Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Bittersweet Task

Take a good look at this picture.  Then imagine that the two twin girls and their mother were exterminated by the Nazis during World War II.  Their older brother managed to survive by joining the Russian Army.  Does he have a story to tell.

For over a year, I've expressed an interest in preserving the history of this family before it is lost.  About a week ago, I received a 60-page document and almost 90 pictures of the survivors and non-survivors of this family.   I don't want to identify the family without permission -- other than to say that they were a Jewish family from Poland.  It wasn't only the Jews who suffered. 

Murdered Polish Intellectual
Pictured at the left is a non-Jew who was murdered along with 440 other Polish intellectuals.  He was the father of the woman my friend eventually married. His crime was running the local newspaper. Her brother was arrested at the same time as her father.  Her brother was eventually liberated from Auschwitz.  However, he was so sick that he did not live out the year, dying at the age of 22.
Taking on this project has been difficult.  For two days I scanned in picture after picture of people who were killed for no reason.  Yet the man who shared the pictures with me is one of the most optimistic people I have ever met.  Despite a life that is beyond my ability to comprehend, I have never been with him when he didn't appear to be upbeat.  He is a survivor -- one who eventually lived the American dream.  His family is scattered throughout the world with surviving relatives starting over in Sweden, Uruguay, Israel, France, and surprisingly, Poland.

As we begin this new year, I hope that all of us will take the time to reflect on what is really important to us and consider what our contribution can be as citizens of the world.  We have to be on guard against prejudice, bigotry, and scapegoating.   We have to take the vow:  Never Again!

Note:  Louis Weisser has given me permission to post this story.  He has also recorded his story for the Holocaust Museum.


  1. Thank you for undertaking this project and sharing your information. It is so important to preserve every bit of information on families who suffered from persecution.

  2. One of the biggest factors, I think, for most of us that are drawn to genealogy/family history is to remember not only the past, but the people that went before us. Photographs are powerful reminders of that past. I second Greta's thanks.

  3. Isn't it hard to go over this information. No where near as hard as it was for them of course not even close but still we feel such deep emotions.
    I annotate slave records from the deep south. As I note their names I cringe at how much a young man was worth. How much a child. Listed with the cutlery and the animals.

  4. One of the greatest accomplishments we can achieve as genealogists and family historians is to honestly document the past. This means facing these tragedies, even facing our own families' participation in some of them. Thank you, Kathy.


Join the conversation. Comments are appreciated and keep me motivated.