Where is the JCC please?

Walter and Ruth

We are tired. It is hot and humid. Rain is threatening. After a morning session visiting synagogues and prayer houses in Kazamierz (the old Jewish quarter of Krakow), we think of going back to the apartment to rest. First, we sit in a restaurant, the Ariel, and have a piece of cake reminiscent of our mother’s – Ruth has Skarlotka, an apple cake and I have a hazelnut torte. The accompanying ice coffee feels good.
Before heading home we decide to go to the JCC (Yes Krakow has a JCC) to reserve tickets for an upcoming Shabbat dinner but we turn the wrong way. Ruth approaches a young Polish couple for directions. Men never ask for directions. It’s true.

“We are going to Plaszow – the tour bus is waiting,” reply Tomasz and Anya, a young non-Jewish Polish couple spending their Sunday at the Jewish Culture Festival. Never ones to…

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Where is the JCC please?

We are tired. It is hot and humid. Rain is threatening. After a morning session visiting synagogues and prayer houses in Kazamierz (the old Jewish quarter of Krakow), we think of going back to the apartment to rest. First, we sit in a restaurant, the Ariel, and have a piece of cake reminiscent of our mother’s – Ruth has Skarlotka, an apple cake and I have a hazelnut torte. The accompanying ice coffee feels good.
Before heading home we decide to go to the JCC (Yes Krakow has a JCC) to reserve tickets for an upcoming Shabbat dinner but we turn the wrong way. Ruth approaches a young Polish couple for directions. Men never ask for directions. It’s true.

“We are going to Plaszow – the tour bus is waiting,” reply Tomasz and Anya, a young non-Jewish Polish couple spending their Sunday at the Jewish Culture Festival. Never ones to turn down a tour to a concentration camp (this tour not even listed in our guide) we hop on board.

I’m not sure when I realized that this was not just an ordinary tour. Someone was carrying the poles for a chuppa. Everyone seemed to know one another. And people were carrying bouquets, not stones to place on grave sites. There was lots of laughter.
It is becoming obvious that we have stumbled on a family event. But what is it? A wedding on the site of a concentration camp??? A photographer is filming every move of one particular couple.
We trek through the ruins of the camp – through brush, up hills – a bearded man in a suit holds up maps of the site and points out where barracks once were.
trekking through the ruins of Plaszow

Lecturing on Plaszow

We are wearing sandals, perfect for city walking but not for what we are doing. I realize that I am not tired any more. Something amazing is happening. We keep trekking and start asking our fellow trekkers for some kind of explanation.
“Seventy years ago Josef Bau was a slave laborer in this camp” someone says. He secretly married his wife there – had he been discovered by the Nazis he would have been shot. The wedding ring was a melted down spoon we are told. Ok, fine.
We at last arrive at a hillside spot where the foundation stones of a barracks are visible. The chuppa goes up. The “wedding party” includes Josef Bau’s grandson, Boaz, here from Israel, his bride, Or, and his mother and aunt, a polish film director and his SO.

Boaz and

A Polish film director? Yes he directed the wonderful Irena Sendler documentary. Turns out he read a newspaper story about the Baums, travelled to Israel to meet the family (and perhaps to get material for an upcoming film) and here he and his SO are under the chuppa too. The story gets laboriously told, in Hebrew, Polish and English. Songs are sung, some peculiar version of “Don’t worry be happy, have lots of sex and relax.” This is not a somber occasion. Life is being celebrated And it’s really not a formal wedding. The bride and groom were married one month ago. This is a symbolic reenactment of Boaz’s parents wedding 70 years earlier on the exact spot where it occurred.

Baum Ketubbah

The Bau’s survived Plaszow, Auchwitz, stayed in Krakow for 5 years and then immigrated to Israel. Josef became a famous animator.
We purchase a book about the Bau story (our 4th book of the day). NOTE: We need to stop doing this. Down the hill we go, into the bus and back to Krakow. Oh by the way, the Polish director and his SO get married too in the same ceremony. He gives me his card – a new film is in the works. Can this day get any crazier or profound? It does, but that’s for another blog/

David Hoffer and Ruchma Szacher

Mezuza at Targowa 14

Mezuza at Targowa 14

Genealogists get very bored when their websites go down. Such is the case today (and yesterday) as hackers shut down ancestry.com, family tree maker, archives.com, and JewisgGen.org. As we plan to go to Czestochowa, Poland in a week or so, I looked up the report of a Polish researcher I had hired to search the Czestochowa archives for the marriage of David Hoffer and Ruchma Szacher, Ruth’s paternal grandparents. He found records of the birth of their three children, but not their own birth or marriage records. One wonderful thing he did however, was to locate the tax records for the early 20th C. in CZ and found David Hoffer’s address. He then went there and photographed the house, courtyard, and amazingly a doorpost at Targowa 14 where an imprint of a mezuza still emphatically exists. We have made copies of the photograph and will give them to Zvi and David Weiss, DH and RSz’s grandsons. One copy will go on our “wall of family history.” We will visit Targowa 14 shortly, cry a few tears, take some more photographs, and continue our search for the grandparents Ruth never knew.

Daniel Szlama Gryn – The search

After last year’s trip to Germany and Poland I felt a strong need to recover both my and Ruth’s family history. I have become an amateur genealogist, knowing just enough to do the basics but not quite enough to be a pro. This can be both rewarding and extremely frustrating, especially with Ruth’s family.

Ruth’s two grandmothers, Bluma and Ruchma Schacher are hardly anywhere to be seen in any of the Polish archives. I did find records of Ruchma giving birth to Ruth’s father Israel and his sisters Basia and Sara. But that’s all. No record of her birth, marriage, or anything at all about Bluma. Perhaps when we go to the Jewish Genealogy Conference in Salt Lake City later this summer, we will find some traces of them.

Below is what I have been able to research on Ruth’s great grandfather, Szlama Daniel Gryn. Boy, this family sure moved around. The record starts in Wazna Mlyny, then to Klobuck, Brzeznica, Krezepice, Przystajn, to Truskolasy, back to Przystajn and then to Czestochowa.

Tracking down SDG’s children has been quite the chore since three of the sons emigrated to the US before WWII and changed their names. Another son, Abraham married Bluma Schacher (the one I can’t find) and both died in the Holocaust. I have testimonial record of their deaths from Yad Vashem but they are at best garbled.
So anyway, thought you might be interested in the saga of Szlama Daniel Gryn, Ruth’s grandfather whose gravestone we just discovered in the Czestochowa cemetery (Courtesy of Alon Goldman, President of the Association of Czestochowa Jews).

Szlama Daniel Gryn
• Born in Wazna Mlyny (New Brzeznica) 3 Dec 1866
• Father Josek age 21, mother Mindla Gryn age 25?
• First marriage was to Ruchla Gryn age 18 in Klobuck Nov 1885. Her father Abram Gerson Grin, mother Frajdla Rosenzweig. No evidence of children.
• Second marriage to Fajgla Wraclaski in 1891. He is listed as from Brzeznica, she from Przystajn
• In 1911 he is listed as a resident of Krzepice
• Children: Abram b. 1893 in Truskolasy (My wife’s grandfather); Chil b. 1896 in Przystajn; Rajzla b. 1896?; Mordko b. 1898 in Przystajn; Chaim b. 1890 in Przystajn; Moszek b. 1902 in Przystajn; Jakow b. 1904 in Przystajn; Chaja Sura b. 1910; Esther b. 1913 in Czestochowa.
• Three sons immigrated to California before WWII; Henry (probably Chaim), the oldest, Jack (probably Jakow), and Sol (who changed his name from Israel Gryn but does not appear in CRARG records). His immigration record lists his birthplace as Przystajn.
• Dies 1913-4 and is buried in Czestochowa. I have a picture of the grave marker.
daniel szlama grin

This genealogical work is endless but downright fulfilling. Much more to discuss in later posts.

Preparing for Krakow

Sometimes surprising things happen as you travel. We haven’t even left St. Louis Park yet and we had a most pleasant surprise. We rented a beautiful apartment in Krakow for the 10 day long Jewish Cultural Festival. We started to correspond with our landlady about mundane things such as maid service, coffee shops, etc. when we realized that she was from St. Paul, right in our front yard. Sue hunter has been such a gift to us. She and her husband lived in Poland when he was posted there by Pillsbury to start a pirogi business (of all things). They fell in love with Poland, bought an apartment there, and we are the beneficiary.

We had coffee and talked and talked. Not only does she know Krakow like the back of her hand but she also is so open to sharing this information. We now know her favorite coffee shop, jazz venue, tourist kiosk, restaurant, sharlotka recipe, and so on. She also is an art maven and has suggested galleries, even artists to look for. We feel so fortunate to have met Sue and feel really blessed with such an auspicious send off to Krakow.