Case Studies

Experiences and Case Studies

Finding the Remnants- a Post-Holocaust Challenge

Case Study by Janette Silverman

One of the greatest and most emotional challenges for a genealogist specializing in Jewish research is finding family lost in the Holocaust. Ruth Ebner was a successful attorney and a talented artist. She spent most of her life feeling like there was a hole in her heart and soul. Ruth was the child of Holocaust survivors. She was born in a Displaced Persons (DP) Camp in Europe in the aftermath of World War II. She arrived with her parents in the United States between the time of her 1948 birth and 1950. Ruth’s maternal grandparents also survived the war and came to the U.S. She had asked her mother and grandparents for information over the years, but they refused to speak of the past.

Figure 1 - Ruth Ebner and Janette Silverman in 2013

Her cry for help in finding her past was complex. The first things she wanted to know were where she was born and how she and her parents arrived in the United States. She also wanted to know who her maternal family was in Europe. She knew many things about her father’s family, but little about her mother’s background. Like most people, she thought that there would be no evidence of anything that occurred to her family prior to their arrival in the United States.

The first document that was located opened the door to finding the Ebner family. This simple-appearing index card came from a collection of documentation of the movement of people from DP Camps in Europe. It told us that on 3 March 1949, the family went from Hamburg to the United States on board the SS Marine Jumper. This, in turn, led to the discovery of the inbound passenger manifest for the SS Marine Jumper, which arrived at Boston Harbor on 12 March 1949. There were two versions of the manifest. Each provided unique information.

Figure 2 - Inbound passenger manifest

The manifest of inbound alien passengers recorded the Ebner family – Ruth, her parents Alexander and Helena, and their ages, traveling with one trunk, two handbags, one box, and one package. This represented all the worldly goods this family owned. The other record was a passenger list from the International Refugee Organization (IRO). Further information was gathered from this record.

Figure 3 - IRO list of passengers

The IRO list provided the information that the Ebner family members were all Polish Jews, that Alexander was a farmer, and that their destination was to Jacob Kempler residing in Dover, Morris County, New Jersey. The Kempler name was already known to Ruth as that of one of her relatives, but prior to this document, she had no idea that he was already in the United States when she arrived. The passengers on the ship all came from DP Camps, and they were from many different nationalities and religions.

Figure 4 - Description of passengers on the Marine Jumber 3 March 1949 sailing

Information that was found on the various records about the Ebner family provided the name of the place that Helena were born: Będzin, Poland. Ruth had heard of the place from her parents but thought they were saying Benjin, which is how the place is pronounced in Polish. An identity card was located for each member of the family, including the infant, Ruth. Among the amazing documents found in this research were those that included the names of Ruth’s maternal great-grandparents. Ruth’s registration card at the DP Camp listed the place she was born and the date: 8 August 1947 in Wolfratshausen, Germany.

Figure 5 - DP registration card: Ruth Ebner

Ruth’s grandparents were Abraham Wolrauch and Berta Friedler. Abraham provided information for an identity card that named his place of birth as “Tomaszon, Poland.” His parents were Elias Wolrauch, also born in Tomaszow, and Chana Tauba Zandberg, born in Radomsko. Radomsko was called Nowo-Radomsk before World War I. It was in the district of the same name, in the Piotrków Province of the Russian Empire. During the inter-war period the name was changed to Radomsko, and it was in the Łódż Province of Poland. Today, it remains in Poland, and it is located 105 miles southwest of Warsaw. There are two places that Tomaszow could be, but the most likely is the place that, before World War I, was called Tomaszów Mazowiecki, located in the district of Brzeziny, in the Piotrków Province of the Russian Empire. Today it is known as Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland, and is 65 miles southwest of Warsaw.

Berta Friedler’s parents were Icek Friedler and Ruchla Leja Weinrich. It was this side of the family that had a connection to Będzin, Poland. It was in the Piotrków Province of the Russian Empire, and today is in Poland. It is located 155 miles south-southwest of Warsaw. Icek’s parents were Abraham Frydler and Wita Gitler – they were both born about 1830. The names of Icek’s sisters, Ruchla and Bryndla, were identified. A marriage record for Bryndla provided the name of her husband and, subsequently, her children were also identified. Ruchla’s parents were Szmelka Wajnryb and Bajla Ferstenfeld. Ruchla’s brother Wulf Berek and his marriage record were located. Amazingly, information about Ruchla’s grandparents was located. From this information, her mother’s siblings were all identified.

The Holocaust is certainly a defining period in the history of the Jews of Eastern Europe, and even more so for any individual family’s history. We tend to speak in large numbers of the people who were murdered and smaller numbers of the people who survived. When we focus on a particular family and the history of that family, those numbers take on more significance. Recreating the history of a family in the face of such global devastation is particularly challenging. It is important to gather as much information about the victims and their ancestral families as possible. In Judaism, we leave our names to our descendants after our deaths. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren carry these names into the future. The names of many victims of the Holocaust were forgotten over the last 70 years. A great challenge is to retrieve those names, and even if there are no descendants to carry on their names, through genealogical research, we can at least remember them.

Figure 6 - Identity card for Berta Friedler Wolrauch

Figure 7 - Identity card for Abraham Wolrauch

Research Manager on Project:

Janette Silverman

Project Hours:

50

Biography

Janette began her genealogical journey over 35 years ago as a hobby with her father. What started as a hobby for her quickly became more as she immersed herself in Jewish history both as a student and a teacher. She has been president of a Jewish Genealogy Society, is an active volunteer with JewishGen, heading up the Ukraine Special Interest Group and is lead co-chair of the 2016 International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies conference. She has worked with private clients since 2004.

Degrees and Credentials, MSJS, DSJS

Janette holds master’s and doctorate degrees in Jewish Studies from Spertus Institute in Chicago, Illinois. Her doctoral dissertation, “In Living Memory” explored the experiences of four Jewish families in Europe and the United States, contextualizing the micro-history of those families within the more global historical world.

Areas of Expertise

Eastern European Jews, Holocaust, United States, immigration