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Remembrance, Rescue, and Recovery: Going Home to Poland


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This PowerPoint traces the journey of Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld who travels back to his ancestral home of Krosno, Poland to conduct genealogy and Holocaust research, and in doing so, he returns home to …

This PowerPoint traces the journey of Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld who travels back to his ancestral home of Krosno, Poland to conduct genealogy and Holocaust research, and in doing so, he returns home to a place he had never been before.

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  • 1. REMEMBRANCE, RESCUE, & RECOVERY: Going Home to Poland By Warren J. Blumenfeld
  • 2. Simon (Szymon) Mahler Maternal grandfather Krosno, Poland. 13 siblings. Wolf & Bascha Mahler. Butcher shop. Simon left Krosno for U.S., 1912 2 Szymon & sister Fannie
  • 3. Ashkenazi Jewish Tradition Child named in honor of deceased relative. Great-Grandfather Wolf Mahler Hebrew name Ze'ev, means “wolf." 3
  • 4. Identity 5 years old I learned from Szymon our family history Direct relationship to German Holocaust 4
  • 5. Szymon returned to Krosno 1932 with grandmother, Eva (Schoenwetter) Mahler Brought early home movie camera 5 Szymon Mahler & Eva (Schoenwetter) Mahler, Wedding Picture, New York City, 1921
  • 6. Simon & Eva’s 1932 Film Muzeum Podkarpackie (Subcarpathian) w Krosnie 6 Wolf, Szymon, Bascha Mahler, 1932
  • 8. Poland Krosno Southeastern Poland River Wislok Carpathian Mountain region Galicia 8 *KROSNO * *Krosno
  • 9. Krosno, Poland Founded in 1324. Developed on weaving industry. “Krosno” means “loom” in Polish. Early Krosno behind heavily fortified stone & mortar walls.
  • 10. Krosno, Poland January 1, 1900, Galicia governor granted Krosno Jews right to organize their community (kehillah). Jewish stores opened: butcher shops, fish stores, and bakeries. 1906, two baking families: Selig Findling and Chaim Oling. Three Jewish slaughterhouses owned by Fulka Breitowitz, Moses Breitowicz, and Wolf Mahler.” William Leibner,
  • 11. Wolf Mahler & Family, Butcher Shop
  • 12. Population Growth in Krosno YEAR POPULATION CATHOLIC JEW ORTH CATHOLIC 1870 2132 2100 26 6 1880 2461 2318 113 (127) 30 1890 2839 2454 327 (567) 58 1900 3276 2664 567 (961) 45 1910 4353 3329 961 (1559) 63 1914 5521 3893 1558 70 1921 6287 4490 1725 72 •Rapid growth of Jewish population •1870 (26); 1921 (1725) •Outpaced overall growth •Oil discovered in the area •1884, railway linked Krosno with Europe •Industries developed •Especially weaving & glass making •Jews kept moving to Krosno. William Leibner,
  • 13. Synagogue
  • 14. Rabbi Shmuel Fuehrer of Krosno 1904, Kehillah hired Shmuel Fuehrer first and only Rabbi. Fuehrer earlier served as rabbi in Milowka and Krakow. Also head of Jewish judicial council, Krosno. Consecrated Krosno’s Jewish Cemetery. Filmed by Szymon Mahler in 1932 Photo by Alexander White
  • 15. Nazis in Krosno German troops invaded Poland 1 September 1939 Bombed Krosno same day Small military airport & railway station Entered Krosno, 9 September 1939
  • 16. Krosno strategic target Oil fields for Germany. German troops fortified area. Trenches around town. Fortified rock houses as machine-gun stations. Barricaded streets with stone & logs from demolished buildings. Mined other stone buildings and city approaches. Bill Tarkulich
  • 17. Nazis in Krosno Adolph Hitler & Benito Mussolini met in Krosno Planned strategy for war on eastern front.
  • 18. Nazis in Krosno Nazi proclamation, 1939 Jews must leave Krosno Many Jews hid in city or countryside Others crossed river to area German army left free Slowly Jews reappeared in Krosno Ordered to wear white arm band with blue star Forbidden to enter parks or public institutions
  • 19. Nazis in Krosno
  • 20. NAZI “RACIAL” PHILOSOPHY “Racial” arguments cornerstone of persecution of Jews (as well as most people of color and people with disabilities). Jews and others descendants from inferior “racial stands.”
  • 21. NAZI “RACIAL” PHILOSOPHY Nazis asserted Jews polluting “Aryan race.” Jews forced to wear Yellow Star of David patches, sign of “race pollution.”
  • 22. Nazis in Krosno Nazis occupied center of Jewish Quarter Krosno’s Market Square, troops referred to as “Horse Square” Merchants brought goods to open-air markets on Square in horse-drawn carts 22 Market Square, Krosno, Poland Simon & Eva Mahler’s 1932 film
  • 23. Nazis in Krosno June 1941, Nazis ordered creation of list of Jewish population of Krosno. Contained 2072 names. William Leibner,
  • 24. Nazis in Krosno 9 August 1942, Nazis hung posters Jews to appear next day, 9:00 a.m. Targowa railway station. Limited to 10 kilo suitcase Assembled, 12 August 1942 Selection held: Young and able bodied spared 2100 taken to forest and shot 600 placed in Krosno ghetto William Leibner,
  • 25. Nazis in Krosno Nazis searched city for hidden Jews. Shot Jews on the spot Nazis created small ghetto, 600 Jews Kept until 1 December 1942 All shipped to Rzeszow or Reishe ghettos Eventually to Auschwitz & Belzec Some Jews remained in area in labor camps Krosno clear of Jews, except for few who hid in Polish homes. William Leibner,
  • 26. Nazis in Krosno 127 Jews rounded up Shot in mass grave Photo by Warren J. Blumenfeld
  • 27. Nazis in Krosno Nazis converted Krosno Synagogue Leveled between 1945 & 1946
  • 28. Nazis in Krosno Rabbi Fuehrer taken from synagogue and shot
  • 29. Nazis in Krosno Photo by Warren J. Blumenfeld
  • 30. END OF WWII Allies liberated Krosno Krosno became a center for assembling Jewish survivors Then went to Rumania and sailed to Palestine This semi-legal base operated until Palestine borders closed by British. Jewish officials left Krosno Krosno’s Jewish survivors never returned Anti-Semitism from many non-Jewish residents Jewish presence ended to this very day. William Leibner,
  • 31. END OF WWII Estimated 6 million Jews murdered: equal to two-thirds of European Jewry, and one- third of the entire world-wide Jewish population.
  • 32. GOING HOME 2008 33
  • 33. A family history recovered 34
  • 34. 35 Kasia discovered Mahler family’s Apartment and Butcher Shop directly off Krosno’s Market Square.
  • 35. 36 Former apartment building and butcher shop of Mahler family. Photo by Katarzyna Krepulec-Nowak
  • 36. 37 Today1930s
  • 37. Original Mahler Building (lower right) before renovation following WWII.
  • 38. 39 Current owner of building. Her father and his two partners rented the space to Mahler family.
  • 39. 40 Owner granted us permission to enter the upstairs apartment where Mahler family resided.
  • 40. 41 My heart seemed to pound out of my chest as we entered the building where my family once lived.
  • 41. 42 Following World War II, fire damaged upstairs apartment, but restored close to original condition.
  • 42. 43 Currently serves as offices for a law firm.
  • 43. 44
  • 44. 45
  • 45. 46
  • 46. 47
  • 47. 48
  • 48. 49
  • 49. 50
  • 50. 51 Courtyard behind Mahler family apartment and shop, depicted in Simon & Eva’s 1932 Krosno film.
  • 51. 52
  • 52. 53 Today, former Mahler family Butcher Shop serves as Candy Shop.
  • 53. 54 The current proprietors graciously gave us a tour around the shop.
  • 54. 55
  • 55. THE JEWISH CEMETERY (Cmentarz Zydowski) of Krosno 56
  • 56. Cmentarz Zydowski Following German invasion of Krosno Polish citizens, fearing Nazis would vandalize & demolish grave stones, Entered Jewish Cemetery Hid grave stones, Returned them after German troops retreated 57
  • 57. 58
  • 58. Cmentarz Zydowski Jews no longer reside in Krosno Cemetery fell into disarray. 2002 local Krosno students, under management of Grzegorz Bożek (local teacher and ecology activist) Restored cemetery. 59Photos by Tomasz Okoniewski
  • 59. 60 Photo taken July 2008
  • 60. 61 Photo taken January 2011
  • 61. 62
  • 62. 63
  • 63. 64
  • 65. 66
  • 66. 67
  • 67. 68
  • 68. 69
  • 69. 70 Former Jewish ghetto, 1942 600 Jews forced into 12 small buildings, located directly below.
  • 70. 71
  • 71. “Jewish day” Krosno, poland 16 January 2011 72
  • 73. 74 Krosno “Jewish Day” Flyer Photo by Bert Cohen
  • 74. 75 Afternoon of event, Bert, Gary, and I met with Kasia in her office to go over logistics.
  • 75. 76
  • 76. 77
  • 77. 78
  • 78. 79 Translater, Kasia Nowak. Photo by Bert Cohen
  • 79. 80 . Photo by Bert Cohen
  • 80. 81Photo by Bert Cohen
  • 81. 82 Here with this remarkable woman who is working to have us all face our past and who to me is living Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s words: Photo by Bert Cohen
  • 82. 83 “If you want peace, work for justice.”
  • 83. T 84 “There is much evil here, and as a mother of a three-year-old, I must do what I can to work for a better world for my son.” Photo by Bert Cohen
  • 84. Jewish tenet of Tikkun Olam: the transformation, healing, and repairing of the world so that it becomes a more just, peaceful, nurturing, and perfect place. 85
  • 85. 86 “Jewish Day” exhibit area. Photo by Bert Cohen
  • 86. 87
  • 87. 88 Wolf Mahler & Family, Butcher Shop Displayed in Krosno “Jewish Day” exhibit area.
  • 88. 89 Synagogue Displayed in Krosno “Jewish Day” exhibit area.
  • 89. 90 Moses, David, Simon Mahler Displayed in Krosno “Jewish Day” exhibit area.
  • 90. 91 Brother ? Mahler, Fannie Mahler, Simon Mahler, Dinah Mahler Gertrude Mahler (David Mahler’s Wife), Saul Mahler, Philip Mahler, David Mahler, Beatrice Mahler, New York, c. 1915 Displayed in Krosno “Jewish Day” exhibit area.
  • 91. 92 Simon, Eva Eva, Simon Charles, Blanche, Jack Eva Scott, Simon, Warren, Abby, Debra, Curt, Susan U.S.A. Displayed in Krosno “Jewish Day” exhibit area.
  • 92. 93 “History of the Mahler Family” Displayed in Krosno “Jewish Day” exhibit area.
  • 93. 94 “Oldest Film of Krosno” Explanation of Simon & Eva Mahler’s 1932 family film of Krosno. Displayed in Krosno “Jewish Day” exhibit area.
  • 94. 95 Nazi troops transported a number of Krosno Mahlers to Korczyn (once called Rzegocin) where they murdered them: Haya Rivka, Eliazar, Hersh, Raphael, Moshe, Sarah, Yanka, and Wolf Mahler.
  • 95. 96 SUBCARPATHIAN MUSEUM OF KROSNO Presents Krosno Jewish Day … And Your Brother … 16 January 2011, 17.00 [5:00 p.m.]
  • 96. 97
  • 97. 98 Though the Museum auditorium holds125, an estimated 650 people attended the “Jewish Day” event. Sadly, over 500 people had to be turned away.
  • 98. 99 Dr. Jan Gancarski, museum director, “Jewish Day” established in 1997 and celebrated annually in January. Falls on eve of Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
  • 99. • He quoted Fr. Archbishop Jozef Michalik: "The Community of prayer, a better understanding of their faith, honoring the memory of Jews who were part of Polish history and the Poles who have brought their faithfulness in difficult times, is the most important fruit, which brings Jewish Day."
  • 100. “It is reminded that Christians and Jews believe in one creator of heaven and earth, giver of the commandments, whose observance is a way of life…. It's time for another of our culture - an older, original - [and for us] to let go of prejudices and stereotypes, a genuine chance of understanding and reconciliation. It is an opportunity for dialogue, and what we really need is a moment of mutual understanding and respect, a fraternal conversation…. In Krosno, we can not on this day talk about the descendants of our older brothers who once lived here. None of the Krosno Jews who survived the Holocaust settled here after the war, so we only remember our neighbors. We can only look at them in the faded photos… which have been left here, memorabilia preserved in the museum.” Dr. Jan Gancarski 101
  • 101. 102 Fr. Waldemar Janiga led the assembled in a prayer of religious understanding and unity. Photo by Bert Cohen
  • 102. 103 Photo by Bert Cohen To introduce the Mahler film, Kasia led the audience through a guided visualization developed from her extensive genealogical and historical research. Here is an English translation of Kasia’s address: * * * * * Our exhibition is called “Brothers," [neighbours] and it is not an exhibition about the death of people. It is about their lives. Along with our neighbours, we created the world, far from perfect, but our own. This exhibition is an invitation to walk through pre-war Krosno. Have you liked the "Old Movies" series that used to be on the national television channel every Sunday? I loved it and I didn't miss even one.
  • 103. Let's imagine a world from this kind of black and white movie. Let's imagine black and white Krosno. It is September of 1932. Our town really blossoms this time of year. Someone left a copy of the New Journal on a small bench down by the river bank. Mr. Dym's shop has its advertisement on the second page. One can see the new, popular gloves for ladies. On Pilsudski Street you can smell the rolls from the second baking in the bakery of Izrael Breitowicz. The people from Linas Chojlim are already giving out the soup for orphans from Korczyńska Street. And here it is again, a large line to Mahler's butcher shop. Little Mannis Mahler is helping his grandfather. He is a beautiful, sweet little boy. Doctor Still had a sudden call from the shelter in the synagogue. He looks very worried. Chairman Akselrad is taking his daughter to the piano lesson. I heard she's great. 104
  • 104. Our Market Square is filled with sunlight, teeming with life. Mr. Englander from the Aguda Party is having an argument with Mr. Wiesenfeld over Zionism. After they finish, they will both go to Chanie Plater's restaurant to put on the nosebag [eat], and perhaps later, they will go to the taproom on Franciscan Street. And we? Shall we go to Ider's Inn on Staszic Street? Their meals are marvelous! This kind of dream-walk is about to materialise here tonight thanks to the very special movie that we received from a very special man. But I would like him to tell his story in his own words. Ladies and gentlemen -- Dr. Warren Blumenfeld. 105
  • 105. 106 Simon’s antique Tallit (Jewish prayer shawl) and embroidered Kippah (Jewish skull cap) “Letter to My Great-Grandparents of Krosno, Poland.” Photo by Damian Krzanowski
  • 106. 107 Dear Great-Grandfather Wolf and Great-Grandmother Bascha, Though I have never written to you, I have carried your image and felt your comforting presence ever since that first day when your son [my maternal grandfather, Simon Mahler] told me about you…. Photo by Bert Cohen
  • 107. One day, when I was very young, I sat upon Simon’s knee. Looking down urgently, but with deep affection, he said to me, “Warren, you are named after my father, Wolf Mahler. I lived in Krosno, Poland with my father, Wolf, and my mother, Bascha, and 13 brothers and sisters, and aunts, uncles, and cousins.” Simon talked about all of you with pride, but as he told me this, he seemed rather sad. I asked him if you still lived in Poland, and he responded that his father, mother, and most of the rest of his family were no longer alive. When I asked him how they had died, he told me that they had all been killed by people called Nazis. I questioned him why the Nazis killed our family, and he responded, “Because they were Jews.” Those words have reverberated in my mind, haunting me ever since…. 108
  • 108. 109 As you know, according to Ashkenazi [European heritage] Jewish tradition, a newborn infant is given a name in honor of a deceased relative. The name is formed by taking the entire name or just the initial letter of the name of the ancestor being honored. I had the good fortune of being named after you great- grandfather Wolf. As it has turned out over the years, you not only gave me my name, but you, Bascha, and Simon also gave me a sense of history and a sense of my identity. Simon left Krosno in 1912 bound for New York City, leaving you and most of his siblings. His older brother, David, who traveled to the United States in 1911, returned in 1912 to bring Simon, and three of his sisters, Fannie, Sadie, and Dinah back with him. As they left Poland, a series of pogroms targeting Jews had spread throughout the area. Simon often explained to me that they could only travel by night with darkness as their shield to avoid being attacked and beaten by people who hated Jews.
  • 109. They arrived in the United States on New Years’ Eve in a city filled with gleaming lights and frenetic activity, and with their own hearts filled with hope for a new life.
  • 110. Simon returned to Krosno with my grandmother, Eva, in 1932 to a joyous homecoming. This was the first time he had seen you since he left Poland. He took with him an early home movie camera to record you on film. While in Poland, he promised that once back in the United States, he would try to earn enough money to send for his remaining family members who wished to come to the United States, but history was to thwart his plans. During that happy reunion, he had no way of knowing that this was to be the last time he would ever see you and those others he left behind alive. Just seven years later, on 1 September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland…. 111 Kasia Nowak translatin g into Polish Photo by Bert Cohen
  • 111. Simon never fully recovered from those days in 1939. Though he kept the faces and voices from his homeland within him throughout his life, the Nazis also invaded my grandfather’s heart, killing a part of him forever. My mother told me that Simon became increasingly introspective, less spontaneous, and less optimistic of what the future would hold…. Great-grandfather Wolf and great- grandmother Bascha, you would have been proud of Simon. He was a loving and caring father, grandfather, and great- grandfather. He gave me so much: my enjoyment for taking long walks and sitting in quiet solitude, pride in my Jewish heritage, and most of all, my ability to love. 112 Photo by Bert Cohen
  • 112. 113 I then talked about the righteous rescuers of those tragic times, and of those of the modern day. I concluded my remarks by acknowledging the great work of the “rescuers” of Jewish history and Jewish culture today in the complete absence of Jewish people: Grzegorz Bożek and the volunteers who have restored the Jewish cemetery in Krosno… Photo by Bert Cohen
  • 113. 114 …and the good people of the Muzeum Podkarpackie w Krosnie, especially Lucas Klopot, Katarzyna Krepulec-Nowak, and Dr. Jan Gancarski. “They and all of their colleagues work tirelessly to rescue and restore a vital part of history in keeping memories alive and in educating new generations. They are my heroes, and I will forever hold them in my thoughts and in my heart.” Photo by Damian Krzanowski
  • 114. 115 Gary then recited and Kasia translated Kaddish, the traditional Jewish prayer for the dead. Before the prayer, Gary eloquently explained this tradition and added personal reflections about what this prayer means to him. Photo by Bert Cohen
  • 115. 116 Simon and Eva Mahler’s 1932 film portrayed the town of Krosno, and in particular, the Mahler family. This rare film is the oldest film of the town known to exist. Jews arrived in Krosno in the fifteenth century CE, and by 1938 numbered 2700, or 18.5 percent of the town’s population. Prior to the Nazi invasion, the Jewish population in Poland numbered around 3 million. Today, only about 10 thousand Jews reside in Poland. Lucas ran the film for the audience. Photo by Damian Krzanowski
  • 116. 117 Members of the audience sat transfixed as they witnessed the sights of their town during a time long passed. Some pointed to familiar landmarks. Others spotted possible relatives in the old Market Square. Some were visibly moved, tears streaming down their cheeks.
  • 117. Great-Grandparents, this night I fulfilled a life- long dream of bringing you, your children, and your grand children home to a happy reunion. With love forever, Warren 118
  • 118. 119 The program came to a stirring conclusion with the brilliant clear sounds of the Rzeszow Klezmer Band as Lucas ran the Mahler family film one final time. Kamil Siciak Mateusz Chmiel Jacek Anyszek Marcin Mucha Wojciech Jajuga
  • 119. 120 Bert, Gary, and I had our picture taken with Museum Director Jan Gancarski and Krosno Mayor Piotr Przytocki.
  • 120. 121 I was particularly touched when two students asked to take a picture with me. Kasia Krepulec-Nowak translated that they are currently writing their thesis paper focusing on the Mahler family of Krosno. Photo by Bert Cohen
  • 121. 122 At the conclusion of an emotional and memorable day, we relaxed, unwound, and processed at a fabulous restaurant in a former wine cellar beneath Krosno’s Market Square. Photo by Bert Cohen
  • 122. 123 Unfortunately, all good things must end, and we said “good bye” to our good friend, Kasia (Kate), and her husband Matthew (whom I referred to as “Mr. Kate”). We are seen here at the Krosno bus station ready to board our bus back to Krakow, Monday, 17 January 2011.
  • 123. Going back to the united states 124
  • 124. 125 Leaving Auschwitz back to Krakow on the bus, Bert took some pictures from the window. During the bus ride, we had a chance to talk and reflect not only on our time at the concentration camps, but also on the events of the past week…
  • 125. 126 …about Krosno, and the friends we made…
  • 126. 127 …about the places we had been…
  • 127. 128
  • 128. 129 …about the wonderful and new foods we enjoyed... Photos by Bert Cohen
  • 129. 130 … about the emotional impact all of this had on us…
  • 130. 131 …and how we had grown closer as family. Since Gary was scheduled to fly back home to Israel that evening, soon after arriving back at our hotel in Krakow, we hugged and said good bye to Gary as he left in a cab for the airport.
  • 131. 132 The following day, Bert and I woke early, ate breakfast, and took a cab to the Krakow airport. Our flight to Prague had been cancelled, but we were fortunate to catch another flight directly to Paris in time for our Paris to Boston flight that evening.
  • 132. 133 Though we were exhausted from an exciting and emotional week, we also felt the energy of knowing that though we were returning to the United States, in some ways, we had been transformed, and knowing that we will never be the same. Photo by Bert Cohen
  • 133. 134 [not] the end