JewishGen helps to identify WW2 Photos

(hat tip: Betsy Aldredge)

After 64 years, Bruce Sadler slowly is unraveling the mystery of the haunting Nazi photos his father, Paul, found in the Dachau concentration camp in Germany at the end of World War II.

The images that Paul Sadler never could bring himself to talk about are ones that Bruce Sadler is driven to talk to anyone about, especially if they can help him identify the content.

Paul Sadler, who fought in anti-aircraft during the war, arrived in Dachau as a U.S. security guard on May 1, 1945, two days after the Nazi killing center was liberated by American soldiers. There he found 240 photos from the Nazi era in an album, along with propaganda books in old German script on Adolf Hitler and the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin.

According to his son, Bruce Sadler, "Dad remembers the opening up of train cars at Dachau, with the dead bodies falling out and the stench."

The awful memories kept Paul Sadler from talking about the war until about five years ago. Even then, Paul Sadler would break down crying when he got to Dachau and would talk no further. The elder Sadler, 85, lives in Chicago.

Discovering any further information about the unidentified photos seemed impossible. They had sat in a Chicago attic for years, a virtual mystery, and remained unexplained at Bruce Sadler's Evansville residence for the past 20 years.

That was until six months ago, when Bruce Sadler, 54, became concerned the photos would deteriorate in the original album. He desperately wanted to remove the pictures so he could scan them onto a disc, but was fearful of harming them.

"So I went for broke one day," Sadler laughed.

He slid a ruler under the photos and delicately pried them loose. Much to his surprise, he found German writing on the backs of some. In his zeal to preserve history, he had discovered some history, and his zeal turned into a quest to get the possible identifications translated.

Sadler dug into an Internet search engine to find help, spending hours looking for a translator and posting some of the photos on a Web site affiliated with the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

[Ed Note: The website is Our ViewMate feature allows researchers to post photos and documents and ask for assistance in translating or identifying contents.]

He found a translator in Switzerland willing to help, and has received e-mails from people in Russia, France, England and Israel identifying scenes in the photos.

So far, Sadler has information on about 20 of the 240 photos, and vows to continue the pursuit to uncover the nameless soldiers, citizens, buildings and war scenes. (Courier Press)

Click here to read the entire article.

In Austria, remembering prewar Jewish life, not just death

From the JTA

They shuffled along the uneven cobblestones on Schwedenplatz, a group of elderly Holocaust survivors in Vienna bound for a bus waiting to ferry them two hours west to Linz, Austria's third-largest city.

The occasion was the opening Monday of a photo exhibition at the Linz Wissensturm cultural center depicting Jewish life in prewar Europe. It's part of a much larger collection of oral histories complied by Centropa, a Vienna-based nonprofit dedicated to preserving Jewish memory that has interviewed 1,262 elderly Jews and digitized more than 20,000 family snapshots over the past nine years. The exhibition runs until Dec. 11.

A procession of public figures attended the opening, including the president of the Austrian parliament and the governor of the state of Upper Austria, of which Linz is the capital.

Referring to her government's support of Centropa, Barbara Prammer, the parliament’s president and a Linz native, told JTA, "We have to do it. It's our responsibility."

Prammer's view is fairly common today among mainstream politicians in Europe, where declarations of responsibility to remember the murder of Europe's Jews and educate younger generations about the evils of the past are generally uncontroversial.

These days, interest appears to be growing not only in memorializing the victims but in remembering the vibrant Jewish societies that were incinerated by the Holocaust. Like Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin, the Centropa exhibition focuses not just on how Jews died in Europe but on how they lived.

"What had not been done was to go to these same people and ask them to paint a picture of how these people lived," said Centropa founder and director Edward Serotta, explaining the motivation for his group's creation.

The exhibit in Linz is the first to cull material from the 15 countries where Centropa operates.

Among the bus riders from Vienna was Heinz Bischitz, the son of an amateur photographer whose photo of Bischitz as a young boy standing in the snow is among the 200 or so on display in Linz. A few panels down is a photo of Jewish Hungarian soldiers gathered in uniform in the Dohany Street synagogue in Budapest. Others show children at play, mothers and fathers by the seashore, shopkeepers posing proudly with their wares and Jewish soldiers heading off to war.

"Most of the time when they hear about Jews in the 20th century, it's all about Holocaust, Holocaust, Holocaust," said Andreas Heider, a high school teacher in Linz whose students participate in educational programs organized by Centropa. "This is something different. It's about Jewish life from several countries in Europe, and that's something new and interesting for the students."

Of course, the subtext behind the photos is the understanding that the world depicted in them was destroyed forever. That gives the images, noteworthy mainly for their quotidian depictions of ordinary life, a particularly potent kind of power.

"Of course the program is about the Holocaust," Serotta said, "and we pretend that it's not."

A ceremony Monday at the Wissenstrum featured the screening of a short film assembled by Centropa staffers from the family photographs of Kurt Brodmann. In the film, Brodmann narrates the story of his father, a well-known actor who fell in love with his mother after spotting her in the front row of one of his performances.

Afterward, the gathered politicians took turns asserting their dedication to the preservation of Jewish memory and its importance for modern Austria.

"If we don't learn these lessons, then history can repeat itself," Upper Austria Gov. Josef Puhringer said. "This is why an exhibition like this one is an investment in the future."

On the bus back to Vienna, Serotta was fired up.

"When you saw these hard-edge politicians stand up and get emotionally shaken after watching what is just a sweet story that you would hear sitting on the sofa next to your Jewish grandmother, it really does mean that Centropa is creating very new ways of looking at the Holocaust and Jewish history," he said.

But several of the survivors were less certain of the significance of what they had seen.

"It's a nice feeling that the world will ‘remember’ us," Bischitz said, making air quotes with his fingers.

Bischitz fled Vienna for Budapest as a child and said he is angry not at Austria, where he was never persecuted or experienced anti-Semitism, but with the Hungarian SS who deported his parents.

"I am not a patriot," Bischitz said. "The only national anthem I hear is 'Hatikvah' and I feel something."

Lilly Tauber, 82, whose photo of her grandparents’ shop in Prein an der Rax, Austria, is included in the Linz exhibition, also said she wasn't moved by the speeches.

As a child of 12, Tauber was placed in a Kindertransport from Vienna's Westbanhof train station and survived the war in England. She had never traveled anywhere alone before and still remembers waving goodbye to her parents on the platform. It was warm, she recalled, and her mother was wearing a light summer dress.

Tauber never saw either of them again.

"I can't forget what happened 70 years ago, whatever they say," she said. "I'm sure some [politicians] mean it honestly. But with some people, I'm not so sure if they mean it or if they say it's enough talking about it already."

Click here to read the entire article.

Hungarian/Romanian Vital Records

Posted by Sam Schleman

We have exciting news for those who are researching the Transylvania region
of Hungary, as well as those who are interested in preserving our heritage.

We have recently acquired a considerable number of register images from Bihar county, formerly in Hungary and presently in Romania, which contain around 12,000 to 15,000 records of births and marriages from this region.

As you probably know, these records have been inaccessible until a few years ago and are not available on films from the Mormons.

These records primarily include Nagy Varad (Oradea), Er-Mihalyfalva (Valea lui mihai), Margitta (Marghita), and Elesd (Alesd), as well as those of several smaller towns and villages in the region.

We are seeking volunteers to help transcribe the records. No translating is necessary and no language skills other than English are required. Transcribing means to copy the names, dates and other pertinent information from the registers into a pre-formatted spreadsheet.

"Jakob Klein" is pretty much the same whether in Hungarian, German or English.

Anyone who wants to help transcribe these records should contact me by clicking here.

Thank you.

Sam Schleman
Project Coordinator
Hungarian Vital Records Project

Memoirs of Hitler aide could finally end Holocaust claims

From the London Telegraph:

Fritz Darges died at the weekend aged 96 with instructions for his manuscript about his time spent at the side of the Führer to be published once he was gone.

Darges was the last surviving member of Hitler's inner circle and was present for all major conferences, social engagements and policy announcements for four years of the war.

Experts say his account of his time as Hitler's direct link to the SS could discount the claims of revisionists who have tried to claim the German leader knew nothing of the extermination programme. Right-wing historians have claimed the planning for the murder of six million Jews was carried out by SS chief Heinrich Himmler.

Mainstream historians believe it inconceivable that Hitler did not issue verbal directives about the mass killings in Darges' presence. Other courtiers, such as armaments minister Albert Speer and propaganda chief Josef Goebbels, had their diaries published post war with no reference to hearing Hitler ordering the "Final Solution."

Darges died on Saturday still believing in the man who engineered the Jewish Holocaust as "the greatest who ever lived." His memoirs will be published now in accordance with his will.

Darges trained as an export clerk but joined the SS in April 1933. His zeal for National Socialism soon earmarked him for great things and by 1936 he was the senior adjutant to Martin Bormann, Hitler's all-powerful secretary.

"I first met the Führer at the Nuremberg party rally in 1934," he said in an interview given to a German newspaper shortly before his death at his home in Celle. "He had a sympathetic look, he was warm-hearted. I rated him from the off."

After serving in the SS panzer division Wiking in France and Russia he was promoted on to the Führer's personal staff in 1940. He rose to the rank of Lt. Col. and was awarded the Knights Cross, the highest gallantry award for bravery in the field.

Much of his time after 1942 was either spent at Hitler's eastern headquarters the 'Wolf's Lair' at Rastenburg, East Prussia, or at his holiday home, the Berghof, on a mountain in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria.

"It was a very familial atmosphere at the Berghof," he recalled. "One time we went off to Italy together with Eva Braun and her sister Gretel in an open-topped car.

"I had to organise all the finances. I had the feeling that Eva's sister was interested in me but I didn't think I should become the brother-in-law of the Fuehrer.

"As adjutant I was responsible for his day-to-day programme. I must, and was, always there for him, at every conference, at every inter-service liaison meeting, at all war conferences.

"I must say I found him a genius."

But Darges misjudged the "warm-hearted" Führer deeply during one conference at Rastenburg on July 18 1944 – two days before a bomb plot nearly succeeded in killing him.

During a strategy conference a fly began buzzing around the room, landing on Hitler's shoulder and on the surface of a map several times.

Irritated, Hitler ordered Darges to "dispatch the nuisance". Darges suggested whimsically that, as it was an "airborne pest" the job should go to the Luftwaffe adjutant, Nicolaus von Below.

Enraged, Hitler dismissed Darges on the spot. "You're for the eastern front!" he yelled. And so he was sent into combat.

But despite the dramatic end to his time with Hitler, he would still hear nothing against "the boss."

"We all dreamed of a greater German empire," he said. "That is why I served him and would do it all again now," said the man who had a career after the war selling cars.

Click here to read the entire article.

A Story from Kalvariya, Lithuania

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

Today, I was given a link by Dr. Saul W. Issroff (member of the JewishGen Board of Governors) which was posted on the Psychology Today Blog, dated October 27, 2009. He often gives me such interesting pieces and I was happy to note that this one included information about Kalvariya, Lithuania.

The piece was written by Dr. Danielle Ofri, who is a physician and also the founder and editor-in-chief of the Bellevue Literary Review. The piece discussed four unique readings which were part of an evening sponsored by the Review at Bellevue Hospital in NY.

She wrote of the final reader of the evening:
“Itzhak Kronzon, a cardiologist from NYU, was the final reader of the evening. With his thick Israeli accent, he told the story of his father growing up in Kalvarija, Lithuania. Having graduated at the top of his class, his father applied for a professorship at Prince Vytautus the Great University. The selection committee informed him that he was the most qualified applicant for the job, but since the department already had one Jew, they could not accept another.

Furious, his father renounced his country--a land of civilized European life--and set off for the swamps of Palestine with his new bride. Eleven years later, in 1941, every member of his father's family, along with the rest of the 8000 Jews of Kalvarija, was murdered.

More than a half century later, while lecturing on cardiology in Europe, Kronzon was approach by a delegation of young Lithuanian physicians, inviting him to visit his ancestral homeland. At first he was terrified by the idea of traveling to Lithuania, recalling his aunts and uncles who perished, some of whom injected their own children with poison as the Nazis and peasants were breaking down the doors, others who were burned alive in their homes.

But eventually he and his brother made the trip. Their grandfather's house was still standing. Remnants of the Kalvarija synagogue could be identified. Prince Vytautus the Great University granted Kronzon an honorary degree, in memory of his father. In a moment infused with irony and sadness, Kronzon thanked the university for its racist policies--policies that saved the life of his father and was responsible for three generations of descendants who would otherwise never have existed.”
This was an amazing story and Dr. Kronzon could have enhanced it further by providing knowledge about his family that he had posted on GenForum which is part of This is one of the many places on the Internet where individual researchers can post about their families.

Dr. Kronzon stated the following about his family in his posting:
Before the war,there were at least 100 Kronzons in Kalvaria. My Grandfather Shmuel Kronzon, was a successful merchant of agricultural machinery. He had 3 sons and 3 daughters (5 of the 6 were MDs). My father, Zalman Kronzon immigrated to Palestine (now Israel) in 1934 together with his sister Rachel. Most of the others were killed with there families in the holocoust (by their neighbors, the Lituanians). By now there are at least 7 Kronzon families in Israel, and others in the US, England & South Africa. I have a fairly detailed six generations family tree of our branch of the Kronzons.
NOTE: This is a fascinating story, but other researchers can find additional information about Kalvariya on the JewishGen ShtetLinks site and on the Litvak SIG All-Lithuania Database.

In Memory - Nathan Snyder, 1944-2009

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

Nathan Snyder
1944 - 2009
(Photo Courtesy of the University of Texas at Austin Libraries)

In life one meet may meet many people, some helpful, some not. However, several years ago, I met a gentleman and a scholar, who very generously and kindly helped me in my research. He went beyond the call of duty and located items for me, directed me where I needed to go and translated documents that I could not do myself. He was Nathan Snyder, for twenty-seven years, the bibliographer and cataloguer at the University of Texas Perry Castañeda Library. He was also the namesake for the Nathan I. Snyder Library at the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Texas.

Nathan, an only child, passed away on Sunday, October 25, 2009, after a frightful bout with a brain tumor. He will be buried in Sharon, MA, on Thursday, October 29, 2009.

He was a scholar and a zamler, a collector of books and other documents and incunabula of Jewish origins. He found unique ways to locate such things and bargained ferociously with the holders of these items until he had them donated to the University. His collection grew and grew and is one of the finest in the country. As a result, the university is now known as one of the few places in America with a large collection of South African Yiddish Judaica.

For many years, Nathan and I corresponded about research and I helped him obtain items for the library and he provided me with research materials I needed. The correspondence included many things and the story of his life was one of them. Perhaps the best way to remember him is to quote from some of his letters that he wrote.

Basically, he was a solitary, shy and lonely person, who never married and he expressed his situation in life in the following manner.

“There is no doubt that I am a Jew of intense feeling for my people and its culture. This does not bring me any closeness to my generation. Most of my experiences were with older people, who had the time and patience. It was very hard for all of us growing up in the 1940s and 1950s. We could feel that everything was changing and that we needed to struggle to adapt to the new situation, which would be of suburban life. All my life in Boston was spent in the inner city, which was disappearing as a Jewish quarter. Having left Boston, I would spend most of my life in school and libraries. The most important place was Texas, because that was where I got the keys to the kingdom of Jewish books. It is all here now in the library. When it is over, I will spend time with what I still love, books, as a private person. I don’t like computers too much.”
He went onto say about his life that . . .
“I don’t have much contact with Jews as individuals or a community. Even in Dorchester, there wasn’t very much. Each one of us was involved in our struggle to survive. It was a hard life without much pleasure and bare necessities."
His experiences in life provided him with many tools for research which he used wisely; among them was his love of Yiddish and knowledge of German. He had this to say after I had started him on a round of translations for letters and stories from Lithuania and South Africa.
“My first effort to try to read Yiddish was when I showed my grandmother, Bessie, a copy of the Yiddish Forward around 1960. I didn’t understand what cataracts were. She could read Yiddish, but couldn’t read anymore, because of cataracts, so she couldn’t answer my question. When I saw your letter, my feelings to read it were determined by that experience. I loved my grandmother and my desire to read Yiddish is connected with my memory of her.”
An understanding of Nathan Snyder can further be gleaned from additional correspondence as he attempted to explain his success at his job of locating materials for the library and finding the money to do this:
“When I was 59, there was a meeting in the library and the librarians asked me how I did my work. I said that I did what the Professors told me to do and I prayed to G-d to help me. They did not seem very impressed at my answer as they wanted details about how I got gifts or purchases of materials. However, this answer is a great part of how I did things here. I just was able to get for Professor Seth Wolitz here from the library in Potsdam in Germany 26 pages of a Yiddish translation of a play, Uriel Acosta by Israil Bercovici, whose 7,000 volume library Potsdam bought from the author’s widow.

The answer to what it means to be a Jew, I was able to try to find first through attaining as best a knowledge of Jewish religious and secular culture, as I could according to my ability and circumstances. That happened in Boston between the time I was 15 and 21. That was the most important part of my experience with Judaism and Jewish culture. Then, 14 years after I left Boston, leaving in 1966, I got this job in 1980 and have been able to do things that seem amazing, because I pushed these things through with the help of the Jewish studies Professors and Library Staff, and various other people.

All this is a very intense experience for me, because according to the circumstances of my birth, in a working class and not a business family, and my abilities to relate to the university cultural world, and also live in Texas, this is all truly amazing. I don’t like living in Texas, because I find this a very isolating experience, but the library gave me a platform to try to do Jewish cultural work. I am a witness that this library gave a great chance to add Jewish cultural materials to its collection.”
As a postmortem, his last words of correspondence to me were:
“My whole life was being with strangers, because I felt so strange having left Dorchester and so lost. I would always want to help people and have some hope that maybe people would help me. It didn’t work out so badly, but my life has been changed around in many ways.”
I will remember Nathan for his kindness and generosity of spirit and the help he gave unstintingly to myself as well as so many others in the academic and genealogy worlds. He is a prime example that whatever your circumstances, you can still contribute and excel with whatever skills you have at your disposal. He made his own opportunities and gave others theirs. He was a mensch.

I hope he is now at peace. Baruch Dayan Emes.

Scientist works with stem cells during day, solves Jewish genealogy riddles in spare time

Dr. Karl Skorecki works on the cutting edge of molecular science, revolutionizing medicine through genetics and the use of stem cells to test anti-cancer therapies.

But as a sideline, the former University of Toronto professor has become world famous for applying genetics to genealogy and transforming history. He has found evidence to support traditional claims that modern-day Jewish priests, Cohanim, are descended from a single common male ancestor - biblically said to be Aaron, the older brother of Moses.

Among the other intriguing findings he has uncovered: that 40% of Ashkenazi Jews can trace their descent to four "founding mothers" who lived in Europe 1,000 years ago, evidence that all Jewish communities share a common paternal origin in the Near East, and genetic evidence supporting claims southern Africa's Lemba tribe may be Africa's "Black Jews."

"It began as a hobby, but it took on a life of its own," Dr. Skorecki says. "I didn't think anyone would really be that interested. I'm a nephrologist and a physician but I've always been interested in the genetic predisposition to disease."

Fifteen years ago, as he attended Shabbat services at his Toronto synagogue, Dr. Skorecki says his mind wandered during the reading of the Torah.

"A Cohen [Jewish priest] of North African, Sephardic, non-Ashkanazi origin was called up to read the Torah and it just got me to thinking what we have in common," he says.

"I myself am also a Cohen, but of recent European ancestry. It struck me as interesting that, on one hand, our paternal genealogies have been geographically separated for at least a thousand years. Yet, on the other hand, we share a Biblical oral tradition of common male ancestry dating back more than 100 generations."

According to tradition, the status of priest (Cohen) was conferred on Aaron and his sons, and has been passed on from father to son ever since the Exodus from Egypt.

As he sat in his Toronto synagogue, Dr. Skorecki says, "I realized if that were true, then it was a scientific hypothesis that was testable."

He reasoned the Cohanim should all have a common set of genetic markers at a higher frequency than the general Jewish population. After consulting Dr. Michael Hammer, a geneticist at the University of Arizona and a pioneer in studying the Y chromosome, the two men developed an experiment to test his thesis.

Besides determining maleness, the Y chromosome consists almost entirely of non-coding DNA, which is passed from father to son without recombination. Therefore the genetic information on a Y chromosome of a man living today is basically the same as that of his ancient male ancestors, with rare mutations that occur along hereditary lines.

By tracking those neutral mutations or genetic markers scientists can come up with the genetic signature of a man's male ancestry.

Dr. Skorecki's test found an array of six common chromosomal markers in 97 of the 106 Cohens he tested. Calculations based on variations of the mutations rooted the men's shared ancestry 106 generations in the past - 3,300 years ago, or the approximate time of Exodus.

He also discovered the common set of genetic markers in both Ashkenazi (European) and Sephardic (North African) Cohens, indicating they shared the same ancestry before their communities were separated more than 1,000 years ago.

"It's amazing," Dr. Skorecki says. "It's like an archeological finding. But instead of digging up in the sand, we dig in contemporary DNA."

His findings triggered a storm of interest in Jewish genealogy and the application of DNA analysis to the study of history.

In yet another study, Dr. Skorecki discovered an unusual genetic signature, thought to have originated in Central Asia, in more than half the Levites of Ashkenazi descent.

"They seem to be the descendants of one man who lived about 1,000 years ago somewhere between the Caspian and the Black Sea," he says. "Whether his ancestors originated there or he migrated from the Near East is unclear. We can't tell. But that is also the time and location of the mythical Khazar kingdom."

Dr. Skorecki says one of the most surprising discoveries of his genetic analysis of Jewish genealogy involves claims by the Lemba tribe of southern Africa to have Jewish origins.

The Bantu-speaking tribe of roughly 70,000, now mostly Christians, are spread across South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. But the tribe's oral history claims Jewish ancestry, saying their founding fathers were Jews, led by a man named "Buba" who sailed to East Africa.

Unlike any of their surrounding neighbours, the Lemba observe many Jewish traditions, such as kosher-like dietary restrictions and slaughter practices, male circumcision and one holy day a week.

"Most historians were skeptical," Dr. Skorecki says. "But the genetic evidence is one of the most surprising stories we've encountered.

It is not clear whether the genetic origin was Jewish or Arab or a mixture. But a strikingly high number of Lemba males also carry the same genetic signature markers Dr. Skorecki discovered in modern-day Jewish Cohanim.

More remains to be done, but Dr. Skorecki is convinced genetic research is a powerful tool for historical study.

"It's not perfect. It's not physics. But it is not less reliable than lets say fossil records, archaeology, liturgy or oral histories," he says.

"In the larger context it adds further insight." (National Post)

Click here to read the entire article.

Announcement: JGS of Palm Beach County - Celebrating Nineteenth Year

Posted by Jacqueline Fineblit

Membership Meeting Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County, Inc.
DATE: Thursday, November 19, 2009
TIME: 12:30 pm-12:55 pm: Brick Wall Session
1:00 pm – 2:30 pm: Brief business meeting, followed by program
(Special Interest Groups meet 11:30 am-12:15 pm: Galicia Room 1, Hungary Room 2)
PLACE: South County Civic Center, 16700 Jog Road, Delray Beach, FL
FEE: Non-member guests--$5 (guest fee may be applied toward membership dues)
GUEST SPEAKER: Phyllis Kramer, Vice President of Education, JewishGen
TOPIC: “The Naturalization Process and How to Locate the Documents”

Phyllis Kramer, Vice President of Education for Jewish Gen, will speak at the November 19 membership meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County. Ms Kramer will discuss “The Naturalization Process and How to Locate the Documents”. She will demonstrate how to find and use naturalization records for family research. The meeting is at the South County Civic Center, 16700 Jog Road, Delray Beach, FL Thursday November 19 at 12:30 PM.

Internationally recognized as an educator in the field of genealogy, Ms Kramer is the creator of JewishGen’s internet genealogy classes. She teaches a JewishGen on-line genealogy course quarterly to students worldwide. and frequently lectures at International Genealogy Conferences. Locally, she conducts the Brick Wall Question and Answer session at the monthly meetings of JGSPBCI., and last winter she taught a beginner’s course in genealogy at the JGSPBCI Mini Conference, Boca Raton. She will lecture at the upcoming 2010 JGSPBCI Mini-Conference to be held at the Adolph and Rose Levis Jewish Community Center, Boca Raton, December 9, 2009.

For further information about the Brick Wall program, or to submit questions in advance, e-mail Program Chairperson Helene Seaman. For special Interest groups, contact Marvin Lopatin.

For program information contact:
Announce your JGS event for free on the JewishGen blog! Simply email us using the contact us form on the right hand part of this page.

Updated Legislative Alert Posted On IAJGS Website

An updated Legislative Alert has been posted to the IAJGS website and click either under the Public Records Access newsboy- latest alert of the left hand button under legislation then latest alert.

The updates include IAJGS's the issue on (US) National Archives proposing some major changes that will significantly reduce the space and services available to researchers who wish to use NARA records in Washington, D.C. without any process for public input. Included is a link to the IAJGS letter sent to the acting US Archivist expressing our concerns and request for the public process. A similar letter from IAJGS was sent to David S. Ferriero, the US Archivist nominee. More information on this issue is included.

Also included in the update is information on the recently enacted California legislation and updated information on the Michigan Library closings due to state budgetary problems.

Jan Meisels Allen
Director-at-large, IAJGS and
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

Searching Jewish Treasures, November 8 Program at JGSCV

Meeting: JGS of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County (JGSCV)--California,(USA) Sunday, November 8 2009 at 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Program: "Searching For Jewish Treasures"

Shimon Paskow, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Etz Chaim in Thousand Oaks, has spent a lifetime looking for Jewish history in books and manuscripts. He will talk on his antiquities and show some of the artifacts, including a Hebrew Haggadah printed in Venezia, Italy with a page of "approval from theInquisitor" (from the era of the Inquisition), a Sephardic prayer bookwritten in Hebrew with a page in Portuguese. It includes the names of the people who produced the book, which are as genealogically interesting as the book itself and a scroll with a child's prayer for its parents. Rabbi Paskow will discuss and show a variety of interesting "Jewish Treasures".

Speaker: Rabbi Shimon Paskow, was ordained a Rabbi by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. He has served as chaplain in the United States Army, and is a Colonel in the US Army Reserves Retired. Rabbi Paskow served as spiritual leader of Temple Etz Chaim, Thousand Oaks, from 1969 and currently serves as Rabbi Emeritus.

We will have a 15 minute 'schmoozing session" starting before the meeting--this is for all attendees to share anything they want- so plan to arrive by 1:10 PM.

Our rotating traveling library will have Categories A and B. To see which books are listed under which category, please go to our website, and look under traveling library. The books are available starting 30 minutes before the program to 30 minutes after the program.

The meeting is open to all and there is no charge. The meeting is co-sponsored with and held at Temple Adat Elohim, Thousand Oaks, CA

For more information including directions to the meeting, see our website for directions and more information:

Jan Meisels Allen President, JGSCV


The following success story is published here with permission.

Dear JewishGen,

Shalom, I was so happy to hear from you yesterday and to be able to donate a small sum to Jewish Gen. I am so very grateful for Jewish Gen because it led me to my family history and a marvelous ancient nexus to my past!!

The great wealth of knowledge of generational history and heritage which I gleaned from your website will always be priceless beyond belief to me and my family. I learned of my family names both going back to the middle ages in Europe.

This was the most exciting family information that has ever entered in my life and I am a senior citizen.

I learned of part of my family who still own ceramic pottery and crystal manufacturers in Europe which led me to remember my grandmothers great interest in sculpting pottery etc and my own interest in sculpting. I still own some of my grandmother's sculpture prototypes and look upon them with my reflections of Jewish Gen information that relates to skills apparently inherited from our Jewish roots. I learned of family names who were in the holocaust and was very saddened.

I am so glad that Jewish Gen was there for me in my search for Jewish roots and was able to help friends look up their Jewish past as well. What a marvelous joy it is to be able to have Jewish Gen to link us to our historic and magnificent Hebraic past.

Shalom rav to all there on staff,

Beth Palmer
Palm Spring, CA
Would you like to share a success story of your own? Please email us using the contact us form on the right hand part of this page.

WARNING: 2010 Census Cautions from the Better Business Bureau

(hat tip Edith Taylor)

Be Cautious About Giving Info to Census Workers by Susan Johnson

With the U.S. Census process beginning, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises people to be cooperative, but cautious, so as not to become a victim of fraud or identity theft. The first phase of the 2010 U.S. Census is under way as workers have begun verifying the addresses of households across the country. Eventually, more than 140,000 U.S. Census workers will count every person in the United States and will gather information about every person living at each address including name, age, gender, race, and other relevant data.

The big question is: how do you tell the difference between a U.S. Census worker and a con artist? BBB offers the following advice:

If a U.S. Census worker knocks on your door, they will have a badge, a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag, and a confidentiality notice. Ask to see their identification and their badge before answering their questions. However, you should NEVER invite anyone you don't know into your home.

Census workers are currently only knocking on doors to verify address information. Do not give your Social Security number, credit card or banking information to anyone, even if they claim they need it for the U.S. Census.


While the Census Bureau might ask for basic financial information, such as a salary range, YOU DON'T HAVE TO ANSWER ANYTHING AT ALL ABOUT YOUR FINANCIAL SITUATION. The Census Bureau will not ask for Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers, nor will employees solicit donations. Any one asking for that information is NOT with the Census Bureau.

AND REMEMBER, THE CENSUS BUREAU HAS DECIDED NOT TO WORK WITH ACORN ON GATHERING THIS INFORMATION. No Acorn worker should approach you saying he/she is with the Census Bureau.

Eventually, Census workers may contact you by telephone, mail or in person at home. However, the Census Bureau will not contact you by Email, so be on the lookout for Email scams impersonating the Census.

Never click on a link or open any attachments in an Email that are supposedly from the U.S. Census Bureau.

For more advice on avoiding identity theft and fraud, visit

Holocaust Survivors May Be More Prone to Cancer

Israeli Jews who survived World War Two in Europe have a significantly higher risk for cancer than other Jews, possibly as a result of hardships endured in the Holocaust, researchers said on Monday.

They said their study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, suggests that stress or other factors such as extreme deprivation may play a role in triggering cancer.

Researchers led by Dr. Lital Keinan-Boker at the University of Haifa in Israel compared cancer rates for two groups of European-born Israeli Jews: 258,048 who left Europe after the war and 57,496 who emigrated before or during the conflict.

Both groups have higher incidence rates for cancer than other Jewish and non-Jewish ethnic groups in Israel.

But the researchers found that Jews who spent World War Two in Europe were at least 17 percent more likely to develop cancer than those who left before or during the war.

The results are important, the researchers said, because many Jews who survived World War Two in Europe were also victims of the Holocaust -- the systematic state-sponsored persecution and murder of about 6 million Jews by Germany's Nazi regime and its collaborators.

They endured severe starvation, extreme mental stress and exposure to cold and infectious agents.

"A possible explanation for the differences in cancer incidence observed among the various Jewish ethnic groups may be differences in their specific exposure to the traumas of the Holocaust," Keinan-Boker and his team wrote.

"These observations may have direct impact on the health of World War Two Jewish survivors and thus the care required from their caregivers in Israel and elsewhere."

Among the cancers that were more common were colorectal, breast and lung cancers.

Increased cancer risks were greatest among the youngest -- those born from 1940 to 1945. These younger men 3.5 times higher rates of cancer and younger women 2.33 times more. (Reuters)

Click here to read the entire article.

Museum Receives Horrifying Offer From Nazi Relative

The offices of Yad Vashem, the Israeli agency that memorializes the six million Jews murdered by their Nazis and their allies, received an extraordinary and even infuriating proposal recently. The grandson of Rudolf Hoess, the notorious commander of the Auschwitz death camp, offered to sell some of his grandfather’s personal effects to the museum.

The letter to the museum, which was sent several months ago and entitled “Rare objects, Auschwitz, Commander Hoess,” was short and succinct, saying: “These are several objects from the estate of Rudolf Hoess, the commander of Auschwitz: A massive, fireproof box with official insignia – a gift from Henrich Himmler, the commander of the SS, weighing 50 kilograms, a letter opener and folders, slides from Auschwitz that have never been seen publicly, letters from his period of imprisonment in Krakow. I would be very grateful for a brief answer. Sincerely, Reiner Hoess.”

The management of Yad Vashem responded with shock to the proposal and rejected it out of hand. The management of the museum expressed disgust over the desire of the criminal’s relative to profit from Holocaust memorabilia.

A high-ranking official of Yad Vashem said, “Here we must ask: did you murder and profit as well?” (The reference is to 1 Kings 21:19—INT)

However, museum officials told Rudolf Hoess’s grandson, Reiner, that he may donate the original items to the museum in order to commemorate the Nazi horror. (The Bulletin)

Click here to read the entire article.

Jews of Turkey

Ever counted the numerous synagogues in Turkey? Be sure, there are many. Taking into account that the history of Jewish people in Turkey goes back more than 2,400 years, this is not very surprising.

Still, according to a report on religious minorities in Turkey prepared by the Foreign Ministry in December 2008, there are only around 25,000 Jews living in Turkey today, the vast majority of whom reside in İstanbul, with a community of about 2,500 in İzmir and other smaller groups located in Adana, Ankara, Bursa, Çanakkale and İskenderun.

Thus, it is high time to take a deeper look at the Jewish community in Turkey today. Let's discover what its roots and beliefs are and explore some stories that may reveal essential aspects of Jewish history on what is now Turkish soil.

Indeed, Jewish communities have inhabited Asia Minor since the fourth century B.C.; remnants of Jewish settlements have been discovered along the Turkish Mediterranean and Aegean coasts as well as near Bursa, in the Southeast and in the Black Sea region. The ancient ruins in Sardis, east of İzmir, are surely worth a trip in this regard. Its synagogue, impressive especially because of its well-preserved floor mosaics and its colored stone walls, was established during the Roman era.

Jewish life in modern-day Turkey began flourishing under Ottoman rule. Recognized as a separate "millet," a kind of legally protected religious minority group in the empire's governmental system, Jews were free to run their own religious, cultural and educational institutions. The Etz ha-Hayyim synagogue in Bursa -- the empire's capital for many years -- was the first Jewish house of worship established under Ottoman rule and was in use for more than 600 years.

İstanbul in particular experienced a wave of Jewish immigration in the mid-15th century. After the Ottoman conquest of the city from the Byzantines, their diverse skills were needed to transform the city into a flourishing capital. Hence, Jews from all over the empire -- mainly from the Balkans and from Anatolia -- were resettled in the city.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library Web site, Jewish households in İstanbul numbered 1,647 in the year 1477, making up an estimated 11 percent of the total population of İstanbul. Half a century later 8,070 Jewish houses were listed in the city, and during the 16th and 17th century, it is even estimated that İstanbul had a Jewish community of 30,000 individuals. Communities also developed in western and northern Anatolia, notably in Bursa, İzmir, Aydın, Tokat and Amasya.

The rapid increase can be explained by a great influx of Sephardic Jews (Jews from Spain) into the empire. Sultan Bayezid II, in 1492, issued a decree to invite the community, therewith saving them from strong pressures in Spain, where King Ferdinand wanted them to convert to Christianity or to leave. In a short time, the Sephardic Jews became the predominant power of the empire's foreign communities in commerce and trade as well as in diplomacy. (TZ)

Click here to read the entire article.

The last Jews of Orchard St., hanging on by a thread

It was a street of dreams to many of the more than 2 million Jews who, from the 1880s to World War II, arrived in New York City, fleeing persecution, poverty and whatever else motivates a desperate people to pack their bags and willingly become strangers in a strange land.

Many of these new immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe expected to find streets paved with gold. What they found, instead, were low-paying jobs in factories and sweatshops and life in the dismal tenements of the Lower East Side where sometimes seven members of a family were crammed into small, dimly lit apartments sharing one bathroom in the hallway.

But despite such hardships, many of these mostly Orthodox Jews who clustered around Orchard and Delancey Sts. gradually began to create the American dream. After years of hard work, they were able to scrape together enough money to open small neighborhood shops, turning Orchard St. into a hugely successful bargain mecca that attracted throngs of New Yorkers from all across the city and a comfortable livelihood for themselves.

Even as late as the 1960s, the eight city blocks between East Houston St. and Division St. that make up Orchard St. had a primarily Jewish flavor, with most of the businesses owned by Yiddish-speaking, bearded, and yarmulke-wearing Jews who closed shop each Saturday for the Sabbath and reopened their doors Sunday morning.

In their pidgin English, they peddled everything from fabrics and underwear to luggage and leather, with more than a dozen fabric shops once lining this street.

Today, however, most of these fabric merchants, along with ethnic food vendors, tailors, shoemakers and other Jewish-owned businesses have faded into history. Posh has replaced the past, and where there were once rows of homey stores like Steinberg’s Fabrics, Weiss’ Lingerie, Hamp’s skullcaps and A. Jassin & Sons Butcher Shop, at 156 Orchard St. Orchard St. is now host to sleek bistros, chic boutiques and shiny new condos.

And while some of the more old-fashioned luggage, leather and clothing stores remain, today their wears are being peddled by merchants with Pakistani and Bangladeshi accents rather than Yiddish ones.

Still clinging to the street like some stubborn old vines, however, are less than a dozen Jewish merchants, some Orthodox and some not so religious. Despite the radically changed complexion of the street and a business environment most describe as not so favorable, they are linked to the past — and still dream of a return of the good old days when Orchard St. reeked of Jewish-accented prosperity.

They are the last Jews of Orchard St. (The Villager)

Click here to read the entire article.

NY TIMES on "Killing Kasztner"

“Were you on the train?”

It was a train from Budapest that stopped for several months at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and finally made its way to Switzerland and salvation. The trip was arranged in 1944 during the darkest days of the Nazi genocide by Rezso Kasztner, also known as Rudolf or Israel Kastner, a Jew who was to rescue more Jews than Oskar Schindler.

He had done this by negotiating face to face with Adolf Eichmann, the administrator of Hitler’s Final Solution, and paying $1,000 a head while concealing, enemies later said, the full measure of the peril that was to claim an estimated 550,000 of Hungary’s 825,000 Jews, and vouching at the Nuremberg trials for an SS colonel, Kurt Becher. For this, Mr. Kasztner was shot to death in 1957 at age 51 in Tel Aviv.

For years his name was anathema. Reviled as a Nazi collaborator whom an Israeli judge said had “sold his soul to the devil,” Mr. Kasztner, a journalist and official in Israel’s ruling leftist workers party, Mapai, was denounced in court, demonized in print and spat upon on the street. Rage against him brought down the Israeli government in 1955 and all but ignited a civil war. His three right-wing killers were pardoned seven years into their life sentences. Israel’s Supreme Court later cleared him of all charges, but the stigma stuck. His name graced no memorial walls, even at Yad Vashem, Israel’s shrine to victims of the Shoah, although in 2007 it accepted some of his papers.

But on Tuesday, growing research by historians and a long campaign by his aggrieved family and the many he saved culminated in a joyous tribute at the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research at 15 West 16th Street, where a respectful new documentary about him was screened before its American movie house opening on Friday.

“There were some things I didn’t know; there was a lot of politics involved,” said Gabriela Shalev, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, who listened to a discussion afterward with Ms. Ross, members of the Kasztner family and historians. (NY TIMES)

Click here to read the entire article. For further information and to view a list of those on the transport, click here.

Alleged Nazi criminal in Australian police custody

An 88-year-old man accused by Hungary of Nazi war crimes during World War II surrendered to Australian police Thursday after exhausting his appeals against extradition.

Australian citizen Charles Zentai is accused by the Hungarian government of being one of three men who tortured and killed a Jewish teenager in 1944 for failing to wear a star identifying him as a Jew.

Zentai, who emigrated to Australia in 1950, says he is innocent and was not in Budapest when the slaying occurred.

He was taken to Perth's Hakea prison on Thursday after surrendering, two weeks after the Federal Court granted him a 14-day stay on a ruling that allowed his extradition to Hungary.

Zentai is listed by the U.S.-based, Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center among its 10 most wanted for having "participated in manhunts, persecution, and murder of Jews in Budapest in 1944."

A warrant was first issued for his arrest in 2005. (AP)

Click here to read the entire article.

Central Asian Jews rebuild homeland in NY enclave

Bukharan Jews celebrating Sukkot, c. 1900

For two decades, Aron Aronov has transported embroidered garments, oil portraits of rabbis and other examples of traditional Bukharian Jewish culture from his native Uzbekistan to a small museum in New York.

"Here is all my money, all my life, all my time," Aronov, 71, said as he unbolted the door to the crowded, three-room Bukharian Jewish Museum, which he said is the only such museum in the world.

It tells the 2,500-year history of the Bukharian Jews of Central Asia, where they lived as a pious, insular ethnic community until leaving the region in droves in the early 1990s after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

They come mostly from Uzbekistan, and were concentrated in the Uzbek city of Bukhara.

"This museum is a desperate attempt to stop time," said Aronov, gesturing to an elaborate display of a Bukharian yard, including a wooden sofa covered with colorful rugs, cooking pots and an outdoor stove. "I don't want all this to go."

Bukharians had lived in relative harmony with their Muslim neighbors, but fled Central Asia as soon as it became possible to leave the Soviet Union, whose secular policies had long frustrated pious Bukharian Jews.

Now, they are struggling to protect an ancient culture they fear could vanish. Unlike some other ethnic communities in Queens, New York City's most ethnically diverse borough, Bukharians have no real homeland.

Most of the estimated 300,000 Bukharian Jews have settled in Israel but the second-largest concentration of about 50,000 live in the Queens neighborhoods of Rego Park and Forest Hills -- earning the area the nickname Queensistan.

Only a few hundred remain in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, local leaders say.

Today, a stretch of Queens Boulevard is dotted with Bukharian synagogues, restaurants and cultural centers. There is also a theater staging plays in Bukhori, a Jewish dialect of Farsi, a newspaper, a cemetery and the museum.

Malika Kalantarova, a Bukharian from Tajikistan, was a celebrated dancer in the Soviet Union and now operates a dance studio in a Queens subway station.

"It's like a new Bukhara in New York City," said Itzhak Yehoshua, the head rabbi for Bukharians in America, a reference to the Uzbek city that gave Bukharians their name.

Aronov, often called the mayor of Queensistan, is leading the effort to collect and preserve cultural artifacts. He travels frequently to Central Asia and has brought back a wooden carriage, traditional jewelry, and dozens of silk robes in brilliant shades of pink, purple and orange.

"Some people come in here and they burst into tears because they recall their lives," said Aronov. "When we came into this country, we lost our social status in one second."

On Saturdays, the Tandoori Bukharian Bakery fills after sunset as Bukharians end the Sabbath. Musicians play traditional Bukharian instruments; the doyira drum and the rubob, a two-string guitar. Patrons feast on lagman, a spicy noodle soup, cumin-scented rice called plov, grilled meat on skewers with raw onions and crusty bread from a tandoor oven.

On the wall, the restaurant's Bukharian owner has posted the address placard that once marked his home in Uzbekistan.

At the Vostok bookstore, a group of Bukharian men said while Bukharans are happy here they are fighting assimilation.

"Our history does not die because we have good people taking care of it and we are very close," said Sam Yakutilov, 37. "What we used to have there, we brought here." (Reuters)

Click here to read the entire article.

Lodz' Jewish cemetery the biggest in Europe

Lodz' Jewish cemetery is an impressive sight, with its long avenues, old trees, mausoleums that look like ancient temples and thousands of headstones. Some are badly weathered and it is impossible to read the inscriptions on many. Graves are covered in ivy and most of them date back to before the Second World War.

Today, Lodz's Jewish community is small compared to what it once was. At one time, it was the largest in Poland after Warsaw's. The cemetery is the biggest of its kind in Europe, with 180,000 graves, many of which are of historic interest.

Perhaps the biggest surprise the cemetery has to offer is that it still exists. The German occupying forces during World War II not only tried to exterminate the city's Jewish population, but destroyed almost all of its synagogues and attempted to wipe out all traces of Jewish culture. Lodz's Jewish cemetery was not spared

"In the 19th century, a third of Lodz's residents were Jews. At the beginning of the war about 230,000 lived here," says Anna Jozwiak as she points to the Star of David on the cemetery gates. The Nazis turned a portion of Lodz into a ghetto called Litzmannstadt.

"About 200,000 Jews were held in the ghetto. Only a small portion - perhaps 800 - survived."

Some of those who died in the ghetto were buried in Lodz's Jewish cemetery. But most of the graves are older and date back to the time when Lodz was a growing industrial center. It expanded faster than any other in the region. (Earth Times)

Click here to read the entire article.

For more information about Lodz, please use the following links:

Announcement: A Hidden Life - The Holocaust and Other Tragedies


The 92nd Street Y
1395 Lexington Ave. N.Y.C

Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009

7:30 PM


Join Johanna Reiss for a discussion of A Hidden Life, her newly-published book, about her journey in 1969 when, at her husband's urging, Reiss made the return trip to Usselo, Holland, here she had spent two years, seven months and one day hiding from the Nazis; the result of that trip was the best-selling book, The Upstairs Room.

Johanna Reiss is the author of A Hidden Life:a Memoir of August 1969 and the classic young adult titles The Upstairs Room and The Journey Back.

She is the winner of a Newbery Honor, a Jewish Book Council Children's Book Award and a Buxtehuder Bulle prize.

Order online at or call 212-415-5500
Announce your JGS event for free on the JewishGen blog! Simply email us using the contact us form on the right hand part of this page.

It's The Right Thing To Do

The walls of Dr. Tina Strobos’s light-filled apartment here are dappled not only with paintings but also with the many plaques she has received from Jewish organizations, even though she is not Jewish.

Dr. Strobos, a sturdy 89, is honored every so often for the quietly valiant things she did almost 70 years ago as a medical student during the German occupation of the Netherlands: working with her mother, she hid more than 100 Jews who passed through their three-story rooming house in Amsterdam.

That sanctuary, which included an attic lair that was never discovered, was just a 10-minute stroll from a more famous hideout: Anne Frank’s at 263 Prinsengracht. Indeed, the question of why the Franks did not have an escape hatch for when the Gestapo barged in gets her fairly worked up.

At her home, the Jews were stowed away on the upper floors with quick access to the attic, which had a secret compartment for two or three people to cram into. “A carpenter came with a toolbox and said: ‘I’m a carpenter from the underground. Show me the house, and I’ll build a hiding place,’ ” she recalled.

There was an alarm bell on the second floor so she or her mother, Marie Schotte, could alert those above. They drilled their fugitives in how to scramble out a window to a roof and make their way to an adjoining school, which was not likely to be raided.

She recalled carrying news and ration stamps by bicycle — at great risk, and often cold and hungry — to Jews hidden on farms outside the city. She also ferried radios and stashed boxes of pilfered guns for the Dutch resistance. She was seized or questioned nine times by the Gestapo and was once hurled against a wall and knocked unconscious.

Why would she take such gambles for people she sometimes barely knew?

“It’s the right thing to do,” she said with nonchalance. “Your conscience tells you to do it. I believe in heroism, and when you’re young, you want to do dangerous things.” (NYTIMES)

Click here to read the entire article.

Polish Jews Seek Compensation for Stolen Property

Pressure is high on the Polish government to pay compensation to people who had private property seized by the Nazis during World War II and saw it nationalized by Communists afterwards.

Henrik Piekelny is a Holocaust survivor. His grandfather once owned a silk factory in Lodz. He died in the Warsaw ghetto. The factory was stolen by the Nazis during the war and was later taken over by the Polish government. After the collapse of the Communist regime in Poland, Henrick Piekelny began efforts to reclaim his family’s property.

“When they saw that we wanted to take over the factory they immediately nationalized the factory,” Henrikh told RT.

The Polish court refused to consider Piekelny’s case because the factory was no longer there. So Henrikh filed a case against Poland with the European Court on Human Rights.

Lawyer Monika Kravchyk deals with such cases. She says there is no difference between Jewish and Polish restitution. It concerns all Polish citizens who lost their property. However, the legal procedure is tougher when it comes to Polish Jews.

“They lost the possibility to identify where their ancestors were killed. If they were killed in Auschwitz, I would say from the procedures of the restitution process, this is not that bad because the Germans kept exact records. But if they were killed in Treblinka, no records were kept,” Monika explains.

Many buildings in central Warsaw once belonged to the Jews that perished in Nazi concentration camps. More than three million of them lived in Poland before the War – that’s 10% of Poland’s population. Only a handful survived.

Until now, Poland is the only country in Central and Eastern Europe that has no law on private property lost during World War Two. Only public property can be reclaimed. The cost of compensation is estimated at eight billion dollars. In addition, who is to pay all the other nationalities that had property in Poland before the war. (RT)

Click here to read the entire article.

Christopher Columbus writings prove he was.....

American researchers say the mystery over the explorer's true origins has finally been solved after a thorough investigation of his writings.

A study of the language used in the official records and letters of the Great Navigator apparently proves he hailed from the Kingdom of Aragon in northeastern Spain and his mother tongue was Catalan.

Since his death in 1506 debate has raged over the true nationality of the man credited with discovering the Americas.

It was widely believed that he was the son of a weaver born in the Italian port of Genoa, but over the centuries he has been claimed as a native son of Greece, Catalonia, Portugal, Corsica, France and even Poland.

According to one theory, he may have been Jewish and another more recent account traced his origins to Scotland.

But a linguistic professor at Georgetown University in Washington has published new findings following an exhaustive study of documents written in his hand.

Estelle Irizarry studied his language and grammar and concluded that Columbus was a Catalan speaking man from the Kingdom of Aragon, an inland region of north-eastern Spain at the foot of the Pyrenees.

The findings published this month in a new book "The DNA of the writings of Columbus" explain that although he wrote in Castilian it was clearly not his first language and his origins can be pinpointed to the Aragon region because of the grammar and the way he constructed sentences.

"He didn't express him correctly in any written language," said the professor. "His Spanish was notoriously incorrect yet at the same time efficient, poetic and eloquent."

A scientific project launched three years ago to discover his true origins using DNA comparisons between his family and possible descendants has so far failed to provide conclusive results.

A team of scientists took samples from the tomb of Columbus in Seville and from bones belonging to his brother and son and compared them to the genetic make-up of hundreds of people living across Europe with surnames believed to be modern day variants of Columbus.

Swabs were taken from the cheeks of Colom's in Catalonia, Colombo's in Italy and even members of the deposed Portuguese royal family, who argue that Columbus was the product of an extramarital affair involving a Portuguese prince.

Scientists had hoped to establish a common ancestor using standard Y-chromosome tests but they have yet to find a link.

They study may be in vain, however, as there is evidence to suggest that Columbus, who first crossed the Atlantic in 1492, may have adopted his surname later in life to disguise his true origins.

One theory claims that he once worked for a pirate called Vincenzo Columbus, and adopted that name in order not to embarrass his relations with his new profession.

Columbus himself, when asked about his origins, used to shrug off the questions. "Vine de nada" – "I came from nothing", he said. (Telegraph)

Click here to read the entire article.

Announcement: JGS of NY

The annual JGS of NY Membership Brunch will take place on:
Sunday November 15, 2009

11:00 AM - Brunch (reservations required)
12:30 PM - Program with exhibit tour to follow (open to JGS members)

  • Get together with old and new friends
  • Catered Kosher dairy buffet
  • Cost: $20 for members, $25 for non-members 

Registration Information 
Email Avrum Geller by clicking here. 

Guest Speaker 
Karen Franklin 

Creating the Morgenthau Exhibition: a Family Historian confronts the Twentieth Century 

About the Topic 
Karen Franklin, will present the topic, coordinate and lead tours of the just-opened exhibition for our members after the presentation. She will describe how a simple genealogy request resulted in her participation in an exciting reinterpretation of the family's role in public service and service to the Jewish community. Karen uncovered fascinating personal stories and documents through two years of research in dozens of archives, libraries and private collections. These discoveries, many of which will not be found in the exhibition-- will be described in this talk. Members will be able to tour recent Museum exhibitions after the presentation. 

About Karen Franklin 
Karen Franklin, a JGS member, is currently a guest curator at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. A co-chair of the Board of Governors of JewishGen, she is a past president of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies and a past chair of the Council of American Jewish Museums. Mrs. Franklin serves on the board of ICOM-US (International Council of Museums), and the International Committee of Memorial Museums of ICOM. She is also a juror for the Obermayer German Jewish History Award.

Karen was the only director of a Jewish museum ever to be elected to the board of the American Association of Museums. A researcher on looted art, she has worked on cases for the Origins Unknown Agency in the Netherlands, the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, and the U. S. Treasury Department. In June she spoke at the Holocaust Looted Assets Conference in Prague as a member of the Judaica and Jewish Cultural Property Working Committee.

Announce your JGS event for free on the JewishGen blog! Simply email us using the contact us form on the right hand part of this page.

Have a Website or a Blog?

We will gladly link to any site that has value to those researching Jewish Genealogy. If you have a site or blog not listed on our blog, please let us know by using the "contact us" form on the upper right hand part of the page.

Online Jewish Genealogy Class

Posted by Phyllis Kramer 

Not sure what JewishGen has to offer? What are the best websites? Organize your information better? Get personalized help?

Well consider JewishGen's Basic Jewish Genealogy course, which consists of 8 text lessons, delivered online twice weekly, which you can read online or download at your own pace.

The lessons cover using genealogy formats, organizing information, Jewish naming conventions, Internet Genealogy Resources, U.S. Vital Records, U.S. Census and U.S. passenger manifests (Ellis Island); two lessons will be devoted to JewishGen's web site and its many databases. 

It will also contain hints and tips on how to best use your computer and the Internet.  We feature an online Forum where students can post their ancestral information, documents and photographs, and get answers and suggestions from the instructor and fellow students.

The tuition for Basic Genealogy is $60, however, if you qualify for the Value Added Services by virtue of a $100 donation to JewishGen's general fund within the past 12 months, you are welcome to enroll at no additional charge (to get the waiver don't enroll just yet, instead send a note, with your JewishGen ID, to and we'll send you the instructions to register with the waiver).

For more information, go to and read the description. Students should be comfortable browsing the internet and have 5-8 hours per week available to read the lessons, sample the websites, and interact with the Forum. For questions email

Hope you can join us
Phyllis Kramer
VP, Education, JewishGen, Inc.