Saturday, December 30, 2006

Postcards - WWI

I scanned my collection of Przemysl postal cards over the weekend. Here is the first batch - some Przemysl WWI scenes.

Kusmanek was the Austrian commander of Przemysl during the siege of 1914-15. Ivanoff was the Russian General who took Przemysl from the Austrians March 1915. Meckensen is the German General who re-took the city on June 3, 1915. The last card is the main bridge - blown by the surrendering Austrians. (Click cards to enlarge)

More photos and historical details on the Siege of Przemysl here.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Edward Wichura 1927 - 2006

Obituary by Lukasz Biedka

The Jewish-Polish actor Edward Wichura passed away on June 4, 2006 in Warsaw. Born in Przemysl on July 5, 1927 as Esriel Leimsieder, he was the son of Moritz Hut of Zablotka, Brody and Mirla Leimsieder.

Wichura was the only survivor from the final liquidation of the Przemysl Ghetto - the Nazi transport from Zwangsarbeitslager Przemysl to the Stalowa Wola forced camp during September, 1943. He lost all his entire family in the Shoah - his father was beaten to death by Germans while his mother and sister perished in gas chambers of Belzec.

After graduating from the Polish State Theatrical Academy in 1951, he made his stage debut at the Nowy Theater in Lodz where he remained a featured player until 1961. Edward then moved to Warsaw, where he acted in several prominent theaters – Polski (1962-65), Klasyczny (1965-69), and Rozmaitosci (1972-88).

A highly regarded and universally recognised face in Polish cinema, Wichura appeared in lead and supporting roles in at least 25 feature films from 1953 to 1989. He was also popular on the small screen, playing major parts in several dramatic and action series on Polish television, including the role of Shmaltzovnik, a policeman who blackmails Jews (“Kolumbowie”, 1970.)

Edward Wichura left behind a short testimony entitled “Notes of my memory – on Jewish martyrdom in Przemysl ghetto” which will be published next year by the Polish Center for Holocaust Research.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Views of the Temple - II

Four more views of the Przemysl Temple from L. Biedka's postcard collection.

Views of the Temple - I
Here is an earlier post about the Temple.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Family Research 101

I've received a number of emails asking for help in researching family root in Przemysl. While I always like to help, let me assure you that I have no secret stash of records or private access to Polish Archives! Luckily, much of what you'll need to get started is available to all on-line.

Think like a detective - develop theories, follow leads, keep an open mind, pay attention to details, and be sure to take notes when you interview the witnesses!

Researching your (Przemysl) tree:

1. Before you start searching I highly recommend that you invest in a program to keep track of your records - your tree. I use Family Tree Maker - it's OK - but I'm sure almost anything would do the job.

2. Populate your tree as best you can. The single best source for family information is your family! Call/email/write every living relation. Do they remember your great aunt's maiden name? Grandfather's birthday? Every detail is useful - keep them all. Look at old photos for clues. This is the fun part! Once you have a basic tree built, you can see what's missing and focus your energy there.

3. Join JRI-Poland and JewishGen then go to Family Finder Search and register your surnames. This puts you in touch with other looking for similar names in your towns. Email them - network! Download and read their Hints and their Research Guide.

4. Search the JRI - Poland Database These are the birth, death and marriage records from Poland that are over 100 years old. If you find a match, copy all the information. Remember: names change over time - the uncle your family knew as Morris might have been born Modrechi. Also check for children's names under the mother's maiden name - they were sometimes listed that way. You want to try to make connections - If you find a birth record with parental data, try to find the marriage record of the parents, etc. Search all of the other JRI databases: The JewishGen Yizkor Book Necrology Database, Galician Surname Index, etc...

5. ShtetLinks: Przemysl is a very useful site well worth perusing and joining. It is part of Gesher Galicia, the special interest group for the parts of Poland once ruled by Austria. They have an excellent search page.

6. For Shoah victims, you'll want to search The Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names at Yad Vashem.

7. For relations who came to the US, Ellis Island records can be of tremendous value as the ship manifests often show birthplace, name of person the passenger is going to and a name back in the old country. Again, names can be different than the one's you know. Web pages by Stephen P. Morse is a great place to start as he allows for more complete searching than the Ellis Island Search itself.

8. It's worthwhile looking at the old business directories for Przemysl if you suspect your family had a store or a business. I use this one: Search Engine for Online Historical Directories

This is only the beginning... happy hunting!

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Views of the Temple

Below are several views of the Przemysl Temple - the progressive (reform) synagogue - from L. Biedka's collection of old postcards.

Here is an earlier post about the Temple.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Chag Chanukah Sameach

Remembering the Jews of Przemysl - Photos

As promised, the photographs Dr. Hartman brought back from the Remembering the Jews of Przemysl event last October have been posted at the Remembrance and Reconciliation Foundation website.

Photo: Przemysl holocaust Survivor Gerda Krebs Seifer and husband Harold


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Przemysl's Jews in the Army - WWI

Przemysl, home to the largest Fortress in the Empire, was a very important military city in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Jews of Galicia, as citizens of the Empire, either joined or were conscripted into military service from the late nineteenth century on. War broke out on August 1, 1914. The next day, which happened to be T'ish B'Av, a general conscription was announced.

The 10th - The Przemysl Regiment

The Austrian Army was also know by the acronym kuk which stands for kaiserlich und königlich, German for Imperial and Royal, referring to the so-called "Dual Monarchy" of Austria-Hungary.

The basic building block of the army was the regiment. Each regiment had a home garrison, a ceremonial name, as well as unique colors. While this post will deal with infantry regiments, they were by no means the only kinds of formations organized by the Austrians who had Cavalry, Artillery and Fortress regiments. Additionally, there were literally hundreds of specialty units at the battalion level - bridges, sappers, engineers, veterinary, medical, food, supply, religious, laundry, pay,…

Regiments, which consisted of 4 battalions, were raised locally, which in the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire, meant they were from everywhere. I do not know if Jews were put in a specific battalions but I do know that the Army had a designation for Feldrabbiner - literally "field Rabbi." They were joined by Feldkurats, Catholic, Greek and Protestant, as well as Militärimams for the Army's Muslims. Casualties were horrific, and no one was spared.

The table below lists the four Regiments that were garrisoned in Przemysl just before the war. The Garrison column shows the home base of the Regiment's officers (Przemysl) and sub-garrisons of its battalions. The bold garrison indicates the area that the conscripted troops for the regiment came from. If you were a Jewish man living in Przemysl, you probably went into the 10th, the Gustav V. König von Schweden Regiment and wore a uniform with parrot-green facings and white buttons. If you were from Sanok, your facings would have been scarlet and your buttons yellow.

Regiments were further organized into Brigades. The 10th belonged to the 48th Brigade. Brigades made up Divisions. All four regiments garrisoned in Przemysl were part of the 24th Division. Divisions were incorporated into Korps which in turn made up Armies. Korps and Armies were reconstituted as facts on the ground changed. On occasion, Divisions and Brigades were assigned to Groups - special Armies with specific missions usually named after the General or Field Marshall who commanded them.

The 24th Galician Division (source data)

Regiment Name Reg No. Brigade Garrisons/Recruits
Graf Clerfayt 9th 47th Przemyśl, Stryj, Radymno
Erzherzog Joseph Ferdinand 45th 47th Przemyśl, Travnik, Sanok
Gustav V. König von Schweden 10th 48th Przemyśl, Bijeljina

Philipp Herzog von Württemberg 77th 48th Przemyśl, Sambor, Tuzla

Below is a listing of the Korps and Armies for Przemysl's 24th Division throughout the War. From the outbreak of war, August, 1914 to November 1916, they were in Poland and Ukraine - the Eastern front - fighting Tzarist Russia. During November, 1916 they were moved to Romania, joining two smaller Groups before heading to the Italian front during May, 1917.

You can follow the march on maps by clicking on the linked Army numbers, below. Find the corresponding Army number in the red (Austrian) box.

As far as I can tell, the 10th regiment fought in the Battle of Caporetto, on the Trentino (mountain) front. After the battle, they were transfered to prisoner of war duty behind the lines - there were a lot of Italian prisoners! They remained in Italy until the war ended.

The 24th Division during World War One (source data)

Date Army Korps Notes

8/1/14 1st X Przemysl
10/15/15 4th IX Luck (Ukraine)
1/11/16 7th
Brody to Monasterzyska (SW Ukraine)
7/3/16 7th
Group Benign
7/23/16 10th
to Wlodawa, Poland
11/1/16 10th
Group Eichhorn (N Poland)
11/13/16 10th
Brest -Litowsk to Kronstadt (Romania)
11/30/16 10th
Group Gerok
12/22/16 1st
Group Stein
3/1/17 1st
Group Seeküchner
5/14/17 1st
Madefalva (Romania) to Podmelec (Croatia)
6/5/17 5th
XVII 48 IBrig with 57 ID near Trieste
10/24/17 11th
XXIV Battle of Caporetto
12/26/17 1st
S of Udine, prisoner of war duties: Palmanova
7/1/18 1st IV Cinto Caomaggiore / Pramaggiore.
8/15/18 1st VII Cinto Maggiore: to the end.

Identifying your Przemysl ancestor's WWI uniform:

Austrian Army uniforms can easily be identified by the scalloped chest pockets.
Ranks were worn on the collar facings. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to tell a soldier's rank from a black & white photo as color was a major determinant. For example, the only difference between a lieutenant and a corporal was that the latter's stars were made of white celluloid wile the former's were usually embroidered gold or silver. Here are the rank insignias:

Another page of insignias is here.

In addition to facing color, the regiment number was usually embroidered onto the side of the field cap. See examples here.

Ranks in the Austro-Hungarian Army

Rank English Command
----- General

Feldmarschall Field Marshall
Generaloberst Colonel General
General General Army
Feldmarschalleutnant Lieutenant Field Marshall Corps
Generalmajor Major General Division
----- Regimental

Oberst Colonel Regiment
Oberstleutenant Lieutenant Colonel
Major Major Battalion
----- Field

Hauptmann Captain
Oberleutenant Lieutenant
Leutnant 2nd Lieutenant
----- non commissioned

Feldwebel Sergeant-major
Zugsführer Sergeant
Korporal Corporal
Gefreiter Lance-corporal

Infanterist Private

The Polish Legions & Early Army

Some of your Jewish ancestors may have ended up in the Polish Legions. If they did, they may, (or may not!) have had different uniforms. The Legions were allied with Austria against Russia and operated as part of the greater Austro-Hungarian army until late in the war.

When modern Poland was born, in November, 1918, the Legion became the Polish Army and fought a war against the Soviet Russians and the Ukranians, from 1919-22.

Rank insignias for the Legion during WWI can be found here. The most easily identified Legion/Polish Army item is the 3 sided hats called "Rogatywka" - a symbol of Polish independence. The photo above is a typical late 20's Polish dress uniform. Ranks for the Polish army here.

Early Polish army men in Przemysl, c. 1920, including my grandfather, Emanuel Silberman, seated, center.

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Sources: There are many wonderful Internet sources for information about the Austro-Hungarian army. I used the following for this post:

Austro-Hungarian Land Forces 1848-1918 by Glenn Jewison & Jörg C. Steiner


Austro-Hungarian Army uniforms in WW1

Uniform Insignias


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Przemysl Ghetto

Author Lukasz Biedka has written and maintains what is THE definitive web resource of the Shoah in Przemysl from September, 1939 to July, 1944.

This is a must read.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Alte Synagogue

Below is a series of photos of the Alte (Old) Synagogue in Przemysl, taken by Dr. John Hartman a few weeks ago.

Two things make them so extraordinary: First, the Alte Synagogue, the heart of Jewish Przemysl, was a magnificent structure with history dating all the way back to 1594. Second, it was damaged in 1939 then destroyed by the Nazis in 1941. These pictures are of a photo essay erected in the empty lot on Jagiellonska Street, Przemysl, where this great building once stood.

The installation was conceived and created by Jacek Szwic.

Dr. Hartman brought back hundreds of photos from the Remembering the Jews of Przemysl event last October, which included this street display. They will eventually all be posted at the Remembrance and Reconciliation Foundation website. I'll post a heads-up when the photos are posted.

All photographs © 2006 John Hartman

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