Sunday, November 30, 2008

"So, you are Kuba's daughter..."

Thanks to Lukasz's fine detective work, Roma has a rendezvous with Mr. S - a survivor living in Israel who knew her father.

Simply amazing.
Dear Lukasz,

I spoke to Mr. S by telephone today, and arranged a meeting on Saturday Dec 13th. I cannot begin to tell you how exciting even my short conversation was, and what a miraculous discovery you have made!

He said right away to me: "So, you are Kuba's daughter." My father's nickname based on Jakub! He knew my father's first wife Anna Katz and her family. He knew where Anna Katz is buried in Krakow (died 1943). He is from Przemysl, and knew my father there, and doubtless my mother's family as well. Finally, my father actually lived with him and his family for a year-and-a-half at the end of the war.

I believe Mr. S will be the most important window into who my father really was. As I mentioned, I have not been able to find anyone alive who knew him even in Montreal, much less through these important stages of his life that I know nothing about. It is nothing short of a stunning piece of research, Lukasz; you are amazing.

I am hoping to meet with Yoram as well. He has been kind enough to invite me to his place.

Happy Thanksgiving to all,
love, Roma

An interesting sidebar: Mr S is the son of the former director and chief physician of the Jewish Hospital in Przemysl.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Lukasz, our friend from Warsaw, is one of the main detectives working to unravel Roma's saga. He recently traveled to Israel where he confirmed an improbable connection that he had made between Roma's father and a man he knew of living in Israel.

This thread introduces two new players to the tale, Yoram and Mr.S - his name obscured in these posts for his privacy. Lukasz explains who they are, and how he found them:
I met Yoram and his wife in Przemysl 5 years ago where they were researching his
Kammermann and Dems roots. I remember we took picture in front of one of the houses they lived at Czarnieckiego St, the same street that "yours" lived on (David: Here he is referring to my great-grandfather, Marcus Metzger)

Then we talked about Mr.S, whom they know and who left the most interesting testimony after the war. I always wanted to meet him, but had no occasion and proper motivation. When the Barans' story showed up and I read Cytryn's testimony I had sudden insight associating a village in the Bieszczady mountains, where, as I suspected, they were both hiding at the same time. It was almost obvious to me that they ought to know each other.
Lukasz's email to Roma sets the stage for this remarkable discovery:
I attached the testimony of Mr.S from Przemysl who was in hiding very close to Jakub in the mountains. They were probably evacuated by Germans in the same transport and may have known each other. I'll try to talk to him on the phone when in Tel Aviv.
But first, Lukasz attends to family and business in Israel:
Our visit in Eretz was very exciting from the start to finish. First we met our daughter, who studies in Jerusalem, then we went to Nazareth where I presented a paper and spoke at a psychiatric conference about shame of the second generation witnesses. It took place in an hotel converted from a Catholic church and monastery. I worked on the paper until the last moment before finding that there was a problem with the printer at the hotel. The Arab receptionist said "no problem, I shall send it to my brother, he'll print it and will deliver it." 20 minutes later it was in my hands - would such service be possible in Europe?

All the time they fed us as if we were geese with fantastic food that in a restaurant one would cost a fortune - all for nothing - and in a room overlooking all of Nazareth from atop a hill ...
Then the trail to Roma's father heats up, in a most interesting manner...
Dear Yoram,

I'd like to call Mr.S from your place. It seems he was evacuated by Germans in the same convoy as one other guy from Przemysl who was hiding there named Baran. Fantastic story at the Przemysl Blog.

Shabbat Shalom,

----- Original Message -----

Lukasz -
Amazing story of Baran, I believe Mr.S knows this guy by his previous Cytryn name...

Cheers, Yoram
And off to Yoram's house...
We then went to Yoram's and once again, we were stuffed with delicious food. There, we met Mr.S who is a very bright person of great culture who remembers Przemysl well. We impressed each other with the knowledge of Przemysl past and people. He happens to be the relative of the famous Anna Feingold, the only woman who served as a president of a Judenrat in Poland - at Zasanie mini-ghetto. He knew other interesting living people from Przemysl, like Jurek Kamieniecki who we had breakfast with the next morning at a cafe on Tel Aviv beach...Small world indeed ...
Amazing... through knowledge, skill, and a whole lot of luck, Lukasz has found someone who not only knew Baran, but hid out with him back when he called himself Cytryn. Lukasz informs Roma:
Dear Roma,
I met Mr.S yesterday. He knows your father well and knows more than you'd like to know. I'll be back home on Wednesday.
Love, Lukasz

----- Original Message -----

Dear Lukasz,
I'd like to know it all. I have suspected it's not pretty, but the truth is all I have now. Do you think Mr.S would meet me in December? What language does he speak? Have a safe trip back, will check in then.
love, Roma
More than you'd like to know... is not in Roma's vocabulary. But what is the story? What happened all those years ago. One man seems to know. Time for Roma to head to Israel and find out.
Dear Yoram,

I am writing at the suggestion of Lukasz Biedka regarding setting up a meeting with Mr.S. Apparently, through an amazing coup of research, Lukasz connected him and my father, and, as it turns out, they were well acquainted, both at the end of the war in the Ukraine and Hungary, and in Przemysl.

I very recently found out at the age of 61 that I am a Jew, and that my whole family changed their names and kept this secret. As you can imagine, I have been trying to put our family history back together. Since my father has been dead for 20 years, I have not even found someone where he lived who knew him, so it is an astonishing discovery Lukasz has made indeed.

If you would like to read more about my revelation and Lukasz' role in it, it is being followed by David Semmel on his Jewish Przemysl blog.

I will be in Israel in the Jerusalem area from December 11 through the 15th. I look forward to hearing from you.

Roma Baran

----- Original Message -----

Dear Roma
I have read and heard from Lukasz about your amazing quest. I'll talk to Mr.S and come back to you.
Warm regards
Quite the cliffhanger; soon to be resolved. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ronald Kluger

A big part of uncovering the past is the discovery of living relatives. For Roma, one such find is Ronald Kluger, a cousin, now living in Canada. Mr. Kluger was nice enough to share his discovery of his new cousin, and to explain how it all fits together:
I received a phone message from Roma Baran, saying she was the daughter of Mary and John Baran and that we were relatives. I didn't know who she was or who her parents were. When we talked the next day, I learned that we indeed were relatives - her mother, Roza Klüger, was the daughter of my father's uncle Bernhard and that she was working to find out who she really was, having lived with parents who had invented their biographies.

My parents had left Austria in 1938 with their identities intact and had moved to the US after taking refuge in Belgium - Kristallnacht had sent a clear message that it was time to leave. My father, William Kluger (born Friedrich Wilhelm Klüger,) was raised in Vienna. His parents, Reizel Klüger and Josef Klüger, first cousins, came from Bukovina, Romania.

The Kluger family - Zygmunt, Dorka, Roza, and Bernhard

When I was a child, we had visited Roma's grandparents, my father's uncle and aunt, Bernhard and Dorka Klüger, in Montreal.

We had met their very debonair son, Zygmunt, but had no further visits. I was told by my father that his Uncle Bernhard had acquired a passport of a dead catholic man in Poland named Josef Karas and had not bothered to revert to his real identity. In our family, they were still referred to as Uncle Bernhard and Aunt Dorka.

We were told that with their Catholic identities, they were not really interested in developing the family relationships. Nonetheless, my father's sister, Gisa, had been very fond of visiting them in Montreal. She liked the British connection in Canada, having served in the British Army. I don't know if she had met Roma. I was not aware of Bernhard and Dorka's daugher Roza, called Mary Karas, who was Roma's mother and also didn't know about Roma. I had seen Zygmunt again about 10 years ago when we visited Montreal but he did not introduce me to his family.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Roma's Story - Continued!

Welcome readers from The Jewish Przemysl Blog! This is Roma's Story, a continuation of Roma Baran's journey of family and self-discovery.

Below are links to all the Roma entries over at Jewish Przemysl:

And here is Roma's email that started this remarkable saga:
I just ran across the Przemysl blog and wanted to ask your advice. I just discovered (at the age of 61) that I am a Jew, that my parents survived the Holocaust under assumed names, and that I lived in Israel between 1949 and 1951. I am now in the early stages of trying to reconstruct my parents' real history. A summary of my father's reparation file states that he was interred in the Przemysl ghetto in 1942, liberated in Uzhorod in 1944, and was in Przemysl and Bytom after the war...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

In Memoriam

Mary Baran/Roza Kluger

Dear friends,

I am very sad to tell you that my mother died in Montreal on Wednesday, October 22. The night before, she watched "Tootsie" (for the umpteenth time) with Angela, a caring staff member at her nursing home, and they laughed uproariously. On Wednesday she was well and cheerful, read a magazine, and enjoyed every last bite of lunch. Afterwards, she lay down for a nap on a golden fall afternoon, and had a fatal arrhythmia. She was 87.

I have spoken of her in the context of our recent revelations and my history with her in that regard, as well as my first reactions to the discovery. I wanted to tell you a little more about her and her life, and how much of what I value in my own life I learned from her. She was born on March 11, 1923 in Przemysl, Poland. She was an outgoing, vivacious, very attractive and intelligent young woman growing up before the war. She learned many languages fluently, English, Polish, Ukrainian, Czech, Russian, German, Italian, French, ancient Greek, Latin and, I recently discovered, Hebrew and Yiddish. (My uncle just gave me her book of off-color Yiddish jokes, where I found a number of grammar corrections in her hand). She played the accordion amazingly, dancing with a big 120 bass Scandalli like it was made of paper. She was also a virtuoso whistler -- she had practiced under the covers at night when she was a child. She was close to her handsome and gentle brother, Zygmunt, two years her junior, and to her parents, Dorka (Halpern), an incomparable cook, and Bernard Kluger, a powerfully built machinist with an almost Zen aura of peacefulness. The family was not deeply religious, but they observed the holidays and traditions of a Jewish household.

Mary was eighteen when the war broke out, but still went to Lwow and studied medicine until the Germans invaded Russia. She returned to Przemysl where she was interred in the ghetto, and did forced labor. She met my father Jakub Cytryn around this time, a civil engineer whose mother's brother was the revered David Guzik, JDC Director in Poland. Around the time of the first set of Aktions she and her parents escaped with forged documents and new identities, surviving the war by hiding in a dirt floor hut owned by a Polish man named Sawitzki in Mogila (outside of Krakow). She supported her parents by bicycling many kilometers every day to work in a tobacco factory. Zygmunt survived the war, too, fighting with the First Polish Armored Division under General Maczek that became part of the First Canadian Army. Many other relatives were lost in the Holocaust. My father was the only one of his large immediate family who survived.

After the war, Mary lived with my father, now known as John Baran, in Silesia, where she ran his construction office. I was born in Zabrze in 1947. In 1949 we emigrated to Israel. We fled Poland with almost no possessions, but Mary would not leave without our enormous black Giant Schnauzer, Peter, a German messenger dog whom she rescued at the end of the war when he was about to be shot by the retreating army. Peter was undoubtedly the only Nazi-trained dog to make Aliyah. Later Peter drowned off the beaches of Tel Aviv, and my parents walked up and down the sand for weeks looking for him.

We emigrated to Montreal in 1951, and Mary taught Kindergarten and finished a
Ph.D. in Classics. She worked hard, raised me, struggled with anxiety and
depression, and also struggled in a sometimes difficult marriage. My father's
war experiences had wrought their damage on him, too, but she was devoted to him for life.

She was a natural teacher, and had immense patience, with me, and with the hundreds of Kindergarten students fortunate enough to start their school careers in her "magic kingdom" of a classroom. She taught me to love learning, and to
approach the world with intellectual curiosity. She taught me to love music, not just passively, but with hands-on gusto. Even when she stopped recognizing people and didn't speak, she could sit down at the little keyboard in her room and play through a Gershwin tune, in time and with all the complicated chords. She taught me to fall madly in love with animals, starting, of course, with Peter. She had a wicked sense of humor, and even when rendered non-verbal by Alzheimer's, she'd make sight gags with small props. She taught me to find humor in the detail of everyday life. And she tried to teach me, not altogether successfully, to be "a mild judge of others," as her beloved father Bernard had put it.

Like her father, Mary had endless stories and sayings, an "apropos" for every occasion. When someone proposed an activity she had decided not participate in, she would say "Include me out!" I hear myself using the phrase now and then, in her intonation. After a long, complex life, Mary included herself out. I feel the loss even more keenly having just found a large piece of her life she had successfully hidden for so long.

-- Roma Baran