Sunday, September 30, 2012


About thirteen-fourteen years ago, I received a phone call from Shuki Eckert, a Galician researcher with whom I have some overlapping interests. He was at Yad Vashem and he had found a set of about a hundred Pages of Testimony for Pikholz family members. Did I want them?

Well, of course I wanted them. I had inquired a few months earlier and Yad Vashem had been able to provide me with twenty-four Pages, so this would increase the set considerably.
Undated Page of Testimony
for Moshe Pickholz of Budzanow

Among this new group was a couple from Budzanow, for whom no submitter was listed. The father was Moshe Pickholz, born 1888 in Buczacz, with no parents' names listed. The mother was Tema Pickholz, born 1990 (sic) in Budzanow. Her parents were named as Jonah and Matel. They were shot in the Trembowla ghetto in 1942, as was their unmarried son Munio, who was born in 1920.

As I say, there was no submitter listed, nor was there a date or a place where the Page was filled out, but the style was consistent with the first big names project in 1956-57. The only identifying information was the signature of the person from Yad Vashem who assisted in filling out the form. Weidenfeld.

The Pages for Tema and Munio were the same way.

There is a Pikholz couple whose children were born in Budzanow in the 1880-90s, but Moshe does not seem to have anything to do with them. I have not been able to locate the one living descendant.

Moshe's family sat untouched in my "unconnected" pile for several years.

I had never paid much attention to the signature of the Yad Vashem representative on any of these Pages. Apparently, during the big project in the mid 1950s, Yad Vashem sent people around to survivors, asking them to fill out the forms and helping them to do so. Many of the Pages are unclear or incomplete - perhaps because some survivors filled out so many, perhaps because the task was emotionally difficult, perhaps because it was the person from Yad Vashem doing the writing. In many cases, these helpers were students.

In one memorable case, I was looking at a Page on behalf of another researcher and I was surprised to see that I recognized the scrawled signature of the Yad Vashem helper. I'll call him J and I knew him as the Chief Financial Officer of a company where I worked for a few years around 1980, in Beer Sheva. I showed Dov, another co-worker from that period, twenty-odd years earlier, and he agreed - the signature was J.

J was originally from Nahariyya (on the coast, north of Haifa) and would have been a university student in the mid-1950s, which fit the profile of those sent by Yad Vashem to help collect these submissions.

The Page said Moshe was from Buczacz and there is, in fact, a Pikholz family from Buczacz - a family I have mentioned several times in this blog. Chaim Yaakov Pikholz had four sons and I was in contact with a few of the descendants - who in the course of time have been determined to be my fourth cousins. Most of the living descendants lived in the Haifa-Netanya area. There was also a daughter Taube, about whom we knew nothing. 

Some time later, I learned that there was another daughter, Rivka, who married Binyamin Hersch Bernstein of Radauti, in Bukovina. The couple lived in Radauti. because of the distance, there was probably less contact with these Bernsteins than the Buczacz families had with one another, but here too there are a few living descendants in the Haifa area. Actually, three of the Bernstein children lived in the Haifa area - one other was killed in Bukovina.

The last of the three who had lived here died in 1985 at about age eighty-three. She lived in Kiryat Motzkin and has two daughters. Her husband was Avraham Weidenfeld, who died in 1974.

Five years ago, I attended the IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Salt Lake City and I took some time to examine any number of record sets at the library there. One of those record sets was for Budzanow and included the marriage record for Moshe and Tema. Ours is the second one on the page.
Moshe Pickholz married Tema Baltuch in Budzanow, 8 August 1911
The groom is Moshe, the son of Juda Mendl Pickholz and Heni Schutzman, from Buczacz, born 1880. The bride is Tema Baltuch, the daughter of Jona Schutzman and Marjem Baltuch, Marjem being from Mikulince. Tema was born 23 August 1884 in Budzanow. (I looked at the Schutzmans and determined that the bride and groom were not first cousins.)

The name Juda Mendl is totally unknown to me among Pikholz descendants. Mendel in any form or combination is rare and we have no other Juda among the Skalat Pikholz families. (There are some Leib and Aryeh, but no one specifically Juda.)

But the most likely solution was that Juda Mendl was a previously unknown son of Chaim Yaakov of Buczacz. After all, that's where Moshe was born. But I certainly did not have enough evidence to record him that way, so Juda Mendl and his son Moshe remained among the unconnected.

Some time later, I had the occasion to have another look at the Pages for Moshe and his family (by now online) and I saw how Yad Vashem treated the matter of the missing submitter.

They listed their agent, Weidenfeld, the fellow they sent to help the survivors fill out the forms, as the submitter. I checked with them and they said they assumed that this Weidenfeld had been the submitter himself, as well as having worked for Yad Vashem.

Makes sense to me.

I asked them if they would have any idea who this Weidenfeld was and they hadn't.

Then it occurred to me that perehaps this was Avraham Weidenfeld whose wife - the daughter of Rivka Bernstein - may have been a first cousin of Moshe.

If so, it seemed odd that Avraham Weidenfeld submitted pages only for this one cousin and his family, not for anyone else from the Buczacz family. I looked at pages submitted by anyone named Weidenfeld and saw nothing clarifying. It also seemed odd that if Moshe were the cousin of the submitter's wife, Moshe's parents would not be named on the Page, but his wife's would have

I spoke to Avraham Weidenfeld's two daughters and neither was willing to tell me anything - not even if the signature looks like it might have been that of their late father.

But now I had a more specific question - did Yad Vashem ever employ a man named Avraham Weidenfeld of the Haifa area, in their names project. I gave them an approximation of his age as well. Yad Vashem's personnel department told me that they had no information on who did that work in the 1950s and in general had no record of any Weidenfeld.

So I phoned J. It seemed predestined.

J had lived in Nahariyya, so he probably did his work for Yad Vashem in the Haifa area during the summer or other university vacation periods. So perhaps he knew the others working in that project in the same area. Perhaps they had been in a training seminar together.

J is retired and lives near Beer Sheva. He was very surprised by my call, moreso by my question. He had no idea about any Weidenfeld, but suggested I call his older brother who had been involved in the names project for a longer period of time.

The older brother didn't remember any Weidenfeld, but then he said there was not much contact among the Yad Vashem people in the field. He did tell me that they were not employees of Yad Vashem, but rather worked as part of the Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University. So I tried the Institute and the personnel department at the University, where they thought I was really nuts.

Maybe I am, but it seemed like a good idea.

So for now, I am left with my puzzles and theories. I am recording this so as to be sure not to mislead anyone who might someday examine my database.

My talk in Givatayim on DNA is 14 October, not 10 October as previously announced.

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