Further Adventures of the Ner Tamid

After our abortive attempt to find a home for our “Hasag Holocaust Ner Tamid” in Chicago, there has been a flurry of new developments. No home yet, but we are getting closer. Two parties in the country to our north have expressed solid interest. By that I mean they want it. However, certain contingencies prevent us from making any commitments at the present time. That means we are not sure we have found the right home.

Our dear friend Lea Wolinetz, who seemingly knows everyone related to Czestochowa, Poland has been making connections for us all over the world. Two of them are in Los Angeles. One is a Rabbi with a pulpit in a large (nine rabbis) reform temple, and the other is the west coast director of the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Lea says he “knows everyone” and for her to say that means a lot. We will be leaving for Los Angeles on October 14 and have made appointments to meet the Temple Rabbi (his grandparents were in Hasag also) and we will also meet with the USHMM Director. While there we will visit the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust ( LAMOTH), the Museum of Tolerance and the Skirball Museum. We have mixed feelings about the Ner Tamid landing in LA, since it is so far from home, but there is a connection since Ruth lived in LA from 1956-1980. Also there is a significant Czestochowa Landsmannschaft in Los Angeles. We are not sure whether the 3rd generation of survivor descendants is keeping up the relationships that the Czestochowa survivors had. Perhaps they are. We will find out.

Well we have returned from the left coast and had some exciting meetings. Everyone we met was so enthusiastic about the Ner Tamid and its story. We now have several “advocates” in Los Angeles who are moving the light along, so to speak. Not sure I am ready for the Ner Tamid to land somewhere. We are having so much fun in the process. Next, the Ner Tamid travels to Orlando to be exhibited at the Reform Biennial.

The adventure continues. We will keep you “posted.”

A Brick Wall Crumbles

In an earlier post I looked forward to the day when I could find record of Ruth’s other grandmother, Rochma Hoffer nee Szacher, sister of Bluma. As any genealogist can tell you, if you chip away at your brick walls, you will finally break through. Rochma’s Yad Vashem record created by her niece Mania Genislau in Herzliyah Petuach, Israel states that she was born in 1884 in Bresc, now in Belarus. This turned out to be another dead end when a thorough examination of Bresc records turned up no trace of Szachers. Working with my Polish colleague, Piotr Nazuruk, having exhausted the vital records of Biala Podlaska and neighboring communities, and ending up in dead ends in Belarus records, I asked Piotr if there were other records such as tax records or housing censuses that we should be examining. He said there might be and proceeded in his methodical way to track them down.

In the Radzyn Archives Piotr discovered an early 20th century housing census of Biala Podlaska. An exited email message highlighted the discovery. The records were in Russian and there were some notes in Polish. There was David Hoffer and his wife Rochma Szacher from Slawatyzce. She was born in 1889?? to Szlama Chaim and Estera Frajda Wiernik. Bingo! Another scribbled note indicated that David and Rochma were married in 1923. What? Their first child Sara was born in 1907 in Czestochowa. Interesting. Now what? Now a search ensued for their marriage record. Poland abides by the 100 year rule which means that all vital records are kept private for 100 years. So did I have to wait until 2024 to get their marriage record? Now the fun began. Letters and calls went out to the Archives in Biala Podlaska, Slawatyzce, and Czestochowa. Nothing in Biala Podlaska nor Slawatyzce but yes, there was a marriage record for 1923 in Czestochowa. I am summarizing a process that took several months. Fees are paid. Power of Attorney is given over. The marriage record arrives. The marriage was clearly registered in Czestochowa in 1923. But when were they actually married. Probably between 1900 and 1905 in Slawatycze – but no record remains. That would make Rochma anywhere from 11 to 16 when she married. I would rather believe the Yad Vashem birth date of 1884 and sure enough there it was in the “official” marriage record.

Some mysteries remain. Biala Podlaska and Slawatycze were in Russia in 1900. Why did the Hoffers move to Czestochowa, 450 kilometers away? Moving from Russia to Poland is extremely rare according to several sources. And why Czestochowa? This may forever remain a mystery.

Discovering New Cousins

Usually when I conduct my genealogy research, I discover relatives in Ruth’s family. Why? Because my family has been thoroughly researched by Cousins Roy Stern and Gary Ridolf along with the invaluable assistance of Manfred Schmidt in Germany. This work involves mostly my patriline, ancestors of my father. Now that I have started working on the matriline – my mother’s ancestors, I have made some interesting discoveries. First, I have Dutch ancestry. Second, I have cousins living in Iowa and Nebraska. And third, there is a WW2 war bride in my family history.

My Second Great Grandfather Isaac Schoenfeld was born in the German village of Wachenbuchen in 1816. In 1840, he married Hennel Reinhard and proceeded to have six children, including Gustav Schoenfeld, my Great Grandfather. One of Gustav’s siblings, named Minna, was born in 1854. She married Julius Mendel Mueller at a place and time unknown to me. However, and this is where it gets interesting, there were three children from this marriage all born in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. The time period is the 1880’s. A wild guess is that Julius and Minna sought better economic conditions in Holland than Germany. In any case, Julius did well. On the birth certificate of his first child he is mentioned as a worker in a mattress factory. Upon the birth of child #2, he is a supervisor in the factory. By the time child #3 is born, he runs the factory. Child #3 has a name, Johanna, born in 1889. She marries Karl Hauser.and has one daughter Irene, born in 1920 in Mannheim, Germany. I am not sure how we now go from the Netherlands back to Germany but I am sure that Germany was in the midst of a terrible inflation in the 1920’s, so this move is counter intuitive. Trying to decipher the “story” of relatives during the Holocaust is always difficult. Irene is 13 when Hitler comes to power. In 1946 at age 26, she becomes the war bride of John William Ebert from Hancock, Iowa. Johanna and Karl, her parents,¬†also survive the war. I’m sure there is a story there, but I just don’t know it.

Later in 1946 John and Irene move to Hancock, Iowa, have two sons Fred and Ken. Irene passes away in 1998. Johanna and Karl move to Hancock in 1948 and stay until 1960 when they move back to Germany. After Karl dies, Johanna moves back to Hancock to stay.

I am in touch with Fred and Ken who are my third cousins. They are assembling family data for me so I can add some third cousins once removed to the family tree. Will we ever visit Fred and Ken and their families in Nebraska and Iowa? Perhaps. It sure is closer than Germany.