Lucien Harris: SEARCHING FOR LONG-LOST RELATIVES IN EUROPE
SEARCHING FOR LONG-LOST RELATIVES IN EUROPE
My late mother Berthe (Manchester) and her mother Salomee Stern (London) often spoke to me in affectionate terms about their close relatives in Belgium and Poland. Grandma was most devoted to her sisters Rosalie Lewin (Warsaw), Helene Fast (Antwerp), Balbine Krieman (Brussels) and Adele Brodsky (Liege) and their only brother Raphael Plonskier (Plock, Poland) and we remained in close postal contact with them from England right until the outbreak of World War Two in September 1939. I had met Aunt Balbine once only when I visited Belgium in 1931 and had heard that Leon and Rosalie Lewin (Warsaw) had tried unsuccessfully to set up a factory in Telaviv in the 1920s.
In l938 I often wrote from Manchester (UK) to Leon Lewin's son, Engineer Jurek (Jerzy) Lewin and his wife Halina (child psychologist). They had tried without success to secure immigration certificates to Palestine and as the Nazi dangers approached, they consulted us with regard to their possible emigration to some other country where they could earn a living. Jurek had been working at his father's polishes factory in Warsaw and I was able to arrange some industrial contacts for him in London. However, the Nazi invasion of Poland (1939) cut off all contact between us abruptly and I never heard from them again. Nor did I ever obtain any clue as to whether they were alive or dead.
By contrast, I did obtain information from formerly-Polish relatives that several cousins of mine on my father's side(of the Chmielnik family in Kolo, Poland) had been killed with their wives and children by the Nazis and I commemorated them in the Hall of Names at Yad va-Shem some 20 years ago.
Now suddenly some windows of information have opened for me after half-a-century!
With the kind help of a fellow-member of the Israel Genealogical Society, Rabbi Shalom Bronstein, I found some biographical notes on my great-uncle Raphael and his wife Anna (Andzia) in the Plock Yizkor Book, housed in the Yad va-Shem Library in Jerusalem. I learned that Raphael was a banker and served for many years as vice-president of the Plock Jewish Community. Morover, Anna was on the boards of the local Jewish Mother and Child Centre and also of the local Jewish Orphanage. Suddenly, Rabbi Bronstein located for me an entry in the Hall of Names lodged by Eng. Kino (Ramat Gan) six or seven years ago, commemorating Raphael Plonskier, whose wife Anna was Kino's aunt!
Sadly, however, we found the name of Dr. Alfred Plonskier, chemical engineer (born in Plock, 8.1.1901), in a list of Jews deported by the Nazis from Belgium. Alfred was a first cousin to my mother. In the register of prisoners held by the Nazis in Caserne Dossin, Malines, he is listed as having been transported in Convoy II / No.884 on 11.8.1942 to some unknown destination (a labour or extermination camp?) and so far I have not discovered any information regarding his fate. In the register we also found the names of Aunt Balbine Krieman, her husband Paul and their son Lucien amongst the deportees from Malines to Auschwitz or elsewhere in 1942/1943.
November 1997 brought me a totally unexpected development. Hearing that JewishGen, Inc. in USA had just opened a Holocaust Global Registry (a database accessible worldwide http://www.jewishgen.org/registry/) I sent them via Internet a list of my European relatives who had disappeared without any trace. Within 48 hours, I received a message from the Research Coordinator at USHMM Registry, saying they were sorry they had no information on hand about those relatives but advised me to write or phone to Mr.Yale J. Reisman, Director, Research and Archives, Ronald S. Lauder Foundation Genealogy Project at the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland (ul.Tlomackie 3/5, 00-090 Warsaw. Tel/Fax:(48-22) 625-0400; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. I immediately faxed the details to Mr. Reisman and a few days later received a six-page fax from him, outlining the range of his enquiries on my behalf. Imagine my emotion when I saw that he had sent me a copy of the page in the l938-39 Warsaw telephone directory, listing the address and phone no.of Uncle Leon Lewin's factory "Mary" in Warsaw and (wonders never cease!) a copy of a card issued by the Warsaw Jewish Committee in 1945, registering the particulars of Cousin Halina Lewin, psychologist, who apparently survived the traumatic experiences of the Warsaw Ghetto, possibly with the help of false "Aryan" papers. Now Mr. Reisman is trying to find some further traces of Halina. Did she resume her professional work in Warsaw, or did she emigrate from Poland at some date, and, if so, to which country?
I do not have words adequate enough to thank Mr.Vadim Altskan, (e-mail: LENFANT@inetgate,ushmm.org) and Mr. Reisman (Warsaw) for their prompt and sympathetic responses. May I take this opportunity to add that so many of us - citizens of Israel - are still distressed by countless unsolved enigmas connected with our families' experiences during the Holocaust. Although over half a century has passed since that tragic period, we do now have more institutions with more and more factual information available here and abroad and ready to lend us a hand.We should welcome the facilities at Yad va-Shem, the Jewish Agency Missing Relatives Search Department, the multiple, imaginative activities of JewishGen, the great resources housed at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and now the opening of the Holocaust Global Registry.To the extent that they can help to assuage our wounds in some way, they are all engaged in a great "mitzvah".
JERUSALEM, 29.11.98 "MISSING COUSIN'' TRACED AFTER 59 YEARS
About a year ago I reported in this journal that through the kind help of fellow-genealogists at USHMM and in Warsaw, I discovered that Halina Lewin (my mother's cousin by marriage in Warsaw) had miraculously survived the Warsaw Ghetto horrors and was registered with the Warsaw Jewish Community in 1945. What happened to her afterwards was unknown nor was any information available as to the fate of her husband Jurek Lewin (engineer) and his parents Leon and Rosalie Lewin.
In case she had later emigrated to start up a new life professionally I wrote letters of enquiry to psychologists' associations in Australia, USA, Canada and other countries but none of them had heard of her.
Than suddenly reading about the database at the Moreshet Center for Genealogical Research at Mizra. I sent details of the Lewin family to Tali Hadar there. she in turn passed them on to an IGS member, Eva Florsheim at Shadmot Dvorah in Lower Galilee. Eva consulted her colleague Erela Goldschmidt, who noticed that I had written that Halina's maiden name was ZAYCHYK. Erela recalled that over a year ago she had seen an interview on israel TV with a Jerusalem lady (a survivor of the holocaust in Poland), whose name also had been Zaychyk. It transpired that the Jerusalem lady, Mrs. Yael Rosner, had been in correspondence for some years with Halina, who was a first cousin of her (Mrs. Rosner's) late father, Shimon Zaychyk. Some five years ago Mrs. Rosner visited Halina several times in Warsaw and was in contact with her until her (Halina's) death about a year ago when she was already well over 80. Mrs. Rosner does not know the fate of Jurek Lewin and his parents, but she learned that Halina re-married in Warsaw some years after ww2 , carried on her professional work and actually came on a visit to Israel. Unfortunately, my family had never been in contact with her since 1939 and so, to our regret, we missed the privilege of meeting this fine lady.
the motto of this story for my fellow-genealogists is:
"never abandon your researches for precious missing relatives. you may be blessed with news when you least expect it".
3) On 2 March 2000 Lucien Harris wrote:
"As a sad by-line,I must tell you that the Belgian-Jewish Museum at Mechelen, near Brussels, has now confirmed to me that my grandmother's sister, Plock-born Mme. Balbine Krieman, her husband Paul (Brussels) and her nephew from Plock, Dr.Afred Plonskier (chemical engineer), son of Raphael Plonskier,were all arrested by the Nazis in Belgium and then sent from the Mechelen (Malines) Camp to the gas-chambers at Birkenau. Their son, Lucien Krieman, also suffered the same fate."
Mr. Lucien Harris is in the editorial Board of "Sharsheret Hadorot" , the Official Bulletin of the Israel Genealogical Society
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