Monday, May 28, 2012

My Parisian Family

In July the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) conference is being held in Paris.  I've spent lots of time in Paris so am always searching for something new that I haven't yet discovered.  This time I definitely have something new on my agenda, family members who I've not yet met.   A third cousin survived the war and settled in Paris.

Some years ago I went with a group to Bad Arolsen, Germany.  It was my first trip to Germany and I approached it with some trepidation.  I had a strong aversion to going to Germany and the only way I could do the trip was for the purpose of doing Holocaust research.  The International Tracing Service is located in Bad Arolsen and holds the Holocaust records that have since been shared with other institutions.  I went there with a list of fifty family members who were in Radom, Poland prior to the war.  On the first day I discovered that they had no records for them.  As they were sent to their death in Treblinka, no records were maintained.  I then learned that the meticulous Germans only cared about recording the Jews if they represented inventory, workers to be used until their death with a shelf life of months at best.  Those sent directly to their death went unrecorded. 

I had a week to spend at Bad Arolsen and wasn’t quite sure what I was going to research if none of my family members were in the archives.  Then I had an idea.  I went back to the records of Yad Vashem and assumed that if someone gave testimony, they survived and were family or close friends.  I began to research those who provided testimony and it led me to survivors.  My great-grandmother had a sister who generated a sizeable branch and testimony was given on many of them by one survivor.  When I looked up his file I learned that he had gone to Paris after the war.

Then I did something that I could have done from the comfort of my home.  I did a search on the name at the Holocaust Museum website and discovered that this relative had written a book, a Holocaust memoir.  The book was only available on-line and in French so I ordered it and with my bad high school French and some translation software I was able to decipher it.  I took the most direct route and emailed the Holocaust organization that had published the book.  I’m a relative I reported and inquired as to how I could contact the author of the book.  They kindly put me in touch with his daughter who was much braver with her English than I with my French.  We began an e-mail correspondence.  It is usually the daughters with whom I connect.

I went one step further with the book.  Because I do a Kehilalink for for the town of Radom, I often take memoirs and ask if I can include the first chapter on the site.  Typically that chapter talks about Radom.  I’ve found that if I offer to provide a link to where the book can be purchased, there is usually a willingness to allow this.  In this case, I had to actually translate the chapter and then type it up to include it.

So on this trip to France, I hope to meet my third cousin, now in his 90s as well as his children who are more my contemporaries.  I will need to brush up on that poor high school French in order to communicate.  Better start now!

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