Monday, October 20, 2008

John and Mary in Pictures

John Baran (Jakub Cytryn)

Mary Baran (Roza Kluger)

Yad Charuzim on Laszczynskeigo St. - Where Mary lived at the outbreak of war

Dworskiego 51 - Where Mary lived on return to Przemysl

Kopernika St. 5 where John lived with his first wife (née Katz) and her parents

ul. Wspolna 54 - where John lived in Warsaw when the war broke out

Friday, October 17, 2008

John Baran's Story

From Roma's father's Wiedergutmachung (German government holocaust reparations) affidavit.

I, Jan Thomas Baran, previously Cytryn, resident of Montreal, declare under oath after being informed of the significance of declarations under oath:

When the war broke out I was living in Warsaw, Wspolna 54A with my first wife, Anna Cytryn née Katz, who was from Przemysl. My parents lived in Warsaw, Leszno St. no. 56, and remained there. This street was later added to the ghetto. My parents had to wear the star of David, and also do forced labor. Later my parents fled the ghetto and lived in hiding. I did not hear anything more from them, and so must assume that they died.

In September of 1939 I was conscripted into the army and in early October of 1939 I left the army and came to Przemysl. I lived there with my first wife (née Katz) and her parents in Kopernika St. 5 until the start of the German-Russian war in 1941. As required I wore a star of David then and had to work in a SS forced labor camp.

In early 1942 my first wife left the Przemysl Ghetto and went to Krakow where she hid and later died.

My current wife, Maria Rose Klueger-Karas, lived in the village of Mogila near Krakow and worked in a tobacco shop there. Like myself, she was pretending to be a Pole. We were in regular contact and met several times; this was possible because we were both pretending to be Poles, but despite that we didn’t want to live together in order not to attract attention even in this manner.

After the death of my first wife in March of 1943, Maria very much wanted me to come to Mogila, but many of my acquaintances were killed and I thought my chances were better in Tarnawa because it was near the Hungarian border; in September of 1943 after the Jewish forced labor camp was liquidated I left Przemysl and went to Tarnawa.

I then went to Sokoliki, where I lived hidden in a tiny room in the attic of one Jan Maslowski for one month (September 1943). During this time my friends visited me: Jan Krzysztof from Przemysl, my previous boss, who brought me money, and also Maria, my current wife.

In March of 1944, Maria had the opportunity to come to Lemberg by truck for a few days. I came from Tarnawa to Lemberg then as well. We were both in very low spirits and desperate, and we married on 14 March 1944 in order to belong to each other at least in this way. Right afterwards, Maria returned to Mogila and I to Tarnawa Wyzna.

Because the attic was very cold, I had to leave this place and I went to Tarnawa, where I hid in a pig stall owned by one Gorski, with counterfeit documents. I had to leave this place for a few days at great risk in order to get money from Lemberg, and returned immediately to Tarnawa. My files include a copy of the registration under my cover name – Baran – with the police in Tarnawa Wyzna.

The Ukrainian national organization UPA had a very strong presence in this area at the time. The leader of this organization was Stefan Bandera, and its goal was to fight against the Russians and the Poles. Many Polish families were attacked by these bandits and horribly murdered; those that survived felt compelled to seek assistance and protection from the German authorities. As the Russian front approached, the UPA became even more violent and the local German commander issued special permits for Polish families to travel from the Sokoliki Gorskie train station to Uzhorod with German supply troops.

The local German commander in Sokoliki Gorskie – Tarnawa was a quiet and educated man who loved chess. I think he came from Cologne, but I no longer know his name. I also think that he had the rank of Hauptmann. It would be very easy to determine this via German military reports. The garrison in Sokoliki Gorskie – Tarnawa had a special butcher’s department, and made sausages and other meat products for the Wehrmacht.

In September of 1944 my old friend Michael Kampel visited me, bringing news and money from my current wife who was hiding at the time in Mogila.

Because this town was endangered by bands of Ukrainian partisans, I decided to leave Tarnawa to reach Hungary by walking through the woods at night. I arrived in Uzhorod in mid-October. Uzhorod was completely cleansed of Jews [judenrein]; all the Jews had already been relocated [umgesiedelt] when I arrived. I lived in a building that had belonged to a Jewish family, near the bridge, in the same complex [Block] as the Gestapo office.

I was liberated in Uzhorod by the Russians on 27 October 1944.
Supporting documentation from an old friend:

Affidavit of Michael Kampel

I, Michael Kampel, New York, resident of New York, 1530 Plimpton Avenue, merchant, do declare the following under oath in connection with the restitution [application] of Mr. Jan Thomas Baran, earlier Cytryn:

I was born in Rostaka on 17 December 1909 and was living in Premzsyl at the start of the war. I applied for restitution and have already received full payment; I lived at Targoviza no. 10 in Premzsyl when the war started, and came to the Stalovawola camp in 1939 where I stayed until 1941. In 1941 I returned to Premzsyl and lived in the ghetto there until September of 1942, at which time I was caught again and sent to the Plaschow concentration camp near Krakow, where I stayed until 1944. In 1944 I was sent to another camp, namely Skajjisko Kamena, where I remained until August of 1944. In August of 1944 I escaped and then lived in different places in the woods near Krakow until liberation. When I was in the Premzsyl Ghetto in 1942, I saw the applicant, Mr. Jan Thomas Baran and his current wife, Marie Rose Klieger. At that time they were not yet married. We were old acquaintances and that is why I remember this meeting. Later – after I fled the camp – I met the applicant Baran in September in Tarnowa, where he was hiding in a pig stall owned by the farmer Gurski. I knew this because it was told to me by a third party, namely my brother-in-law, who also coincidentally was named Gurski but is not related to the farmer. I visited him in the night and subsequently also visited his current wife Baran, who was hiding in the cellar of the farmer Savitzki in Mogila near Krakow, and passed on greeting from her then friend and/or finance Mr. Baran and/or Cytryn. I then did not see the applicant or his wife from this time until liberation, because visits of that type, while very pleasant, were mortally dangerous, and therefore I could not repeat them after I had hidden in the forests.

Read to, approved, signed and sworn: 2 July 1959

Roma wants to thank her friend Marlene Schoofs in Berlin for the translations and for wringing these files out of the German bureaucracy.

Mary Baran's Story

From Roma's mother's Wiedergutmachung - German government holocaust reparations - affidavit.

I, Maria Rose Baran, née Klueger-Karas, teacher in Montreal, having been informed of the significance of declarations under oath, do declare the following:

When the war broke out I was living in Przemsyl, Leszczynski St. 13, and went to Lemberg [Lvov] in October of 1939 where I studied medicine; my address was Snopkowska 4. Lemberg was occupied on 28 June 1941 and we had to wear the star of David as of 1 July 1941. At the Gestapo [site] in Lemberg, three of my teeth were knocked out when my accordion was confiscated. Unfortunately I do not know the name of the official.

In autumn, October or November of 1941, I went back to Przemysl where I lived together with my parents first in Dworski St. 51 and then in Cerkiewna St. in the ghetto.

During this time I had to do hard work in a forced labor camp. Following two large-scale Jewish cleansing campaigns [Judenreinigungsaktionen], I left Przemysl in December of 1942 and lived with my parents in the village of Mogila near Krakow, in hiding with a family by the name of Sawitzki. I had to get the money from Krakow, however, and had to go to Krakow at great risk with illegal ID documents every month.

Once I left Mogila for a few days in order to bring money to the man who is now my husband, who was in hiding at the time in Sokoliki.

I remained in Mogila until it was liberated by the Russians on 19 January 1945.

Read to, approved by, and signed
[signature: Maria Baran]

Montreal, 11 October 1956

Roma wants to thank her friend Marlene Schoofs in Berlin for the translations and for wringing these files out of the German bureaucracy.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The power of the global... Mispochah

New Year's day brought this to my in box:
Dear Lukasz and David,

As time flies and we are involved in so many things we tend to sometimes forget the essence.

I so anted to write to you and wish you a Happy New Year – especially, because you were two of a handful who made my previous year significant. And the holiday went by and, regrettably, I did not write. So before Yom Kippur comes around, I will use the double opportunity to first apologize for my oversight, and second, to wish you a really jubilant, successful, peaceful and happy new year.

I have been following closely the fascinating story of Roma Baran unfolding on your blog, David. You cannot imagine how moving an experience it is. If Roma needs any paperwork from Israel, I would be happy to see how to deal with it.

Shana Tova,

Gideon Goldstein
To me, the privilege of corresponding and connecting to people like Roma, Lukasz, and Gideon is the reason to have a blog in the first place. Emails like this make the new year sweet.

So I forwarded Gideon's offer to Roma and sat back as the emails flew! Below is Roma's introductory letter; a good summary of where she's at reconstructing her family's true history.
Dear Gideon,

I was moved to read your response to my adventure. Would you mind telling me about yourself, your background, and what you do?

I will be in Israel from December 11 to 17th, traveling with friends. I will also try to take some time to visit new found relatives, do some research, and will try to track my family's stay in Israel. Finding out that I lived there was almost as shocking as the other parts of the revelation, and I am making various efforts to integrate the idea into my sense of my own history. And to how living there fits into what it means to me at this late date to be Jew.

My general research falls into several areas. Tracking my mother's family from Przemysl is in some ways the easiest. My uncle (her brother) Zygmunt is alive and has been very generous with his time, information, and photos. In addition, there are relatives in Israel on my mother's side with whom I will be able to visit.

My father's side is most mysterious. I know almost nothing about his family, not their real names, dates of birth, only that both parents and all four siblings (sisters) and their families died in the Shoah, mostly in the Warsaw Ghetto. I know very little about his wartime experience or how he survived.

Finally, I would like to reconstruct our emigration -- from Poland in late 1949 by train to an island off Venice, a boat to Haifa (possibly the Kedmah), a stay in barracks, possibly an abandoned/bombed out coastal building in Jaffa, and then living on a rooftop adjacent to St. Anthony's church in Jaffa. My grandparents (maternal) followed us to Jaffa shortly after we arrived. While we were there, my father eventually got some work in construction, and my uncle established a small workshop converting old tires back into usable rubber ( I will send a picture of the workshop on Monday). We left Israel in August 1951, taking a boat to Marseilles (this may have been the Kedmah trip instead), meeting up with my father's cousin Wladek Guzik (JDC director David Guzik's only surviving child) and together all going to Canada.

I am attaching a photo of my uncle on the Jaffa rooftop, my mother and her cousin on the rooftop ( the cousin whom I will visit, an architect in Tel Aviv), and my parents and I on the Kedmah. (A wonderful group on a ship forum identified the SS Kedmah from my photos. Isn't the internet amazing? Here's the link to that exchange.

One of the unexpected and rewarding benefits of my search has been making contact with interesting and generous search partners, such as David Semmel, Lukasz Biedka, Sheila Schneider and many others. David's wife Jocelyn taught me the concept of Mispochah.

I would appreciate it very much if you could guide me to resources in Israel that could help fill in some blanks. Let's talk some more.

Best regards,
Below is Gideon's response; just another fascinating, wonderful personal success story of a first generation Israeli. The last part of the letter is an excellent primer on how to do Jewish historical research in Israel.
Dear Roma,

I am very happy to hear from you. Yes, I was touched by your story and would be happy to help as best possible.

I was born in Haifa, my mother's family is from Przemysl. Most of them were fortunate to emigrate to Israel before the war. My father was born in Haifa, yet his family is from Belz, which is usually referred to as the ultimate Shtetl, probably because of a very famous Yiddish song called "Mein Shtetl'e Belz".

I hold a law degree from the University of Tel Aviv, yet I never practiced. I have a graduate degree in educational leadership from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and at present I am working on my PhD Dissertation in educational leadership at the University of Bath in England. I have a daughter and a son, both living in Israel.

I teach college and do some consulting, mostly in instructional technology and education. I have been involved in Holocaust studies as well as with student study missions to Poland for over 15 years. My genealogical research is a hobby.

I read your message with the fascinating details behind the story on David's blog. I think I can help you on three levels in preparation for and during your visit to Israel.

One: The Ministry of the Interior in Israel holds all documents of people who had entered the country since its independence in 1948. I assume there would be a record for each of your family members (I understand that would include you, your parents, your maternal grandparents and your maternal uncle) the information on record should include full names and parental names; Dates of entry and exit; The name of the vessel you arrived on as well as addresses in Israel. There are three levels of information. Basic information is provided on request pending some identity of the individuals (if you have any of their Israel assigned ID numbers, that would be of help). All you need to do is show up at any of the census offices, wait in line and apply. You would probably be given a printed record on the spot (free of charge). A more detailed record is available as well. Your own should be given to you at the same time you receive the basic information. As for your relatives, this depends: I had some success in obtaining detailed relative information after writing a letter to the Minister. In other cases, a court order is required. The third level includes the possibility to examine the original documents (as in personally filled immigration forms) would always require a court order.

Much of this could be done before your arrival. I can help you draft the letter to the minister, if you wish to follow that route. I can also recommend an attorney who would advise you as to how do proceed in obtaining the needed court orders. Let me know what you think.

Two: The Jewish Agency held, between 1945-2000 a special unit called "The Search Bureau for Missing Relatives". This bureau received over a million requests over the years of people searching for relatives gone missing during the war (WW II). Since its closure in 2000, the archived records were transferred to the "Zionist Archive". Take a look at the options under "Family research". I have never used the service, but I will be willing to help if needed.

[After closer scrutiny of the central Zionist archive website - it seems that they hold a list of all immigrants arriving Palestine/Israel through most of the 20th century. They require one fills a form (available on-site) and pay a fee of USD20 per household investigated. This may a good starting point as you can do this by e-mail - It also located on the Family Research section. -GG]

Three: Israeli public radio was the voice for the above searches. In the 1950's 60's and 70's it aired a special program also called "The Search Bureau for Missing Relatives". The program, discontinued a long time ago has been resumed. With the current version still focusing on Holocaust stories, but allows for modern reunions as well. I think that your special story would receive much attention and would be allocated sufficient air-time to try and find people who may have known your paternal grandparents, your aunts and probably your family during your stay in Israel in 1949-51. The problem here is that the program is flooded with requests, and again, I believe that you would probably receive preference.

If you are willing to share your story with a radio audience, we would need to work on an encapsulation of the facts (names, dates, places) before your arrival and prod the producers for preferential treatment in allowing this to air just before or during your visit here.

I think this is an overdose of information for a first message. Take your time to sort it out; let me know if you need more information. When you make your mind up regarding what it is that you would like to do with each of the sources, let me know so we can progress.

All the best,

The power of the internet; the power of the Mispochah... does it get any better?