Follow up from Newsletter #73 and #74 - Our New Home
Since we announced that we are now hosted by the Memorial Scrolls Trust (MST) we have received a many emails of good wishes for the future and appreciation of all that has been done in the past. A couple of typical mails read:
You are all doing great, interesting and holy work. I wish you good health, and successful continuation.
Once again, a big Thank You for the continued work you and your team do to keep alive memories/stories and to connect readers with a past era. Your efforts are invaluable.
Jan Bettelheim sends our Newsletter on to his friends in The Czech Republic, to help spread our fame; Ariel Friedlander is “proud to be an Ostravak” having just joined our circulation list and Charles Borlam writes:
Although we were not aware of the group prior to my father's demise I feel a surge of energy and an eternal contact with my father every time I read a new issue or update.
Please keep your family stories and photographs coming in!
Happy Holiday Season
We send all our readers best wishes for Pesach and Easter
Follow up from Newsletter #73 and #74
Our New Home
News of Ostravaks
Charles Enoch – Emanuel Neumann Family
Dan Manor -Mellor, Cytrin Family
Auerbach’s Dwarf corrects Historical Error
Museum of Southern Moravian Jews (MEHRIN) in Brno
Jews from the White Mountain?
Life and Music of Ilse Weber
JMP -request for original documents
Appendix I Dan Manor Family History
Appendix II Permission Form
News of Ostravaks
Peter Hoida sent us this important news about his father:
The Ostrava Circle will I am sure be interested to know that Ervin Hoida, born in Ostrava November 30th 1918, escaped from Ostrava June 1939, was last week awarded the State Defence Cross by the Minister of Justice of the Czech Republic. The medal was presented to my 104 year old father at his home by the Defence Attaché from the Czech Embassy - reported here on the embassy website:https://www.mzv.cz/london/en/what_s_new/defense_attache_awarded_wwii_ veteran.html
Lydia was the subject of an editorial in The Times on 27th January 2023.
Jeff wrote to us from Israel:
The following postcard is in Polish, I believe. It is one of many pieces of correspondence between the Drenger family from Ostrava, and my family in New Orleans during the 1930s and 1940s. The sender was Elias Drenger (April 29, 1879 - October 22, 1942), married to my great-grandfather's sister Josefina Finger Drenger. Both were both murdered in Treblinka on the same day. Elias and Josefina had three sons:
Emil (Auschwitz 1943),
Erwin (Auschwitz 1944),
Ferdinand "Freddy" (I do not know what happened to him), and
Joseph (came to Israel, whether before or after the Holocaust, I do not know).
Our colleague from the Jewish Museum, Dr Lenka Šindelářová, was able to provide a translation:
I received your letter today i.e. 18/3 and I am writing you back right away. Everyone is healthy. Ferduś has not left yet, nor any of the sons. With us, a lot has changed, as you probably know.
As I wrote you a letter I think you received [it]. Also my Edziuniek wrote to you. Also Ferduś wrote to you. Emil also said that he wrote you. I think you received everything. I don't write you much because I have nothing good to write! Maybe God will comfort us after all once. Do not worry dear brother! Because it will not help, although my eyes do not dry up!
Charles Enoch passed on some information and a film about MUDr Bedřich Neumann which he received from Zuzana Čaplová:
I attach a short film about Bedrich Neumann (no relation to the Neumanns in my family) sent to me by his grandson Joel and his daughter Zuzana Caplova, with whom I am in regular touch.
Dr Neumann was a leading member of the Jewish community in Ostrava. His parents and first wife all perished in the Holocaust. As the film shows, he was a leading dentist, both before and after the war. In October there was a conference in Ostrava honouring his memory. My family and I visited the Neumann family in Ostrava in 1961, and Zuzana stayed with us in London for some months in 1968.
Zuzana was keen that I should pass on this film, and the information about the Ostrava conference, to you. If you wish to follow up, Zuzana is the best person to be in touch with. She lives in Ostrava (she recently lost her husband).
Charles also sent us some photographs of his family, children of Emanuel (the brewer) including Felix, a well-known architect.
Back row left to right: Rosa Enoch, born Neumann (Felix’s sister—died 1951 in San Francisco) Oskar Neumann ( brother—run over by tram in Vienna 1932) Arthur Neumann ( brother—sold the family brewery; moved to Vienna, became a socialite; died on a visit to London, 1937) Felix Neumann, Architect Sidonia Leicht, born Neumann (sister, died in Theresienstadt) Front row Hedwig Neumann ( sister) Caroline Neumann ( mother—died 1915) Emanuel Neumann (father—died 1896) Natalie Buchbinder ( sister, died in Terezin) Alice Enoch, born Neumann ( sister, my grandmother, died in London in 1962).
Dan Manor – Meller Citryn Family
Dan was recently in touch with us and sent us a brief family history with some photographs (Appendix I). The family are to be commemorated with Stolpersteine in Prague where they had moved to before the war.
Yael has an unexpected connection with Rabbi Friedlander and the Memorial Scrolls Trust:
I am tremendously grateful and impressed for what you have initiated and continue to sustain on behalf of the Ostrava Jewish community.
My husband and I were married by Rabbi Friedlander at the Westminster Synagogue, which is when I first heard about the Czech scrolls. At the time, I had no idea what this would mean to me one day.
James, whose grandfather Siegmund Werner had Ostrava connections, has written to us about his family and asks if anyone has further information about any of them . Please contact us if you do.
I was sad to read about the death of Barbara Winton. I was at the same school (Stowe) as her father albeit some 20 years later. And it was only in the last couple of decades that I knew of his amazing life.
My immediate family came from Iglau (CZ) , Vienna and Poland to the UK in ’34/'35…but many others perished in Theresienstadt.
These are some of my somewhat distant Poland / CZ connections. I would be interested to hear if you have any previous reader / reference to any of them in your files.
Helene DONATH Born: abt 1878 Bielitz transported Aug 1942 from Vienna
Dr. prof. phil Julius WERNER occupation: Professor in Bielitz, Silesia Poland. Residence: Bielitz. Transported Aug 1942 from Vienna. Died: Sep 30, 1942 perished in Terezín (Theresienstadt) concentration camp, Bohemia, Czech + Helene see DONATH family Born: abt 1878 Died: Bielitz, Poland buried: Nov 11, 1919 in Vienna Father: Heinrich Donath (2/12/1845 Krškany /Kereskény, Nitra, Slovakia - 11/22/1925 bur. in Vienna) privat Mother: Rosa Herrlich (abt 1850 - 5/8/1901 Vienna) NFP*ge
Rose Schwarz-Werner /later Countess Rose von Meissner , Stella J. Werner ( res. 6/29//1945 Bielitz Polen
We are pleased that we now have finalised plans to lay 22 Stolpersteine for 6 families at 7 addresses. We expect that they will be ready and laid sometime in the summer of 2023
Auerbach’s Dwarf corrects Historical Error
In Newsletters #71 and #72, we described an exhibition in Holešov of painting by Walter Benjamin, curated by Jan Machala. Jan recently wrote to us and Tom Auber on 7th February:
Last Thursday we in Holešov remembered the former Jewish inhabitants who perished during the Holocaust - it was the anniversary of the liberation of KZ Auschwitz (which is a significant day in Czech Republic) and also (a week before) a 80th anniversary of the deportation of Jews from Holešov to Theresienstadt.
Also I had the lecture in town's library dedicated to this event and for the presentation I used also the picture of the dwarf drawn by A. Auerbach. Mr. Brázdil (the administrator of the synagogue) pointed out to me that you saw the picture during your visit in Holešov last summer and that the author of the drawing was your relative.
I didn't notice it before and I find it an interesting coincidence, because the dwarf is from the memorial book (or album, I don't know the proper English term) of my Grandmother (who had unfortunately died of Covid in 2021).
Can you please tell me more about the author of the drawing? I have the copy of your family tree from Walter Stamberger's papers - the only A. Auerbach there is Arnold Auerbach, who however, seems to be one generation older than my grandmother and therefore he is unlikely the author of the dwarf.
Best regards and good luck in 2023,
Many of us will recognise the drawing as one of Disney’s 7 Dwarves. The Auber and Stamberger families have tried to identify the painter and believe him to be “Arnost Rusek, born 19.03.1921 , was originally Ernest Auerbach”. Jan concludes:
Ernest actually Arnost (Arnošt, in Czech) could be the right track. Not the Ernest Stamberger (b.1921), as Jindřich already wrote, but there was also Ernest (Arnošt), son of David and Erna.
According to Holocaust.cz database, Arnošt Auerbach was born 11. 08. 1928 - essentially a peer to my grandmother, who was born 1927, so he could draw the picture for her.
But the story does not end there. My brilliant sharp-sighted colleague at the JMP, Lenka Šindelářová, wrote:
In our internal database I have already corrected that. The other two corrections I set on a list - it will be done by our IT-Department and probably 2024 on the walls of the Pinkas Synagogue.
Museum of Southern Moravian Jews (MEHRIN) in Brno
As readers of these Newsletters will know, Ann Altman has been heavily involved in the planning and preparation of the new museum. She has provided an update for us:
The organizers have started their project with a “Little Mehrin” that has a Facebook page.
“Welcome to the "temporary" museum Malý Mehrin !
Before opening the doors of the new building Mehrin - Moravské židovské muzeum , designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, we invite you to Vienna 14, where they are now finishing the final touches. We will start the sharp operation on 1.3. exhibition Bearers of memory, prepared for us by Martin Šmok.
For the next months, as a cultural-educational memory institution, we have prepared a rich program that will not be limited to the museum premises.
Details can be found in the next posts.
Stay connected with us so you don't miss anything!”
The organizers have also prepared a small book, which is almost ready for publication, in Czech. I was invited to contribute the Prologue and I will edit the English translation for MEHRIN when it becomes available. I’ll keep you posted.
Jews from The White Mountain?
Ann also found an interesting document written by her uncle, explaining the possible derivation of Ann’s grandmother’s maiden name:
I dug up this note from my maternal uncle, who was born in Znojmo and died in Berkeley at 99 in 2020:
After the defeat in 1621 of the Bohemian Protestant nobles at the battle of the White Mountain near Prague, and the execution of 21 of them (amongst others) on the Old Town Square in Prague (sites of execution still marked), all forms of Protestantism were banned.
Members of that faith were given the option of converting to Roman Catholicism or (derisively) to Judaism. Most of them, of course, converted to RC, although many formed secret Protestant congregations in their homes.
One of the branches of Protestantism, called Czech Brethren (exists again in the Czech Republic), could not stomach even the slightest association with RC, and converted nominally to Judaism, again initially continuing to hold secret congregations.
As a rule, Czech Brethren had Czech names such as Wotzilka, Jelínek, Suchý and Krásný, to name but a few.
As time went on the "converted" Jewish Czech Brethren intermarried with "genuine" Jews who for the most part had German names.
Some of the Czech names, such as Jelínek were later "germanized" - hence Jellinek with a double ll, and no accent over the i. The name Wotzilka [my, that is to say Ann’s, maternal grandmother’s maiden name] retains its original Old Czech spelling that still has a W, replaced by V in modern Czech, and tz, replaced by c in modern Czech.
So you will find any number of Wotzilkas and Vocílkas resident in the US, some Wotzilkas probably Jewish, and almost certainly no Vocílkas Jewish. Incidentally, the name means "sharpening steel" and was originally a nickname given to itinerant tool sharpeners.
Those of you thinking about applying for Czech citizenship, or already in the process of doing so, will be interested in an article that Wieslaw Jurkowski sent:
Jewish Museum in Prague -request for original documents and photos
Dr. Lenka Šindelářová, Specialist – historian, curator of digitised records, Shoah Documentation, Jewish Museum in Prague wrote to us to clarify how the JMP deals with original records about Czech families:
1) If you have contact with someone who would be willing to donate to the Jewish Museum in Prague original archival material (documents, correspondence, photographs, etc.) relating to the victims of the Shoah or survivors from the Czech lands, to be stored in our archive of the Shoah Documentation Department, please put her/him in contact with me so that I can negotiate with her/him directly. We can accept this material based on the signing of the Donation Agreement (see attached). We will then professionally process the material (restoration, scanning, cataloging) and include it in our collections, where it can be made available to the professional and lay public under the conditions set in the contract.
2) One of our main tasks is to give back to the victims of the Shoah their faces. We track this, among other things, in our online database of Shoah victims from the Czech lands, the so-called Digital Extension of the Pinkas Synagogue (http://pinkas.jewishmuseum.cz/vyhledavani). If you are in contact with anyone who has photos of the people we have in our database who do not have a photo, we would be very grateful if you could let us know. If the owner of the photo does not want to provide the originals (see point 1 above), in this case it is also possible to accept only the digital form of the photo sent by email, which we will upload to our online database after signing the consent to publish (see below).
3) If one of your contacts has a specific question about Shoah victims and survivors from the Czech lands, with which we could be of assistance in our Shoah Documentation Department, we will of course be very happy to do so. It would just be necessary for him to contact us directly and tell us exactly what he is looking for (ideally, the name and date of birth of the person he is looking for) so that we can process this inquiry as part of our research inquiry agenda.
Information in electronic format that we receive is passed on to the JMP for storage in their data base, to be available for future researchers to access. For that we need your permission. If you have not already signed a permission form, please copy it from Appendix II and return a copy to David.
43rd IAJGS Int'l Conference on Jewish Genealogy: The Ostrava Story
The 43rd IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy is scheduled for July 30-Aug. 3, 2023, at the Plaza Hotel, London, England. It will be an in-person conference only. No virtual option is being planned.
David will present a paper “How we researched, developed and published the story “Ostrava and its Jews””
Kingston Synagogue, SW London, has a Czech sefer torah, which came originally from Moravská Ostrava, on loan from the Memorial Scrolls Trust. Inspired by it, for the past 15 or so years we have researched Ostrava and its Jewish community. From zero in ca 1750, the community grew to almost 10,000 in the late 1920’s and was then almost totally destroyed in The Holocaust. Only about 300 people returned from the camps. We wrote the story of Ostrava and its Jews and it has been published by Vallentine Mitchell (Ostrava and its Jews: Now No-one Sings You Lullabies) and more recently we have published vol II, Family Albums a collection of biographical details of some 80 families. We also publish a quarterly Newsletter (see https://kingstonostravacircle.org/ where all 73 copies are available) which is circulated to over 300 interested families worldwide. We have arranged 80 Stolpersteine to be laid and have donated a Chanukiah, rescued from the ruins of the main synagogue, to the City Museum. As a result of our activities, especially the Newsletter, we have put families and long-lost friends back in touch with each other and have built up a significant data base of information about Ostrava Jews. We have worked in close collaboration with the Salomonovič family, the Jewish Museum in Prague and the Ostrava City Authorities.
As an added inducement to attend the conference, the Memorial Scrolls Trust are arranging 90 minute guided visits to the MST Czech Scrolls Trust Museum throughout the conference period.
Appendix I Dan Manor Family History
General Family Background
In April of 1914, Joseph Meller left Jaslo, a small town in Poland’s Galicia region - with his family and travelled South towards Czechoslovakia. With him on the journey was his wife Malka (Amalia) nee Hollander, who was pregnant in her ninth month, and their four children – Adolf (Abraham) their eldest at 11 years old, Anna, David and Lotti. We do not know the reason for this move, but although he did not know it at the time – with this move, he likely saved most of his family, although not his own life.
When they reached the town of Preshov (now in Slovakia), Malka was rushed to the hospital and gave birth to a boy on April 25, who was named Leo (Yehuda), and would be my father.
We don’t know how long the family stayed in Preshov, but likely not for long, and they soon moved to Moravska Ostrava (aka Merrish Ostrau) where they settled. Ostrava was a large industrial city at a center of a well-developed railway hub, which suited Joseph Meller well, since his occupation was as a wholesaler of grains, which he purchased in Romania and sold up the river in Poland and in Germany. Joseph spent a lot of his time riding trains back and forth to negotiate the purchase, sale and transportation of various grains and the business grew, funded by wealthy Jewish businessmen, likely from Ostrava.
In 1919, Joseph sent his son Adolf – now 16, to Romania, to stay there permanently as his delegate for dealing with farmers and securing grain crops for export to Western Europe clients.
The second child, Anna – became a journalist and worked at a Communist newspaper.
The third child, David – joined a Zionist youth movement and would eventually leave Czechoslovakia for Palestine, where he joined Kibbutz Gvat
The fourth child, Loti – studied and became a Nurse. She eventually met and married a doctor, Dr. Julius (Yula) Citryn, a surgeon and stayed in Ostrava where her husband was working at a hospital.
The fifth child, Leo – when refused entrance to a Zionist Youth movement, created his own movement and once it grew, was forced to merge it with the larger Blau-Weise movement and eventually became one of its senior councillors.
On or about 1929, it was discovered that funds were missing in Romania. Czech police was involved in the investigation by the businessmen, but none were found. Adolf fled to Argentina, where he eventually became a successful businessman, married Louisa (Aliza) the daughter of a head of a congregation, and had three children: Amalia, Loti and Jorge (Ghiora).
The business which always sustained the family, was cut abruptly as a result of the loss of funds. In response, Leo, the youngest, now 15, and the only one living at home with his parents -decided to leave school and get a job to support the family. He quickly found a job in a mechanical supplies company and balanced it with his evening Zionist activity. A few years later, Joseph, Malka and Leo moved to Prague and subsequently, Malka passed away and was buried in the large new Jewish Cemetery in Prague. Loti and Dr. Citryn stayed on in Ostrava. We are not aware of any children of the couple.
The Nazi overtake of the Sudetenland in early 1938, caught Leo in a farm near Teplitz, training youngsters in agriculture in preparation for Aliya to Palestine, in funding by He’Chalutz – the top organization for Zionist Youth movements in Europe, headed by Teddy Kollek in London.
Leo was instructed to fold camp, go immediately to Prague and open a Youth Aliya Center, which allowed parents to send their children away to various countries in Europe under Children Visas. He did and headed that office until the end of 1938, when its continued operation was made impossible under the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. He left for England and worked as a councillor in a children’s camp and in 1940 left for Palestine on an Australian ship.
Anna had got last minute warning that the Nazis were about to close the borders and using her international journalist card, fled the country for northern Italy, where she hid in a farmer’s stable during the war, at the end of which she joined her elder brother Adolf in Argentina
The whereabouts of Joseph during that time are unclear. He left Czechoslovakia for Poland 25 JUL 39, and stayed with a brother, but when the war broke out, he came back to Prague or Ostrava. He asked Leo, who was in England – to help a nephew emigrate to England, to no avail.
Leo was also in touch with loti and Dr. Julius Citryn to help them emigrate - but they could not obtain the required documents in time.
In 1940, the Nazi concentrated the Czechoslovakian Jewry in Prague and thus Loti and Dr Julius Citryn had to leave Ostrava for Prague. We know they lived in an apartment in Prague for a while (on 3 Benatska St., near the Botanical gardens) until they were forced (as was Joseph Meller) to go to the Theresienstadt camp.
There is precious little information about their life in Theresienstadt prior to the Transports that took them and Joseph to a Death Camp. Some evidence was that the Nurse/Doctor couple worked as a team to help the large Jewish congregation of inmates.
Adolf Abraham Mehler divorced his wife Louisa, who left for Israel in 1961 with her two younger children. He passed away and is buried in Buenos Aires. His older daughter Amalia stayed in Argentina, married and had three children – Sebastian, Marina and Eliana and passed away, buried in Buenos Aires. Louisa died in Israel and buried in Kibbutz Lehavot Habashan. Loti and Jorge live in Israel. Jorge married in Israel, has four children and seven grandchildren.
Anna Polack married and had a son – Claudio. She lived and died in Argentina, buried in BAires. David Meller (Manor) married and had three sons – Amos, Uri and Yossi and nine grandchildren. He is buried in Kibbutz Yifat.
Leo Meller (Manor) married and had three children: Dan, Naomi and Dalia and six grandchildren. He had a career as a Mechanical Engineer, outlived all his sibling and is buried, along with his wife in Kibbutz Neot Mordechai, which they helped found.
Amalia Malka Meller née Hollander
Adolf (Dolphi) and Louisa Mehler
Lotte Citryn née Meller
Dr Julius Citryn
Appendix II Permission Form
The Ostrava Archive – Permission to include your data
We intend to deposit our Ostrava archive, which comprises hard copy printed material together with electronic files including messages and images, in the Jewish Museum in Prague (JMP). Because of the Data Protection Act, I need to have your consent that the information you have provided may be included in the transfer.
If for any reason you prefer your family data not to be transferred with the archive, then this will be deleted and/or where practicable returned to you. If there is some intermediary action that can feasibly be taken, such as elimination of your email address or any other current personal data, then we can certainly look at that. On balance it would clearly be easier not to edit material, and in any event we very much hope that you will give your consent to the transfer of this material, together with other family histories that we have assembled. Each story adds importance and significance to the others.
If you have any more material (either originals or copies) that could and should be preserved in this way and made available to future researchers, please let me have it to include in the archive which will be sent to the JMP.
I agree that my material should be included in the Archive transferred to JMP and made available to bona fide researchers:
Please return to Dr David N Lawson
2 Voysey Close, LONDON N3 3TR