are, at least, thirty references for individuals living in Detroit as of 1918.  Examples of this are the following people with their birthplaces and birth dates:

  • Captain Julius Berman, Russia, January 14, 1880
  • Herman Eichner, Torna, Hungary, March 26, 1880
  • Philip Ettinger, Lemberg, Galicia, December 10, 1873
  • Benjamin Fealk, Beroswitz, Volina, Guberne, Russia, April, 1882
  • Israel Fealk, Beroswitz, Volina, Guberne, Russia, April, 1885
  • Sam Fealk, Beroswitz, Volina, Guberne, Russia, December, 1874
  • William Friedman, Detroit, MI, April 1, 1880
  • Samuel Goldstein, Onopol, Volina, Guberne, Russia, 1870
  • Harry S. Grant, Byalostock Grodno, Russia, September 22, 1879
  • Harry M. Greenberg, Lechavith Muisk, Guberne, Russia, November 7, 1879
  • William Jackson, Dalena, Austria, October 21, 1880
  • Jacob Kovinsky, Suwalk, Guberne, Poland, September 15, 1883
  • Louis Lebster, Husiatyn, Austria, September 15, 1879
  • Joseph Lefkofsky, Bilistock, Russia, February 16, 1864
  • Jacob Moskovitz, Bassarolia, Kishnip, Guberne, Russia, December, 1867
  • David Oppenheim, Detroit, MI, April 16, 1872
  • Charles Rosenthal, Newburgh, NY, March 17, 1869
  • Joseph Sanders, Austria, April 19, 1887
  • Bernard Schwartz, Oshtchiluga, Poland, April, 1872
  • Benjamin B. Schwartz, Ivia, Vilna, Geberne, Russia, April, 1883
  • Joseph Selikowitz (Selik),  Grodno, Russia, 1872
  • Jacob Shlain, Vladimir, Voline, Geberne, Russia, December, 1872
  • Jacob Singer, Volkovish, Grodno, Guberne, Russia, July 4, 1883
  • Sam Teper, Kovel, Russia, April 15, 1890
  • Goodman Velick, Kurland, Koski, Russia, September 15, 1860
  • Hyman P. Weller, Austria, April 4, 1874
In addition to the names of the featured individuals, the wives and their families are named, when they married and where, and where they came from originally.  Further, people they worked for or were partners with are also mentioned as well as organizations their belonged to and charities they contributed to.  This, too, enlarges the pool of names for individuals who made Detroit their home.

An example of a complete biographical sketch is that of Sam Fealk, the son of Scholem Fealk, and one of several Fealk brothers who settled in Detroit:

“The Jews are the world’s greatest merchants.  They have also taught us some valuable lessons in conservation.  That we, as a nation, have still a great deal to learn is evidenced by the immense fortunes they are amassing from material which has been cast away.

Such is the business history of Sam Fealk, who was born in Beroswitz, Volina, Geberne, Russia, in December, 1874.  He inherited much of his business instinct from his father, who was a successful merchant and a very learned man.

He did not come to America until May, 1903, when he landed in New York with practically no money and a wife and family dependent on him.

Going to New Hampshire, he received sufficient assistance from a Jewish friend to enable him to begin peddling, which he continued for six years.  Coming to Detroit, he started in business for himself, but was very unfortunate as the panic of 1907 swept away his entire savings.

With the invincible will which characterizes so many of his brethren, he started peddling again, bravely defying an unkind fate in his effort for a new start in life.

Two years later, he opened a metal and iron yard at his present place of business, 174 Clinton street, where success crowned his efforts.

Mr. Fealk was twice married:  once in Russia and his wife dying when he came to this country.  He was again married in 1906 to Miss Gittle Ginda, daughter of Josel and Lea Ginda of New York.

Mr. Fealk is the father of eight children, all of whom are going to school with the exception of David, who is in business with his father.

He is a member of Tefereth Israel Congregation and other Jewish organizations.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Fealk are very generous in their assistance of the poor and unfortunate and contribute most liberally to all charities who ask their assistance”.

Another Google Book Search find which mentions Detroit is “The Forerunners:  Dutch Jewry in the North American Diaspora” by Robert P. Swierenga, published in 1994 by Wayne State University.

This can be found here.

In this book are mentioned the early Dutch Jewish settlers of Detroit who settled there between 1860 and 1870 and numbered about a dozen families and totaled about approximately 100 individuals.  These included the van Baalen family and the Davis family amongst others.  In addition to Detroit, other mid-west places such as Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Toledo are mentioned as well as larger east coast cities such as Baltimore, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.

Another later Google Book Search title is “Images of America:  Jewish Detroit” by Irwin J. Cohen, published in 2002:

This small book provides a brief history and photographs of the Jewish community’s beginnings in 1762 with Chapman Abraham and continues with a discussion of the German Jewish settlement in Detroit and goes through the modern age.  Whilst it does not provide extensive lists of family names as the other books do, it does provide photographs of Jewish-related businesses, institutions, and families.


The three books mentioned above regarding the Jews of Detroit are just the tip of the iceberg to locating information on ancestors from that particular place.  Further probing with Google Book Search will reveal additional resources including magazine and journal articles.

The use of Google Book Search can provide access to either antique books or later ones which incorporate the very details needed to fill in family histories or the community’s history.  This tool is particularly useful as it has a search engine which can locate specific facts the genealogical researcher may be looking for.  The indices for these books can also give an insight into what and who is covered and what to search for with the search engine.