Friday, May 25, 2012


On Shavuot 5703, Skalat became Judenrein.

Some six hundred of the last Jews in the ghetto were marched out to burial pits that had been prepared in advance and shot. The only ones left were about four hundred in a labor camp and those who had hidden in the forest.

On Monday, the seventh of Sivan, the day after Shavuot here in Israel and the second day of Shavuot abroad, a group of survivors that gets smaller every year and a few descendants will meet at the monument to Skalat at the Holon Cemetery outside Tel-Aviv. Last year, we were maybe two dozen, but did not have a minyan.

Zvika will speak. His mother Yocheved will listen.

Yocheved's brother Motel will say kaddish.

Shammai's family no longer comes. They used to be represented by three generations. Shammai and his wife were both from Skalat, but he died a few years ago on Shavuot - days after his son-in-law - and they meet elsewhere on that day for their personal memorial.

Jurek from Sweden has asked me to mention that his aunt who lived in California died a few months ago and I will do that.

I will no doubt see David from Netanya and his sister Zippi - their mother was Cyla Pikholz, who came with her husband back in the 1930s. Two of Cyla's sisters came after the War - Tonka is buried in Holon as well and Shufka is buried in Herzliyyah. Tonka wrote two articles in the Skalat memorial book. Her son has lived abroad for years and Shufka's kids never come. Two other sisters and the parents were killed in Skalat.

Perhaps my fourth cousin Leonora will come, if she can get off work. Her mother was Pikholz from all four of her grandparents. I call Leonora "my cousin from the cemetery" since that is where we most often meet. One of these weeks, I'll tell her story here. She has an uncle buried in Holon. Her mother never knew that her brother-in-law had survived.

The memorial in Holon,
seen from the side.
My translation is to the right.

Inside the memorial
is a scroll with a list
of victims from Skalat.
To the suffering people of the Skalat community 
to the fathers who took their lives in their hands,
in desparate attempt to save their children,
to the mothers who hair blanched
from pain and fear for their dear ones,
for those tortured and shot in the town streets,
in the ancient citadels
and on the banks of the river,
to the thousands taken in the death cars,
to Belzec, on the road of blood and suffering
and were ground to dust., to the few who dared
to jump from the speeding trains,
because they never quit or gave up hope,
even at the edge of destruction,
for the thousands at the pts of death,
fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers
brothers and sisters, counting the
last grains of sand in the hourglass,
their eyes desparate and no one comes to rescue,
to the brave, the daring, the fortunate,
who in that night of storm and unrest,
of hope and desparation, joined the fighters of
Kobpak and whose blood filled the path
of the Resistance in the Carpathian Mountains,
to the thousands of the community who were killed
with the cry of SHEMA YISRAEL on their lips,
to the few who remained, by miracle or by chance,
fewer every year, and during these many years
they carry the cries of the entire community,
and the greatest and heaviest cry of them all,
the cry of the dead and of the living, echoing
throughout the world, from then until the end of time:

There is a whole row of these memorials along the eastern fence of the cemetery, and others elsewhere. Other towns are memorialized in other Israeli cemeteries. And graves which mention parents and brothers and sisters and others who were killed are common.

As readers of this blog may know, many of the Pikholz families came from Skalat. It is probably one family, but I have not yet succeeded in linking them all together.

My grandfather's grandmother Rivka-Feige Pikholz was born there, probably early 1820s. Her four children and most of her grandchildren were almost certainly born in Podkamen and Zalosce, though one daughter married a man from Skalat and her children were born there. Three of Rivka-Feige's children went to the United States.
Yad VaShem's Pinkas Kehillot series says that there were 3256 Jews in Skalat in 1890, out of a population of 5889. The number of Jews had gone down a bit by 1921, but after the Germans came in 1941, Jews from some of the smaller towns nearby were added to the population. Not always of their own volition.

Once the shul. Now a warehouse.
There were five major killings of the Jews of Skalat. In the first three, Jews were taken by truck to Belzec and killed there. There are no records. That was when the Germans still thought that the world would object to the mass murder of Jews, so it was kept quiet and nothing was recorded. Eventually they realized that the world didn't care at all and the result was transports to industrial-sized death camps, often with meticulous records.

The first killing was 18 Elul 5702, 31 August 1942. Six hundred old and infirm. The Jews of the Judenrat had to deliver them to the Germans. That drove a wedge between the Judenrat and the rest of the Jews, but more important, it served the Germans' purposes by making Jews complicit.

Then what was called "the large killing" - 10 Heshvan 5703, 21 October 1942 - three thousand Jews. A few of those were "selected" for slave labor and a few others jumped from the trucks to freedom or (more likely) death. Freedom? - about fifty escaped and returned to Skalat. Where else was there to go?

The "small killing" was 29 Heshvan 5703, 9 November 1942. "Only" eleven hundred that time.

The fields of the last two killings.
A memorial made of a few surviving gravestones from the
old cemetery is in the background.
This memorial has been upgraded, but with the same basic motif.
The site of the old cemetery.
Now it's the municipal soccer field.
The stones were used for paving
and fencing, but are now gone.
For the last two killings, the Jews were simply marched out of town and shot beside open pits. Some died from the shooting, some from the burial. The first of those two was 2 Nisan 5703, 7 April 1943 - about seven hundred Jews. And the last six hundred on Shavuot.

The new memorial
There is more on Skalat. Much of the aggregation is my work, but some was done by the folks who took over the site.

And there are two memorial books - here and here.

We will be meeting Monday afternoon at five-thirty. That's ten-thirty on the east coast of the US. Right about the time some of you are saying yizkor. Perhaps you'll give a thought to the dead Jews of Skalat

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Israel David Rosenbloom
Eight weeks ago, I wrote about not knowing the maiden name of my great-grandmother, Etta Bryna, the wife of my namesake Israel David Rosenbloom. I would like to update that report with a couple of new documents, plus add some other points about the Rosenbloom family.

Click to enlarge.
Maiden name of Mother... Don't know
Uncle Hymen's application for marriage license
I said then that Uncle Hymen did not know his mother's maiden name when he filled out his SS-5 form for Social Security, as his mother had died when he was two. His sister, my grandmother, was nearly ten years older so almost certainly knew her mother's maiden name, but she was not registered with Social Security, so there was no document. Nor did the name appear on my grandparents marriage record, which my grandfather filled out. It ocurred to me, however, that when Uncle Hymen and Aunt Becky were married in Pittsburgh in 1919, my grandmother was certainly present and could have supplied their mother's maiden name on that occasion.

I ordered that 1919 marriage certificate. As you can see above on the left, it says Maiden name of Mother.....Don't know. So much for that.

Rosie's death certificate

Then there was the matter of their sister Rosie (Rachel Leah) Rosenbloom's death certificate. She died at twenty-three and is buried in New York (Mt. Zion Maspeth) but we have never been able to locate a death record. I had been hoping that the younger sister Shayna Liba would have supplied that information.

My friend Renee Steinig located the place of death - Central Islip State Hospital, a psyciatric facility on Long Island - and  obtained a copy of the death certificate. I had the impression that she had died of consumption and indeed the certificate shows the cause of death as "pulmonary tuberculosis." But mother's name - nothing. (No father's name either, for that matter. I guess it was part of being institutionalized.)

So here too, we are at a dead end. At least with the available resources.

I have six matches on my mitochondrial DNA - maybe something will come of that.

The eldest sister

As long as I have reviewed what I know about our Rosenblooms, let be introduce the eldest sister, Alta.
We think she was born about 1880. Her husband was Berl Kaplan and they had three sons and a daughter. The eldest son was Yaakov and one of the others was Baruch Yosef. We don't know the name of the third. The daughter was Etta Bryna.

The photograph here was taken in Moscow sometime in the 1920s. We are assuming that Berl had died by then.

The son on the left is the one whose name we don't know.

The last we know of any of this family is in 1930. At that time, two of the sons were married and each had a baby girl.


One of Uncle Hymen's grandsons  just told me that his grandfather had said that Israel David had "davened Lubavitch," that is, was affiliated with Habad.I had never known that.

Also please note, I will be speaking - in Hebrew - on Sunday, 10 June, 20 Sivan at 7 PM - at the Israel Genealogical Society's Giv'atayim branch, on the subject
What We Know vs. What We Can Prove
at the Shazar Center, 30 Yavnieli Street, Giv'atyaim. There is a small charge for non-members.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


As I sit down to begin writing this, it is Thursday, the thirty-third day of the Omer. Lag BaOmer, as it is usually called.

The forty-nine days of the Omer - from Pesach until Shavuot - were originally a joyous period. But in the time of the Talmud, it became a  time of mourning, comemorating the deaths of twelve thousand pairs of students of Rabbi Akiva. There are differing traditions about whether the dying ended on the thirty-third day of the Omer or if it was a temporary respite, but in any case we mark that period by not having a haircut, not shaving, not listening to music and most particularly not marrying.

Therefore, Lag BaOmer became a popular day for weddings.

My great-grandfather, Moritz Rosenzweig, married his second wife, Regina Bauer, on Lag BaOmer 1890. His first wife, Hermina Schafer, had died at twenty-four, leaving two small children. Moritz and Regina had three children in Budapest and after arriving in the United States in 1900, had one more - my grandmother.

A sidebar to this story is that my grandmother never knew. That is, never knew that there had been a previous wife. 
She learned that when she was about nineteen and while out in the neighborhood, one of the men from shul called to her "Remind Freddie [her eldest brother] that he has yahrzeit tonight."

Legend has it that she had some choice words for the rest of the household.
Their older daughter, Aunt Helen, married Uncle Joe (Pickholtz - he was my grandfather's older brother) on Lag BaOmer 1913. He was twenty-three, she was barely seventeen. (In the Jewish calendar she was a week short of her seventeenth birthday and she always boasted that she was married at sixteen.) When I was a teenager, they had a large fiftieth anniversary celebration, to which those of my generation were not invited.

Also on my father's side, my first cousin Jerry Pickholtz married his wife Marcia Seidel on Lag BaOmer 1997. Mazal tov to them and their family.

And a couple of second cousins on my mother's side.  Beverly Rosenbloom married Steve Hirsch on Lag BaOmer in 1979 and her brother Geoff married Donna Sandler exactly two years later. May both couples enjoy many years.

There are probably more than a few others, but I don't make a big deal of collecting marriage dates. I probably should. Lots of things I probably should do.

But I am leading up to two wedding-witness stories that have nothing to do with Lag BaOmer.

Three years ago, we attended the late summer wedding of Pikholz descendant Jacob Laor's daughter Noa to Nadav Mazliah. The rav - Sephardic, brought by the groom's family, I am sure - was walking around before the ceremony, looking like he was looking for a Sabbath observer to serve as a witness. He came over to me and asked if I am related to either the bride or the groom. I said "The grandfather's grandfather of the father of the bride and my grandfather's grandmother had the same last name and came from the same town, so we are probably sixth or seventh cousins - maybe even fifth. But we have no idea how."

The rav gave that a moment's thought, then decided he'd rather find someone else.

The second story was more recent. A few months ago, we received an invitation to the wedding of Eliyahu Kaplan and Oshri Sharoni. Eli is the youngest son of Menachem and Dalia (Pickholz) Kaplan. Dalia's great-great-grandparents are Mordecai and Taube Pikholz of Skalat and my great-great-grandmother Rivke Feige Pikholz is related to one of them somehow - a sister, a niece, maybe a first cousin once removed. I tend to assume that Rivka Feige is a younger sister of Mordecai, so I call Dalia my fourth cousin, with an asterisk.

Menachem and Dalia are enthusiastic supporters of the Pikholz Project, but we had a casual acquaintance when we both lived in Arad, twenty-odd years ago. Dalia's mother even tried to talk genealogy with me, but for reasons I cannot relate here, I was not able to respond properly.

Anyway, the wedding was a few days before I was to finish my twelve months of mourning for my mother, so I told them I would come for the ceremony but not stay. Leading up to the ceremony, Menachem told me that I was to be a witness. I did and a Pickholz signature now adorns the ketubah of the young couple. We all feel that our great-great-grandparents are pleased.

Also please note, I will be speaking - in Hebrew - on Sunday, 10 June, 20 Sivan at 7 PM - at the Israel Genealogical Society's Giv'atayim branch, on the subject
What We Know vs. What We Can Prove
at the Shazar Center, 30 Yavnieli Street, Giv'atyaim. There is a small charge for non-members.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


A week ago, after Shabbat, I saw a notice of the death of Michal Esther Gispan. She was not yet fifty-four. Michal left a husband, four sons (19-29), a daughter in sixth grade, parents, a sister and a brother. She lived not far from us, but we had never met. But I know her father, a retired professor at the Hebrew University. And I am sure that I crossed paths with her husband when we were both in Yeroham thirty-six years ago.

I went over to the house Monday morning. There have been mourning signs all around the neighborhood all week, even more than for Prof. Benzion Netanyahu, who lived two blocks away.

Years ago, when I was making my first inventory of Pikholz descendants, I came across a Henrik Pickholz buried in Tel-Aviv. He had died in 1983 at age seventy-one. According to his tombstone, his father was Moshe - we have many of those. I was able to determine that Henrik had two daughters living abroad, but they were not cooperative and I learned nothing more from them. I was told by his ex-wife that his brothers and sisters had all been killed, but she knew no names or anything.

When I first searched the old Bad Arolsen microfilms at Yad Vashem, I found a card for Henrik, with a Budapest address. It listed his mother as Erzsebet Rosenberg. Nothing else and no cards for other family members.

A few years later, I commissioned a researcher in Budapest to see what he could find. He came  back with this:

Dear Israel,
I said 9 children of Mozes Pikholz and Erzsebet / Lifsche Kornberg in my last message. I must correct myself: just 7 children:
Stefania / Sarah Rivka, 1898 August 24.
Viola Frida / Feige, 1900. August 12.
Hermina / Mirl, 1902. September 5.
Arpad / Avraham, 1904. December 31.
Etelka Szerena / Etl, 1907. July 2.
Irma / Fradel, 1909. February 4.
Henrik / Chayyim, 1911. September 6.
I found the marriage of Mozes and Erzsebet in the civil register.
They married at the sate authorities, just 1908. January 19., so ten years after their first child birth. The record said:
Mozes Pikholz was born 1870. February 2., his parents: Taube Pikholz (just one name, and it seen at place for the fathers)
Lifsche Kornberg was born 1867. May 30., her parents: Chayyim Kornberg, and Sarah Rivka Stein. They died already before the marriage.
I recognized the 2 February 1870 birth date from a set of records we had acquired earlier so I could easily place Henrik and his family into the overall Pikholz structure. From other sources, I found that the two older sisters had sons soon after WWI, but I have made no further progress with this family.

The researcher also had something else.

Also found children of Izsak / Yitzhak Tallenberg-Pikholz and Feige Meles-Silber.
(I writing Tallenberg-Pikholz, because the records also mentioned him as "Tallenberg other Pickholz" named.
Dezso / Shmuel, 1905. December 18.
Matild / Motl, 1907. April 16.
Aranka / Golda, 1908. July 4.
As the records, Izsak Tallenberg-Pikholz was born in Boryslaw, Galicia, and Feige Meles was born in Horodenka, Galicia. They lived Budapest VII. (Seventh district or ward), Dob u. 69.
As the civil birth record of Dezso, Izsak was born around 1877, and Feige around 1882. This record shown their marriage 1905. December 26 in Budapest, but I did not found it. Also this civil record corrected the mother name: Gitel Feige Silber, instead of Feige Meles.
The Boryslaw birth records for 1877 are missing but I was quite sure that the parents of Yitzhak were David Samuel Pikholz of Rozdol and Sara Thalenberg of Boryslaw, thus accounting for the two surnames he used.

So Yitzhak had three children, born in Budapest nearly a hundred years ago. Knowing nothing of any of that family, I assumed that this was another trail that was to lead nowhere, as with so many from that period in Europe.  I added them to the family website and that was the end of that.

Fourteen months later, I received this:

Dear Sir,

My name is Mordechai Kremer and I am the grandson of Yicchak Tallenberg and (Gitel) Feige Silber (or Schuchner, not Meles). I read your internet site with great interest and in the following I would like to supply you with some additional information concerning our branch of the family.

Yicchak Tallenberg died in Budapest in 1941 after a long illness (27 Elul Tav-Shin-Aleph).Feige Tallenberg (Silber) was born in 1983 in Horodenka, Galicia and passed away in Jerusalem in 1970 (2 Tammuz, Tav-Shin-Lamed).
They had 3 children: (1) Dezso (David Shmuel), (2) Matild (Matl) and (3) Aranka (Golda). On the family tree they appear as the 5-th generation.

Data on the 5-th generation:

1. Dr. Dezso (Shmuel David) Tallenberg was born in 1905 in Budapest. He studied and practiced medicine in Prague. He joined the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War and fell there in 1938 as a doctor on the front. After the war, he was given the highest military order "in memoriam" by the Czechoslovak Republic. The family issued a memorial volume in his honour, which is available upon request. Dr. Tallenberg was married to Vlasta Gruenhut (1906-1984) in Prague. The couple had no children.
2. Matild (Matl) Tallenberg was born in 1907 in Budapest died in Jerusalem in 1989 (17 Tishri Tav-Shin-Nun). She was married to Henrik Kremer (born in 1900 in Budapest and died in 1998 in Jerusalem, 12 Tammuz Tav-Shin-Nun-Chet.) They have one son Kremer (Laszlo) Mordechai.
3. Aranka (Golda) Tallenberg was born in 1908 in Budapest. She married Imre Engel (born in 1902 in Budapest and died in 1945 in the Shoah). They have one son Engel (Pal) Zvi. Golda Tallenberg lives now in an old age home in Jerusalem.
This kind of thing happens from time time - that's one reason for laying it out on the Internet - but the thrill of it never gets old.Yitzhak had died in 1941 of an illness, but his wife and daughters came here to Jerusalem and Golda was still living at age ninety-seven! And Deszo - who carried the ancestral name David Samuel - was a physician who served in the Spanish Civil War. And there were additional generations, beginning with Mordechai's daughter Michal Gispan and her five children.

In addition to the booklet that the family prepared in memory of Deszo, Mordechai wrote up his own experiences growing up in Budapest, the war years, making aliyah and the years leading up to his marriage to US-born Ruth. He showed me both of these when we met, soon after his first making contact. Each story was its own kind of heroics.

Later I met with his aunt, Golda Engel, who lived into her 102nd year. Born in Budapest, lost her husband, but survived and eventually died in Jerusalem.

So now I have met Michal's family, here in Jerusalem. We will try to maintain contact, perhaps as soon as the unveiling in a few weeks in the Yemenite section on Har HaMenuhot. Before then, I will be in touch with Mordechai to make sure I have names and dates any spouses and grandchildren.

A generation passes and another emerges. It is that much harder when it is not in the natural order.

It is not always easy to turn the dry data into flesh and blood - I certainly struggle to do so here - but I'll try my best.
AM YISRAEL HAI.  עם ישראל חי.