Miami: "I chose life," April 4

Author Mildred Nitzberg – “I Chose Life” – is the speaker at the JGS of Greater Miami’s meeting on Sunday, April 4.

The meeting begins at 10am at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, 4200 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami.

Nitzberg’s riveting story is about her husband who survived Auschwitz and the Holocaust and his 33-year search to find his missing brother. It also describes how her husband experienced a world of unmitigated evil and yet emerged with his sense of humanity intact.

“I Chose Life draws a picture of the struggle of my husband, Saul I. Nitzberg, M.D., as his privileged and peaceful life in a small town in eastern Poland was shattered by the inferno of World War II. From 1939 to 1945 he experienced life under Russian occupation, the Pruzhany ghetto, and Auschwitz. Following liberation from the concentration camp he worked prodigiously to rebuild his personal and professional life. Yet he was left with a lingering sense of a life not quite fulfilled, a gnawing ache that led him on a daunting journey to the Soviet Union in search of an elusive peace. He sought to find his brother, the sole remaining member of his family. Still unresolved, he returned to Auschwitz to face his nightmare years, to recite the Kaddish at that vast gravesite where his beloved parents were buried.”

Nitzberg has been collecting oral histories of survivors for many years, and has spoken to other JGSs, the Miami Book Fair and Meet the Author at the Holocaust Center in Hollywood.

For more information please see her website.

If available, David Hirschorn will also be here to discuss the latest on Yad Vashem. He is also very involved with Pages of Testimony. Guests and friends are always welcome. There is no admission fee.

JGSLA 2010: Full schedule to come soon!

This year is certainly speeding by.

JGSLA 2010 is set for July 11-16 in Los Angeles. The full program will be announced in about a week, so stay tuned for news.

Have you registered? Have you reserved your rooms? Investigated airline tickets? There is even a special limited block of rooms set aside on a low floor for Shabbat-observant attendees. Checking in early? There will be special activities for you!

To keep up with all details and announcements, visit JGSLA 2010. Subscribe to the newsletter and read the conference blog.

Sneak preview:

Professor Vincent Cannato of the University of Massachusetts-Boston will give the Lucille Gudis Memorial Lecture this year, which will focus on his new book: “American Passage: The History of Ellis Island.”

The first full history of America’s landmark port of entry from immigration post to deportation center to mythical icon, American Passage captures a time and place unparalleled in American immigration and history.

His work articulates the dramatic and bittersweet accounts of the immigrants, officials, interpreters, and social reformers who all played important roles in Ellis Island’s chronicle.

Read about his book here.

Southern California: "Hitler’s Hidden Holocaust," April 11

A special screening of “Hitler’s Hidden Holocaust,” is the program for Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) at a meeting co-sponsored by the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County, and Temple Adat Elohim, on Sunday, April 11.

The event begins at 1.30pm at Temple Adat Elohim, 2420 E. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks.

The documentary is a production of the National Geographic Channel and the American Red Cross Holocaust Tracing Services.

Before the death camps were the killing fields – mass graves of executed men, women and children. The Einsatzgruppen (German word meaning action–groups) became an organized killing machine, roaming through Poland, Ukraine and Belarus, murdering an estimated 1.5 million Jews and partisans, prior to the establishment of concentration camps. The Einsatzgruppen were created to combat those considered hostile to the Reich, including Jews, Communists,and others.

Father Patrick Desbois, author of Holocaust by Bullets, (the story of discovering mass gravesites of Jews exterminated in the Ukraine) is shown interviewing people in the FSU to gather information about the mass killings. The documentary is woven together with harrowing testimonials from survivors, witnesses and experts with rare video footage.

Following the screening, American Red Cross Holocaust Tracing Services-Ventura Chapter’s Bob Rich will address the tracing services which research the fate of loved ones missing since the Holocaust and its aftermath. The ARC assists US residents searching for information on themselves, family members, and friends regarding: proof of internment, forced/slave labor, or evacuation from Europe and the former Soviet territories. These services are free and involve partner organizations worldwide.

There is no charge to attend.

For more information and directions, visit the JGSCV site.

WDYTYA: Library feedback and more

Our friend at Ancestry, society partnership manager Suzanne Russo Adams sent Tracing the Tribe some feedback received from libraries and how the Who Do You Think You Are? series is helping them.

Midwest Genealogy Center (Independence, Missouri):

We have seen an increase in foot traffic in our center. We usually don’t start our busy time of year this early. We have had lots of first-time patrons and are handing out many beginning genealogy materials. The television show is hitting people at an emotional level and they, too, want to find out about their ancestry. Our staff has spent many one-on-one hours with these ancestor hunters and has found it to be a rewarding experience.

Denver Public Library (Denver, Colorado):

Denver Public Library has seen a lot of foot traffic in the past few weeks. With the airing of “Who Do You Think You Are?”…our use statistics have spiked. Not only are many of our “regulars” excited by the program but there are many fresh faces coming in full of expectations.

Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center (Ohio):

We had a meeting Tuesday night, and one member presented an idea about the “Who Do You Think You Are?” series…. An officer of the Seneca County (OH) Genealogical Society thought we could find 3 – 5 “celebrities” of our county and ask them if they would like us to dig into their genealogy…. After we get permission…[we] will do some research and track down what we can on each individual. Then we would have them come to a meeting of the Society and present our findings to them. We have already discussed this with the local newspaper feature writer and she was interested.

Tracing the Tribe thought this idea was particularly useful, and could be utilized by societies around the world. Ask a local celebrity to participate and get a lot of local publicity!

Suzanne also noted a change in the episode schedule. Here’s the new schedule:

April 2 – Brooke Shields
April 9 – Sarah Jessica Parker (Repeat)
April 16 – No episode
April 23 – Susan Sarandon
April 30 – Spike Lee

Here’s some info on this week’s episode with Brooke Shields:

Brooke Shields’ episode is the most royal of the series, taking viewers to New Jersey, Rome, and Paris. In the episode, Brooke seeks to learn more about her father’s aristocratic roots and to learn the origins of the “Torlonia” family name. Watch for Brooke’s visit to the New Jersey State Archives in Newark and the New York Historical Society.

Check out the teaser featuring Brooke Shields, and tune into NBC for the full episode on Friday at 8/7c.

Last Week’s Episode – Matthew Broderick

In last week’s episode, award-winning actor and performer Matthew Broderick set out to learn more about his father’s side of the family. Matthew begins his journey by visiting battlefield grounds of north-eastern France, where he finds out his grandfather served as a medic in World War I. Matthew is surprised to learn that through his grandfather’s heroic military sacrifice, he was awarded the Purple Heart and recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross. But Matthew’s military roots don’t stop there. On a trip to Connecticut, Matthew discovers his great-great-grandfather served in the Civil War and fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. The last leg of Matthew’s journey leads him to Marietta, Georgia, where he visits his great-great-grandfather’s grave site and also solves a 150-year-old mystery.

If you missed the episode, watch it here. [CAVEAT: The link doesn’t work if your computer is located outside the permitted geographic area of the US and its territories. See Tracing the Tribe’s earlier post explaining the limitations. Tracing the Tribe wonders if those in the permitted area can download it to a CD and send out the CD? Is there some sort of tech coding that would prevent such a CD from playing on an “internationally located” computer? Anyone up for the challenge?]

Suzanne also sent along more on Matthew Broderick’s episode and how the team of genealogists discovered his military heritage. Here’s some insider information:

Go-to resources: U.S. military records, U.S. Federal Census

How they helped

Matthew Broderick knew little about “Joe the postman” – his grandfather – at the start of this family history journey. But a conversation with his own sister provided Matthew with a valuable clue: their quiet, somewhat ill-tempered grandfather served in World War I and was said to have received money because he got “gassed.” What else could Matthew learn about this side of the family – a side that rarely mentioned its past?

Resource #1: 1919 military service record

Searching through military records at the National Archives in New York City, Matthew learns his grandfather was stationed in France and transferred to the medical department while there. But what did Joe do in the war?

Resource #2: Purple Heart citation and Distinguished Service Cross recommendation

On a French battlefield, Matthew learns more about his grandfather’s job in World War I – he tried to save people. Joe the postman was to go through the battlefields and attend to the wounded while waiting for the stretcher bearers and other medical personnel to arrive. Because of an injury sustained while performing his duties, Matthew’s grandfather was awarded a Purple Heart and recommended for a Distinguished Service Cross, neither of which Matthew nor his sister had known about.

Resource #3: 1910 U.S. Federal Census at Ancestry.com

Matthew decides to take a look at the family of Joe’s wife, Mary, as well. In the 1910 census, Mary is living in an orphanage, another fact of which Matthew and his sister were unaware. Orphanage records explain how Mary’s father, William, died in a work-related accident. Were there more stories about the family that this generation could uncover?

Resource #4: 1850 and 1870 U.S. Federal Census

Matthew continues his search for this side of the family through the census. In 1870, great-grandfather William is living in the same house with his mother and siblings. But where is William’s father? Searching the 1860 census turns up no trace of the family, but the 1850 census does. In that year, William is living at home with both his mother and his father, Robert. What happened between 1850 and 1870?

Resource #5: Civil War enlistment record

The 1860s raise a red flag: Civil War. Was Matthew’s great-great-grandfather involved? An index of individuals from Connecticut who served in the Civil War indicates that yes, Robert did serve in the Civil War, and enlistment records for Robert go a step further, giving a physical description of him and his date of enlistment. Civil War service records and muster rolls place Robert in the Battle of Gettysburg, but that wasn’t the end of the line.

Resource #6: Inventory of Effects from Final Statements

An Inventory of Effects offers the final details: Matthew’s great-great-grandfather died at the Battle of Peachtree Creek.

Why didn’t the “gassed” story steer the research off course?

Matthew mentions at the start of the show that it’s easy to lose family history connections when you don’t write them down. But you can also lose the true stories to faulty memory and recounting, which may have been what happened over the years as the tale of Matthew’s grandfather’s military service became progressively fuzzier.

It’s easy to get hung up on the small stuff, but if Matthew had limited his search to battles in which Germans employed chemical warfare in World War I, he may have never discovered the place where his own grandfather was injured. However, using the “gassed” story as a starting point did trigger Matthew’s search into military records and helped Matthew make a very important discovery: that his grandfather was more than Joe the postman – he was also an American military hero.

Check out www.ancestry.com/spreadtheword for materials you can use to tell others about the series.

WDYTYA: Matthew Broderick’s story, a caveat

Geneabloggers learn about each WDYTYA episode and the individual research process from Ancestry’s PR & Events Manager Anastasia Tyler.

CAVEAT:Tracing the Tribe reminds international viewers that although the episodes will be online at NBC.com until September 18, 2010, the video links do not work for those outside the US and territories. Personally, we believe this is a very shortsighted NBC policy, when so many people around the world are interested in family history. Perhaps Anastasia might want to get involved in rectifying this situation?

The NBC FAQ clearly states:

Can I watch episodes outside the United States?

At this time, full episodes on NBC.com can only be viewed within the United States and the organized U.S. territories of Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Another section reads:

Can I get NBC Direct outside of the United States?

At this time, NBC Direct is only available within the United States and the organized U.S. territories of Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. If you attempt to connect to the service outside these areas, you will not be able to download any new videos but you can download while in the U.S. and view it outside the U.S. until the license has expired.

And, in case you might have thought of asking someone in the permitted areas to download and send you the episodes:

Can I play downloaded videos on any computer?

NBC Direct videos will only play on the computer where the download request originated.

Here’s what she provided about Matthew Broderick’s episode for vicarious international readers.

Matthew Broderick’s first step in this week’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? was to talk to his sister, who shared details about his paternal grandparents and started him on his journey. Information from family members can be priceless when researching family trees, but what happens when family members aren’t immediately accessible? That’s the scenario the research team faced when they started researching Matthew Broderick’s tree.

One of the fantastic things about the format of Who Do You Think You Are? is that the celebrities really are starting out with what they know. We watch them on screen learning information from their families or from records for the first time. Likewise, the research team started out only with the information that the celebrity knew.

A Common Ancestor
For Matthew Broderick’s tree, the researchers had the name of his paternal grandfather – Joseph Broderick – and a few other clues about Joseph’s life. Using these facts, the researchers set out to discover more about Joseph Broderick.

They quickly ran into somewhat of a brick wall. “When we started the research for Matthew’s tree, all we knew was that his paternal grandparents were Joseph Broderick and May Martindale,” says genealogist Krysten Baca of Ancestry.com. “We were quickly stuck; there were many Joseph Brodericks and not enough information to determine who the correct ancestral Joseph was.”

Don’t Overlook Anything
But Matthew was able to provide the research team additional clues – his grandfather Joseph Broderick was a postman in New Hampshire . The occupation was a small, perhaps seemingly insignificant detail, but in this case it broke down the brick wall. Immediately after learning this information, the team found a record for a James Joseph Broderick working in the Post Office in Manchester , New Hampshire .

This record matched Matthew’s tree in three ways: (1) the name Joseph Broderick, (2) the location of New Hampshire , (3) the occupation of postal worker. In addition, Matthew’s father was named James Broderick. Based on these pieces of information, the team hypothesized that James Joseph Broderick was the ancestral Joseph Broderick, Matthew’s grandfather.

Breaking through the Brick Walls
Focusing on this hunch, the researchers looked for additional records about James Joseph Broderick of Manchester , New Hampshire . The records they found matched the few additional details known about the ancestral Joseph Broderick and allowed the researchers to confirm that James Joseph Broderick was indeed Matthew’s paternal grandfather.

The records gave the team another brick-wall-breaking clue – an alternate name for Joseph’s wife. Previously the researchers knew her only as May; the additional records listed her as Mary. This information allowed further discoveries about Mary and her life before she married James Joseph Broderick.

Of course, Matthew’s sister held some of this information all along. But similar to many researchers’ experiences, sometimes research begins before family members can be consulted. “If this case proves anything,” says Krysten, “it’s that even the smallest clue could be the key to unlocking a family tree.”

If you missed this episode, you can watch it online at www.nbc.com/who-do-you-think-you-are – but only if you live in the permitted geographical areas. Some have indicated that the episodes can also be viewed on http://www.hulu.com/, but that site is also unavailable to international viewers.

Holocaust: Czech Jews documentary

Several years ago, when I was still writing “It’s All Relative” for the Jerusalem Post, it was my pleasure to meet a young filmmaker and director Lukas Pribyl of Prague.

A detailed story in the Jerusalem Post was the result of our Tel Aviv meetings. Lukas and Jakub shared a Persian dinner at our home. They later traveled to Australia, where my cousins – Bob and Di Conley of Sydney – took good care of them while the young men interviewed more survivors.

Lukas, born in 1973 in Ostrava, was one of the first young Czech students allowed to attend high school and university in the US, following the Velvet Revolution.

He studied at Philips Andover Academy, followed by political science, Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and History at Brandeis University, Columbia and Central European University. His interest in World War II and Jewish history resulted in a number of published studies on various chapters of the Holocaust and exhibits in the Jewish Museum in Prague.

Lukas became interested in the Holocaust as a direct result of his own family’s experiences (his grandfather survived a little-known camps) and devastation. He spent 10 years researching, photographing and collecting archive material to document exactly what happened to them. It took a long time, but he eventually persuaded almost all the survivors to share their stories. For most of them, it was the first time they had spoken.

The series of four feature-length (90-minute) documentary films on virtually unknown concentration camps and ghettos and little known modes of survival is Lukas’s directorial debut.

The four segments have been screened on their own at various venues in the past, but the full six-hour series was shown in its entirety at its US premiere Sunday at the Legacy of Shoah Film Festival (John Jay College, Manhattan). Read Joseph Berger’s review of “Survival Tales Told in Snapshots: Czech Jews Enduring the Holocaust” in the New York Times. It details the survivors and how they survived.

The survivors sometimes chuckle as they look back in disbelief. Mr. Pribyl said he felt that survivors had a sense of humor and an optimistic outlook in common. But ultimately, Mr. Pribyl said, his research proved that “the only recipe for survival is to have a lot of goodluck.”

The four segments are “To Poland,” To Latvia, To Belarus, and To Estonia.

Two have already won awards: 2008 Academia Film Olomouc – Dějiny a současnost magazine Award for Best Czech Documentary Film in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Forgotten Transports: To Belarus); 2007 Czech Film and Television Association’s Trilobit Award for Best Czech Documentary (Forgotten Transports: To Latvia).

He and his team have traveled the world, interviewing the few remaining Czech survivors and hearing their stories.

The segments trace the experiences of 76 of 270 survivors among thousands of Czech Jews deported to rarely-mentioned camps like Jagala and Kaiserwald. The documentary process produced more than 260 hours of interviews, collected in 30 countries. Each tells the story of the people deported to a particular destination, as well as a different method of survival.

Each is based on the experience of Jews sent to virtually unknown camps and ghettos – in Latvia, Estonia, Belarus and the Lublin region of eastern Poland. Almost all of them were sent to places where nearly everyone perished. The locations of Ereda, Maly Trostinec, Salaspils and Sawin don’t appear in most Holocaust histories as hardly any people survived to tell what had happened.

Read more about it at the film’s website:

It is not just that the tragic events depicted are almost unknown, even to specialist historians. Just as significant is the way they have been recreated. Instead of a detached outsider’s narrative, each film is built from the gripping stories of individual survivors, seen through their own eyes and told entirely in their own words. While they speak only of what they experienced themselves, their impressions weave together to form a poignant picture of ordinary individuals caught up in an era of atrocity and terrible violence. Every detail of what they describe is illustrated and confirmed through contemporary photographs and other visual material, most of it previously unseen, meticulously sourced everywhere from official archives to the garages of former SS men.

The films illuminate a neglected chapter of the Holocaust, as well as spotlight the tactics adopted by people who suffered such persecution and terror. Importantly, those who survived relied on many strategies including self-reliance, family loyalty and solidarity.

According to the website, it is thrilling to hear a handful of elderly survivors – who defied all Nazi attempts to kill them – who still tell their stories. It also reveals much about the sheer lust for life of human beings everywhere.

Check your local film festivals and other venues to see if the segments or the entire series will be screened.

UK: Manchester conference, May 9

The Eighth Northern Conference of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain is set for Sunday, May 9, in Manchester.

Organized by the JGSGB’s Manchester Regional Group, it will take place at the Greater Manchester Police Training College (Prestwich).

In addition to the excellent roster of expert speakers, there will be a display of some outstanding family history research and family trees produced by group members.

See complete details – including detailed speaker bios and topic abstracts – of this year’s program in the event newsletter here, including registration form, venue directions and more.

Speakers are:

Anthony Joseph
JGSGB President

— “In Search of Jewish Ancestry”

Petra Laidlaw
Architect of the 1851 Anglo-Jewry Database

— “1851 and Manchester”

Elizabeth Wilburn
Greater Manchester Police Museum and Archives

— “Alien Registration Books”

David Lewis
Assisted with reorganisation/cataloguing, Hull Jewish Archives

— “Treasures of the Hull Jewish Archives”

John Cowell
Manchester Regional Group committee member

— “Researching the Preston Jewish Community – surprises and discoveries”

Michael Tobias
JewishGen vice president

— “JewishGen: Overview of main databases, and how lesser sources can lead to major breakthroughs”

Tickets are £20 for the full day, including refreshments and buffet lunch. The registration form is included in the newsletter. Tracing the Tribe readers who live in or near Manchester should enjoy this full-day event.