Aunt Paula's Story
Aunt Paula's Story starts exactly 75 years ago this week, with her at a café with her husband hearing Premier Molotov on the radio saying that Hitler had begun an invasion of the Soviet Union (known as Operation Barbarossa). The next four years were almost indescribable -- almost. Fortunately, Aunt Paula wrote her memoirs in 1945, while at a displaced person's camp in Germany. Most of the names, places, and events were crystal clear in her mind, having had been so recently experienced. The time-consuming portion of my contribution to this book is the painstaking research to corroborate her words with other historical sources and provide additional context to the various events she mentions. Slowly but surely, we’re getting there. ( June, 2016)
While at the Föhrenwald Displaced Person's camp near Munich in 1946, my great aunt Paula Frankel-Zaltzman wrote her all-too-fresh memoirs of her experiences during the Holocaust.
Originally published in Yiddish in 1949, this chronicle of both horror and hope was translated into English more than half a century later with funding from my sister and her then-husband.
After having recently re-read this history of my great grandparents and their nine children (all but three of whom were murdered between 1941 - 1945), I felt inspired, no, duty-bound, to share this story to a broader audience.
Aunt Paula's story is rich in detail: people's names, places of specific incidents, and documented dates. In 1946, her memory was clear. Today (December 2013), much of the facts are forgotten, or worse yet, denied or ignored.
That's why I am researching her life and the events that shaped it. The result will be a book like no other I've seen before. In a sense, it will be a book within a book. Aunt Paula's original story will be reproduced, along with sidebar commentaries and research about the people, places, and events she mentions. ideally, I will want to take advantage of new media, with ebooks and interactive educational tools, in addition to the print publication.
My goal is to expose this book to at least six million students around the world – one for every soul that perished during the Holocaust. If the average US public high school has, say, 600 pupils, then that would mean about 10,000 copies will be delivered. Free of charge.
My vision is to raise funds to expose the heart-ripping story of this remarkable woman to as many people as possible. A model I am considering is to provide one free book for each copy that is sold, and send them to schools and libraries around the world.
I will use this Facebook site and other social media to raise awareness while I write and annotate the book. I will post updates, interesting facts I discover, and questions I need help with. I will also use it as an opportunity to get additional insights, research and ideas from the internet community.
Although it takes several hours to research each individual page, and this project may take more than a year or two to complete, it is a labor of love. And hope.
Share this journey with me.
June 25, 1941: “I again went to work. I was escorted by eleven planes that bombed and shot non-stop over the city. Everything around was burning. At night, after work, I said to immediately take father to a basement and that we should all wait there until it would get quiet. When we carried father over, we saw that we were the only people on the street. We carried father on a mattress… Finally, it was daybreak. On Thursday, the 26th, at 4 in the morning, my husband and I snuck outside to see what was happening. A Russian soldier came up to us, and without letting us finish our question, said, “It's bad, run wherever your eyes will take you, so long as you don't remain here! Hitler said on the radio that he will get even with the Jews!”
That was only three days after the Nazi’s broke the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and launched Operation Barbarossa by attacking the Soviet Union; thus starting the Great Patriotic War between Germany and the Soviets.
In July, 1941, the Latvian census showed there were 23,048 Jews in Daugavpils (Dvinsk). 13,000 – 16,000 died in the Dvinsk Ghetto between June 26, 1941- Oct. 1943. Only about 100 Dvinsk Ghetto prisoners survived the Holocaust (after having been transferred between various ghettos and concentration camps). As a result, there are so few firsthand accounts of what it was like at that time. Here’s what two other survivors wrote of the same day and place:
From Sidney Iwens memoir, How Dark the Heavens: “Outside we could hear sounds of rapid fire and explosions… fires were burning in the distance… the shooting became more and more intense… I thought, hopefully, that perhaps the shooting is Russian antiaircraft fire… In seconds, it [the train car door] slid open and facing us were soldiers in gray uniforms. They were Germans. We froze in terror.”
And from Chaim Kuritsky’s memoir, To Survive and to Tell the story: “As evening approached, we saw that Dvinsk was in flames as a result of the Germans’ relentless shelling. All around us, the Red Army battled the Germans… My mother summed up her appraisal of the situation: ‘My son, look how much suffering the war has caused, and it’s only the beginning! I’m not sure we’re going to get through this.’”
I find it reassuring that the memoirs’ of others – at the same place and at the same time – corroborate so many details, but from different vantage points (e.g., the city burning on June 25, 1941). Such consistency, combined with other historical records, leave no doubt about these events.
The photo below, from the book “Allen Gewalten Zum Trotz: Bilder vom feldzug im osten herausgegeben vom oberkommando der Wehrmacht” (Forces of defiance: Images from the campaign in the East issued by the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht) is captioned “On June 26th Dunaburg (Dvinsk) falls into German hands.”
June 26, 1941: “Everything around us was burning. The wind was sweeping burning parts of roof over our heads and there was nowhere to run to. When I saw the town ablaze like this, I thought that this is how Pompeii must have burned at one time… We decided to quickly go in the direction of Riga St., because we had once lived there… In the terrible turmoil, the whole town was running, though nobody knew where it was best to run to.”
At this (very early) point in the book, Aunt Paula, her husband, brother, and parents were fleeing all the fire-bombs from the Nazi invasion. To make matters worse, they were carrying my great-grandfather, Yosef (the person for whom my parents named me in Hebrew) on a chair through the streets. Why? Because he suffered from paralysis. Later on in Aunt Paula’s memoirs, we see how her loving devotion continues for her father and how her quick wits save his life on several occasions.
I find it interesting that they go to Riga St. for shelter. To them, it was once a “home.” The sense of “home” and “family” are so strong in these memoirs. Where else could they go?
But what was Riga St. like? Thanks to the magic of Google Earth, Google Maps, and the internet in general, I was able to find what Riga St. in Daugavpils, Latvia, looked like, then and now. It’s a 1.5km road in the middle of the city (shown as red dots in the attached maps). Much of the street is only open to pedestrians today.
When I look at the images in this posting, a few things strike me as interesting. For example, today’s “Street View” (in front of the museum at 8 Riga St.) shows a large park on the North (left) side of the street. However, the “old” street map shows no park. The original street map depicts what appears to be small alleyways, instead. If you look closely, you’ll see some sort of statue or monument in the park (circled in the lower image). I wonder what they are commemorating?
Is it possible that this park is all what remains from the burned down homes from 70 years ago?
If you’ve even been to Daugavpils (also known as Dvinsk or Dunaburg, depending who controlled it at the time) and you can shed any light on this area, let us know. In the meantime, you can explore today’s Daugavpils with Google Maps and Street View here: http://tinyurl.com/8RigaSt.
#Daugavpils #Dvinsk #Holocaust #AuntPaulasStory
“We already felt that the Latvian population hates us and is just waiting for permission and they will attack us like beasts.” As Aunt Paula, her brother and husband were carrying her paralyzed father on a chair through town looking for a place to hide, the townsfolk, pointing, shouting, and probably spitting, would shout out “Jhid! [Jew!]... Communist! … Why don't you sing Oy Katyusha?”
Of course, this prompted me to find out more about “Oy Katyusha”. It turns out it is a Russian love song, written in 1938. It’s about a girl who stands on the riverbanks, longing for her husband, a soldier in faraway lands. The lyrics were subsequently modified during the “Great Patriotic War." For example, the Soviets added the lyrics, “She wears our enemies’ souls while she gives courage to our friends.”
Interestingly, Katyusha would also be the name of a new breed of rocket launchers the Red Army introduced at that time. It is unlikely that the Latvian townspeople were taunting the Jews by implying they should pray for the rockets, as this Soviet product only began barraging German targets about a month after the above incident took place (at which point the name Katyusha rocket launcher became more popular).
This prompts me to look into another question: How did the Latvian Jews feel about the Soviets? On the one hand, Soviet Jews were confined to the Pale of Settlement and had suffered from Russian-inspired pogroms since the 1880’s. The word “pogrom” itself means “to destroy, to wreak havoc, to demolish violently.” On the other hand, the Soviets were fighting against the Nazis. In fact, many Russian Jewish men joined the Red Army (even before the war, as it was a way to escape the poverty-stricken shtetl).
I wonder if there was a sense of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend?” Gerald Genyuk, as a person who lived in the Pale close to that time, perhaps you could comment on what the Jewish sentiment may have been toward the soviets? Lena Kheyson, what were your parents' experiences? Additional comments, insights and perspectives are very much welcome to help us understand the situation.
[The video has English subtitles, and starts at 0:24, after the commercial]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNIlyUmSlDs
Katyusha English Subtitles Russian Folk Song Translation Lyrics Music
"Katyusha" is Mikhail Isakovsky's well-known Russian war time song about a girl longing for her…
June 29, 1941: "Early in the morning, the guard woman came in and told us that there is an order that all Jews up to the age of 60 must gather in the marketplace. Those who will disobey the order will be shot. We were all in despair... A few days later I noticed someone standing all dirty and blackened, beside a garbage pile... I ran over to him unnoticed - and in that poor face I recognized my brother Moishe. He rejoices to see me. 'I'm pretty well off,' he said with smile. 'After work I get a bit of watery soup. Some are worse off.'"
It's hard to fathom, but this is occurring only 1 week after the Nazis "invade" Latvia en route to Russia. The Germans were so well-organized and well-prepared that they were able to get so much done in so little time.
According to Sidney Iwens, in his book, How Dark the Heavens: 1400 Days in the Grip of Nazi Terror: on Sunday June 29 1941, Jewish men in Daugavpils were rounded up and put through terror, humiliation and imprisonment in overcrowded jails. The Germans forced the Jews to shout "Heil Hitler", and sing Deutschland über alles... under gun point and threat of death.
Shown below are postings of Nazi edicts in German and Latvian, which would have been posted publicly around that time.
Early July 1941: "Meanwhile, the Germans had occupied the living quarters above us and I started to do their laundry. For my work, they paid me with dry crusts of bread. 'Now I'll have bread for our men,' I thought to myself. But it was probably at the same time that I was washing the Germans’ lice-filled laundry that they shot my husband and brother."
The phrase “my husband” appears 45 times in Paula’s memoir... but never once by name. They were married for three years before he was murdered. Part of my "book within a book" will be devoted to learning more about this man... though finding out about an as-of-yet nameless young adult – who died more than 70 years ago without any descendants – is proving to be quite the challenge.
Fortunately, there are organizations like the Museum of Jewish Heritage athttp://www.jewishgen.org, which have rich genealogy databases related to the Holocaust. Ancestry.com and other sources may have access to birth and marriage certificates.
Thank you for joining me on my journey of discovery.
JewishGen - The Home of Jewish Genealogy
Our free, easy-to-use genealogy website features thousands of databases, research tools, and other resources to help those with Jewish ancestry...
Early July 1941: "Latvian police suddenly appeared and started to grab Jewish women to take to prison where they would be shot. They grabbed me also. I saw that the situation was very, very grave. For a minute it appeared to me that this was the end for me. I wanted to succumb. But suddenly a thought struck me..."
I won't give away the thought that saved her life right now (after all, I do want you to read the book!). Suffice it to say, this is but one of the many examples of how my Aunt Paula used her quick wits to save her life, or to save the lives of others.
Scenes like this make me wonder about all the other people in similar situations who either took a chance at a lie in an attempt to save their lives (and failed), or did not take a chance (and were killed anyway). In Aunt Paula's case, she used her quick-thinking abilities many times, and was always successful. We don't know about too many others who have had similar experiences, because if their gamble failed even once, it likely meant death... and their stories would never have been told.
The above excerpt also foreshadows something else I'll write more about in the future: the fact that many of the local Latvians of the time were more brutal than the Nazis... at least in Aunt Paula's case.
June 28, 1941: “…We could hear the bombs exploding, but we were ‘happy’ that we weren't together with the murderers. I thanked my husband for his warm relationship with my parents. At that precise time we were hiding beneath a table. My husband was glad that I thanked him. I never really had expressed too much love to him because of the troubles I had had with my parents. He used to jokingly complain to my mother that he thinks I don't love him. ‘From today on I will love you more,’ I promised him.”
Aunt Paula’s Story has insights and lessons for our times. When I read the above excerpt, I realize that many people do not demonstrate their love for one another enough. In Aunt Paula’s case, it took the horrors of the Holocaust before she decides to “love him more.”
This then begs the question: can a person choose to love another more, or is the extent to which a one loves another the natural feeling that emerges based on the type of relationship two people have? Personally, I have long believed that love isn’t measured solely by “feeling”; it is measured by “doing”. In other words, it is not enough to say “I love you.” Actions speak louder than words. Love is about what you do to demonstrate it. Actually, I take that back, love isn’t just the “doing;” it is the desire to make the other person happier through the things that you do.
The real tragedy is when the people you love disappear from your life before you can show them your true feelings by the things that you do.
The day after Aunt Paula uttered those words to her husband, he was taken to prison. Soon after he was shot and killed.
Don’t wait until it is too late. If you have true love for someone, demonstrate it now.
July 1941: “My mother went to the commandant of the city, a German murderer, and asked him for mercy, to at least free her children for a few hours. The Commandant received her very politely and promised her that as soon as the Jews will clean up the town, her children will come home. Mother felt a little better after hearing this. She started to hope that maybe this murderer would free her children from this difficult work. But he freed them from… life! We never saw them again.”
After the war, the commandant, Erich Ehrlinger, lived in hiding under an assumed name for several years. He remarried, started to use his original name once more, and by 1954, became a foreman at a Volkswagen factory in Karlsruhe, Germany. He was eventually sentenced to 12 years imprisonment, but served only nine, due to an appeal.
In July 1941… only weeks after the Nazi invasion, his official report boasted of overseeing the murders of 1,150 Jews in Daugavpils… and there was more to come.
This monster died in 2004, at age 93, living a life of freedom for 90% of it.
Erich Ehrlinger - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Erich Ehrlinger (born 14 October 1910, Giengen an der Brenz, Kingdom of Württemberg — d. 31 July 2004, Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg) was a…
July 7, 1941: "As I was dragging my paralyzed father and feeling that my strength is leaving me, I saw how a niece of mine, Rosa Frankel, a daughter of my brother Moishe, seventeen years old, was running, embittered, so she remained with the two of us and helped me drag my father, her beloved zaida, through the streets of Dvinsk. We pulled him like a sack. At every step the Latvians spit in our faces and shouted after us: 'You've lost! Soon all of you will be shot like dogs. You're all communists! You've had it good enough for long enough!'"
On a personal note, this (and many other passages like it from Aunt Paula's original memoirs) is particularly hard for me to read and research. It involves her helpless father -- my great grandfather, the person for whom I was named Yosef in Hebrew -- and how he was treated, like a sub-human.
Although my great-grandfather lives to see more days, he gets weaker and weaker. He can't talk. He can't walk. Later, Aunt Paula says she is a nurse, just so she can be with him at his deathbed. She'll use her quick wits several more times in attempts to save him and care for him.
1941 Europe was not so long ago. I can't fathom how an otherwise modern and "civilized" society can taunt a paralyzed human, spit at him, and encourage a quick death. All this so they can have the spoils of his home, which was a pile of rubble by that time.
July 1941: "The Planov Bais Midrash [synagogue/school] was an old building that could accommodate around 50 or 60 people. But now some five hundred people or more had been shoved in. One could suffocate. And that's how people awaited their death sentence. And yet, when we took our father in they somehow made room for him.
"Here in this Bais Midrash I could no longer hold back my tears that I had choked back all day. I didn't want the murderers to see me crying because if one of us cried they took revenge on us. But here, in front of the collective Jews, condemned to death, I didn't have anything to hide.
"As I was sitting there crying, a German came over to me and asked me why I was crying. I pointed out to him my father and all the crowded Jews and I asked him if I needn't cry. He told me that he was not a Reich's Deutsch and he doesn't have anything against us and if he will remain here all night he will help me."
By this time, Aunt Paula and my great grandfather had entered the Planov Synagogue after going to the Choral Synagogue (shown in the photo), only to discover the Choral Synagogue had been destroyed by fire and used as a stable.
Aunt Paula became preoccupied with the thought that perhaps the Germans would burn down the Planov Synagogue, with all 500 refugees crammed in it. She looked at the windows and planned an escape route for her and her father, "just in case".
She then speaks with the German soldier "not a Reich Deutsch". Could she trust him? In this case, the answer turns out to be yes... but we'll get to that later.
The comment I want to make here is that to classify all German soldiers as evil would not be correct. Many, with their own lives at risk, did show some humanity to help Jews in need. Obviously, such "righteous" soldiers were few and far between.
Throughout Aunt Paula's original memoirs, she often has encouraging things to say about certain Germans. There are several examples of how they helped at times.
Conversely, the reader could sense the severe bitterness and odium she felt for the Latvians. Time after time, she explains how the locals (the Lats) had a mob mentality and would not care what atrocities they would do, not only to rob, beat, and humiliate the Jews, but also to murder the Jews "with glee" on behalf of the Nazis.
Daugavpils - Jewish History
Educational web site about the Holocaust in Latvia Rumbula Forest, Latvian Jewry(1880-present) and Jewish genealogy in Latvia. Many links, books, photos and references.
July 25, 1941: "A former maid of ours, one who raised us and loved us very much, a Pole, came in to us, and she told us what terrible things she had witnessed in the yard of the prison: The whole Christian population was gathered and all stood and watched — some indifferently, some with joy — as the Jews were told to dig large pits. And when the pits were ready all the Jews were thrown in and they were buried alive.
"This sounded so incomprehensible to us that we didn't understand that with this, the Polish woman wanted to tell us the “good” news about our dear ones who are already laying there in the pit covered over. And even when she told us that she went to the church and lit candles for the dead ones, we still didn't comprehend what she was trying to tell us."
JP: I have no words to comment on this.
#auntpaulasstory #holocaust #neveragain http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/media_ph.php?MediaId=2290
Nazis and Latvian militia men ordered Jews to undress, then shot them in the trenches. Near Liepaja, Latvia, December 1941.
July 1941: "Suddenly, I saw our house-doctor, Dr. Rozenblum, who attended to my father for some time. 'What's to be done?' I appealed to him. He approached another doctor, Dr. Gurvich, who also knew us very well, and they both whispered a secret to me that if I'm prepared to work among the sick, they will provide me with a place for my father."
Although the original translation showed these two doctors named as "Rosenblum" and "Gurwich", I was able to find a pre-war connection, if spelling their names "Rozenblum" and "Gurvich". Several sources cite these men as being board members of a Bikur Cholim -- a society that helps sick people. The Bikur Cholim in Dvinsk was registered in 1923.
I will conduct more research about these two men. They are among the countless unsung heroes of the Holocaust. They set up a hospital while "in hiding" and improved the health of many Jews in the process... including that of my great grandfather.
Aunt Paula would go on to become a nurse at this "hospital" and help the two doctors treat many patients and those in need.
Bikur cholim - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bikur cholim "visiting the sick"; also transliterated Bikur holim) refers to the mitzvah (Jewish religious commandment) to visit and…
July 29, 2941: "We weren't given a chance to do much thinking. On Tuesday evening we heard cries from the distance. The cries came nearer and nearer until we realized that these were the cries of tortured Jews. The next day we discovered that into the ghetto the remaining Jews had been gathered from all the surrounding villages. From Dvinsk alone, then from Dunte, Viski, Kraslava, Indras, Livengoft, Nitzkol and from all the way to Riga. The Latvian population had been told that they will no longer see a Jew, not even in the museum, even if one were to pay two “lot” (Latvian money) for a Jew there would not be one to be had."
Holocaust in Riga Ryga
Holocaust in Riga Ryga. Film in better quality at http://www.vimeo.com/14997682. Schlacht um Russland. Bój o Rosj?. Battle around Russia http://www.vimeo.com/...
YOUTUBE.COM|BY PETER GABRIEL
July 30, 1941: "All the newcomers and many others immediately signed up for the other camp because they thought that it would be better there. They were all taken to the road that leads to the spa Pogu?anka, eight kilometers from town. But after this “trickery” no news came from the other camp, and we felt once more, instinctively, that something is foul here. Soon a Christian woman came into the ghetto and told us that all those who had been led out were shot in the forest Pogu?anka and that fresh pits are being dug there..."
Aunt Paula's records and recollections were very accurate. In cross-checking the date and place, we see that approximately 1,000 Jews from Dvinsk were massacred in the forrest that day:
From "The Death of the Jewish Community of Kraslava" athttp://www.seligman.org.il/kraslava_holocaust.html
"In late July, on the pretext of the overcrowding of the Ghetto, the 'Comitat' received an order from the Ghetto Commandant Zaube to prepare a list of the people over sixty and of the sick so that they could be transferred to the nearby Sanatorium in Mezciems where the conditions were more suitable. To hide their intentions the Nazis allowed those appearing on the list to take food with them. Under guard of Bluzmanis's Auxiliary Police one thousand Jews were taken to the Pogulanka Forest where they were murdered on the 30th July 1941 by Hammam's Rollkommando of Einsatzkommando 3." http://www.seligman.org.il/dvinsk%20massacre1.jpg
August 1941: “Meanwhile, we suffered greatly from the Latvians. Every night they would come and seek out some women. God protected me from this because I was in the hospital and they didn't come there.”
There are times in Aunt Paula’s memoirs where I wonder if she had been raped, but didn't write about it. I will get into these examples as the book progresses. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from the book, “Amidst Latvians During the Holocaust” by Edward Anders athttp://books.google.ca/…/Amidst_Latvians_During_the_Holocau…:
“Some rapes were committed in small towns where Jews were arrested one or more days before execution. The few guards, not being supervised during the night, occasionally colluded to seize a young girl and gang-rape her. That was less likely to happen in larger cities where Jews often were arrested and shot the same day, and where many guards and supervisors were involved. But opportunities for rape also existed when police entered Jewish apartments, as during the clearing of the Riga ghetto for Rumbula. Indeed, there is a credible report by survivor Ella Medalye that 8 or a dozen young Jewish women were taken, one by one, from the basement of the Arajs Commando building in Riga to an upper floor orgy where they were raped.”
Amidst Latvians During the Holocaust
"One of the best books of 2011..".A nerve-wracking saga in which life and death depend on a capricious fate...absorbing lucidity...vivid portraits...simple…
August 7, 1941: "An order was issued that everyone must go to bathe in the Dvina River. I went there with my mother. Both of us went into the water, holding hands. The Germans and the Latvians laughed at us, photographed us, and chased us right back to the ghetto."
Here, Aunt Paula provides more clues as to where to find additional information about this event. In addition to the date, she mentions that photographs were taken. A quick search online resulted in finding these photos at http://www.shamir.lv/images/Vkladka_eng.pdf
August 8, 1941: “I lined up near the lucky ones (the workers). But what was to be with my mother who had lined up with the non-workers? I snuck out from amongst the workers and went after the group in which my distraught mother had been led away. From the distance I saw her head kerchief and I went up to the policeman, a Latvian, and I asked him to hand my mother over to me, because the head man said since I'm working, I'm allowed to take her with me. After much pleading, he let me have my mother.
“I was overjoyed that I had rescued my mother from the hands of the murderers! I came back with my mother and lined up with her amongst the workers and she told me that exactly when she had uttered “Shema Yisrael” the policeman took her out of line and brought her to me.”
I have a few observations about this passage. First of all, Aunt Paula has the courage (or some might say, the foolishness) to approach a Latvian policeman, lie to him, and say her mother (my great grandmother) should be in the other line. Such actions could have easily resulted in Aunt Paula being transferred to the “other” line (the line for “old” people and those without use… it is easy to predict their upcoming fate). Or, just as easily, she could have been shot right then and there (she documents some cases of others being shot in front of her for speaking up, later in her memoirs).
The other thing I find interesting, is that after everything that has gone on, neither Aunt Paula nor her mother have given up their faith. In fact, the her entire memoir could be considered a reflection of hope. “Shema Yisrael” is one of the most important prayers in Judaism. Observant Jews recite the Shema at least twice daily: it is the first thing they say when they awake and the last words they utter before going to sleep for the night. This prayer is what is inscribed on a scroll in every mezuzah, which is supposed to be placed on every door within a Jew’s home. The Shema is made up of verses from Deuteronomy 6:4–9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37–41
...August 1941: "Suddenly something dreadful happened. We heard voices say that in room 23, weapons had been found and that everyone who lived in that room should immediately come out to get their punishment. From amongst the workers, a family by the name of Elkin stepped forward: a mother with two girls (twins, four years’ old) and another few who lived in that cursed room. Right in front of our eyes, they were murderously beaten and they were immediately taken away to be shot."
These murders were but a fraction of those killed in the Daugavpils Ghetto. The Jaeger Report (a running total of the murders committed by the Einsatzkommando 3 killing squad) listed 9,585 murders in Daugavpils during the 39 DAYS(!) from July 13 to August 21, 1941.
As an aside, just below the Daugavpils entry (which the Germans called "Dunaburg"), there is a listing for killings in Vilnius, Lithuania around that time that has an entry confirming 817 Jewish children were killed... and then there is a note next to it explaining "sonderaktion because German soldiers shot at by Jews.")
Jäger Report - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Jäger Report was written on 1 December 1941 by Karl Jäger, commander of Einsatzkommando 3, a killing unit of Einsatzgruppen A which was…
It seems like most of the Latvian Holocaust survivors' memoirs I'm reading are from Riga or Liepaja, but nothing "major" is by someone from Daugavpils (Dvinsk), the country's 2nd largest city and the place where Aunt Paula's story begins. Then I realized: there are hardly any stories from Daugavpils because there are hardly any survivors! The last page of Sidney Iwens' book, How Dark the Heavens, one of the few Dauvgapils' survivors, says, "Of the roughly 16,000 Jews who were in Daugavpils when it was captured by the Germans, less than 100 survived."
Aunt Paula was on one of the 3 trains that left the Daugavpils Ghetto for the Kaiserwald Concentration Camp. According to Kaufmann: "The few Daugavpils Jews who are still alive today come from these three transports. 'Daugavpils is free of Jews!' was the inscription on the signs one saw when entering the city."
In 1914, just before the Russian Revolution, there were about 185,000 Jews in Latvia. Due to continued pogroms, persecution (and many who fled to start a new life in the not-yet-state of Israel), the population dwindled to 66,000 by the time the Nazis invaded in June 1941. two years later, there were fewer than 13,000. Aunt Paula was one of those 13,000... the number of survivors would be a fraction of that. Today, there are 9,000 Jews in Latvia.
Aug, 1941: "Mother came over to me and told me that she heard that her brother, Shmuel Hellerman, had been shot. He had lived on the Lithuanian-Latvian border, in Eglana-Yalovke , together with his wife and child and their nine-years-old son. I wanted to embrace her and comfort her, but she said how could she not believe what she was being told, when she sees with her own eyes how death is rapidly approaching here. It didn't take long and my mother's premonition came to pass..."
A challenge in researching this book is to reconcile place names with the translation, history and geography. For example, Dvinsk, Daugavpils and Dunaberg are all the same place... though with different names at different times (e.g., it was Dvinsk under the Russians, Daugavpils under the Latvians and Dunaberg under the Germans).
In this case, Aunt Paula mentions, which was translated in English as Eglana-Yalovke. The second word might be "Yalavouka" or something else. Either way, these town names do not show up on basic searches. A clue is that it is on the Latvian-Lithuanian border. There is a small town called "Eleja", 5 km from the border, and it is near Jelgava, a larger town to the north... could that be it? On the other hand, there is a place called "Egline (Jonava)" which is near Kaunas, Lithuania (not far from Vilnius) both of which were large Jewish centres at the time (but these places are not on the border).
A search for Shmuel didn't turn up anything, either. I looked up birth, death and marriage records. Back then, not everything was recorded... or maybe they were recorded under other names (e.g., Gellerman, Hellermann, etc.)? Jews moved around a lot (thanks to the pogroms), so I don't even know if he was from Latvia or Lithuania or somewhere else.
Another possibility is that there was either a spelling mistake in the manuscript and/or a false memory (e.g., maybe the town wasn't at the border?). In any event, you can see the challenges the research poses.
If there are any geography and/or genealogy buffs out there who would like to help me find out more about this great great uncle of mine, Shmuel (Samuel) Hellerman, please feel free to do so.
August 18, 1941: "She was seized away from me and I was thrust to a side. I wanted to hand her a piece of bread that I had in my pocket, but a German shouted to me that she will have enough bread. I replied fearfully that I know what kind of bread she will be given...
"So it was, that with the piece of bread that I did manage to give her, my mother went right to the jaws of death. She went like a heroine, with a smile on her eyes so that I shouldn't, God forbid, see in her fearful eyes that she still wants to live and she certainly deserved to live on because she had spent twenty years caring for my sick father who later became paralyzed. Besides, she had also helped us in our store and above all, she had raised a house full of children and made human beings out of us.
"But she departed without complaint, content to be sacrifice for me, and even her request to God, that she should die in her own bed, was not granted. No, not only not granted, but it is possible that she was buried alive and I don't even know where her grave is."
And that, my friends, is how my Great Grandmother, Gitel Frankel, died. She was my mother's mother's mother. Yesterday was Mother's Day.
April 27, 2014 ·
My research is exposing me to the memoirs of other survivors from the Holocaust in Latvia. The type of incidents are fairly consistently retold, regardless of which area of Latvia I'm reading about. Here's a quote from Max Kaufmann, who wrote his memoirs in 1947 (the same time that Aunt Paula was writing hers:
"Screams were heard from every direction, so horribly were the Latvian murderers tormenting their victims. Their sadism knew no bounds. Old and sick people were brought into the courtyard without underwear, totally naked. People who had formerly played an important role in society now stood there beaten and bleeding. They were dragged around by their beards. Young women who had been brought in were stripped naked in the courtyard and thrown into the cellar rooms of the prefecture to be used for orgies. Venerable
old Riga Jews were dragged here, doused with water, and beaten; their captors made fun of them. Moreover, they sought out Jews with especially full beards and forced them to polish the Latvians' shoes with them. This was so-called Latvian culture!"
"Nighttime fell. There were also Latvians with us in the cellar. They began to whisper among themselves. We started to shudder because we knew the significance of their whispering. We therefore decided that my husband and my brother should once more crawl over to our home and, if there is a place there to hide. we should all move there and await our fate there. Their departure from the cellar scared everyone. Because to appear outdoor after 8 in the evening was punishable by death."
Part of the reason I expect it to take close to 2 years to prepare this book is because it becomes very heart-wrenching to research this topic continuously. Having had read the memoirs, I know that it gets worse after the above statement. And then it gets even worse than
that. And worse. And worse. And worse. And then better. But that's still about 4 years away from the time experienced the above scene.
Oct. 25, 1943: "We were lined up in rows and we were told that we are being taken to the Riga ghetto where more Jews are waiting for us and that we'll soon get bread and coffee.
'And kukhen (something like cake or Danish pastry) too?' I asked in vain.
Roschmann, replied: 'Unfortunately, we ourselves don't have kukhen.'
Frau Dr. Wofsy, on one side of me, and Frau Adelberg on the other, were annoyed with me and asked me not to say anything else. It could do harm."
Aunt Paula goes on to say that she wasn't fearful for her death at that time, as she felt they were too close to the Riga ghetto and it was unlikely they'd be shot there.
As for Roschmann... Aunt Paula probably didn't know what happened to him after the war: He posed as an ordinary POW in 1945 and was released in 1947. He then fled to Argentina (through the help of a Catholic bishop and the Red Cross). In 1959, a warrant was issued for his arrest for the killing of 3,000 Jews (including 800 children). There was no extradition treaty between Argentina and West Germany at that time. Roschmann eventually left for Paraguay, where he allegedly died in 1977 (Simon Wiesenthal was skeptical of Roschmann's death).
A somewhat fictionalized account of the hunt for Roschmann can be see in the movie, The Odessa File, starring John Voight and Maximilian Schell.
Eduard Roschmann - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Eduard Roschmann (alias "Frederico/Federico Wagner" or "Frederico/Federico Wegener"; 25 November 1908 – 8 August 1977) was a member…