Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Rent in Shekels - Update

To the left is a photo of the building in Przemysl recently re-claimed from the Polish government by Michal, a Jewish woman living in Tel Aviv.

Michal's family ownership of the property goes back through the Bethauer family to at least to her great-great-grandmother, sirnamed David.

Now several apartments, the structure is at Number 6 Rejtana. You can see the Scheinbach synagogue (now the town library) directly to the right.

Read the original post HERE.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Looking for the Rothmanns of Przemysl

J. A. Lebman emailed me the truely amazing story of her father, Hermann Rothmann. She is looking for any information about her Rothmann family post Shoah. -- David
I was extremely excited to come across your site. I found it by chance having "googled' “Przemysl,” something I do fairly often.

An entire branch of my family lived in Przemysl until World War 2 and then disappeared. My grandfather, Isaak (Erich/Israel) Rothmann was born in Przemysl c. 1898 and lived there until he was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army in WW1. He joined the cavalry, but according to the family, he was not even supposed to be drafted. The call came to his older brother but he was indispensable to the family business - at that time the family ran the local "taxi' service – troikas, horse powered of course. My grandfather took his brother's name and identity and fought on the Russian front and was captured twice by the Russians. On one occasion he pretended to be a dentist and spent some time pulling teeth. His regiment marched to the Radetsky march.

After his second escape he had had enough. He threw his uniform in the river and fled to Leipzig, Germany. He worked for a man who made leather goods, married the boss’ daughter (Betty Rappaport) and eventually moved to Berlin where he continued in the business. I suspect that my grandmother’s family (Rappaport) may have had a Przemysl connection – their original town (before Leipzig) was Stary Sambor – but I remember some reappearing names in the family tree and it is possible my grandfather went to their factory in Leipzig because he knew them – or they were distant relatives.

My father, Hermann Rothmann, was born in 1924. He remembers visiting Przemysl. Galicia was definitely less advanced and less sophisticated than Berlin. As a boy, he felt as though he was going back in time when he visited. He arrived by train and a fleet of horsed drawn taxis was waiting to take him to the family home - remember, taxis were the family business.

The Rothmann house backed onto the river at 75 Kapernikov Street (Kopernika). My father remembers a boy cousin his own age called Koby. (Yaakov). My grandparents and father were lucky enough to survive the war. My father was sent to England on the kinder-transport and my grandparents fled and ended up in Israel.

None of the Przemysl branch appears to have survived. My cousin in Israel (son of my father’s younger brother) has some more information on the family in Przemysl – but if anyone has any information about the Rothmann family - either remembers them or if they appear on a branch of anyone’s family tree, I would love to be in touch.

J. A. Leberman


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Your rent is due in Shekels!

I have been emailing with Michal in Israel. A thirty-something technologist working for a hi-tech start-up in Tel Aviv, Michal may well be the only Jewish property owner in Przemysl. Here are some excerpts from her email [my comments in brackets]:
As to the building, it's a 3 story structure just next to the synagogue, [the Scheinbach Synagogue on Słowackiego] My grandmother grew up there. It was in the possession of her grandmother, the David family, from, well, ever.

You need to know a bit about my parent's history. My parents were deported from Poland in 1969 and stripped of their Polish citizenship by the communist's government . After wandering in Europe for a year, the Jewish Agency converted my mother and they made Aliya to Israel.

In 2000 my parents and my brother received their Polish citizenship back and then I received mine. In the same year the Polish government said that Jewish family's that lived in Poland during the war and had their property confiscated by the government could bring proof of that and receive the property back.

So we did it. We went to the city council of Przemysl and found all the necessary pre-war documents. I'm now corresponding with a notary in Przemysl in order to transfer the ownership on my building from my father (who lives in Poland) to me. Since I have a Polish citizenship it's suppose to be quite easy - at list I hope so. [beware: the Communists are gone, not the bureaucrats]

The government divided the building into 12 (!) small apartments and the residents that live there have the special legal position of protected tenants. Well see what we're going to do about that... the Jews are back in town!!! [Put a mezuzah on the entry door!]

It's always a surprise to my friends in Israel that I have a non-Jewish side; it's not always popular here. I still have a large family all over Poland from my mothers side - good Catholics that I love. I even have family that lived in Germany and served in the Army during WWII. We have a very warm and loving on-going relationship.

Dr. Bethauer, a prominent Przemysl attorney, was murdered along with hundreds of others in the first wave of atrocities carried out by the Nazis during September, 1939. He is noted in the Sefer Przemysl.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Broken Silence of The Holocaust Survivor

Today, Bruno Ritter is a retired, bronze-star decorated US Army combat veteran living a normal, happy life with his wife and children. That he is alive is nothing short of a miracle. When he decided to tell his story of loss and survival to a German court after keeping it to himself for decades, he helped bring justice to one of the last Nazi officer to be brought to trial.

Bruno was born as Moshe Schatzman in Przemysl in 1928 to Isak Schatzman and Sabina Ritter, a barber and a beautician. He grew up on the second floor of the family owned building that also housed the shop where his parents worked. Their's was a typical, uneventful working-class story in a medium-sized town until Poland was occupied by the Nazis in 1939 and began the systematic extermination of Przemysl's Jewry. Over the ensuing five years, he lost everything; his mother and father, his extended family, neighbors and acquaintances - all murdered.

Somehow, passing through a series of jails, forced labor and concentration camps, Bruno managed to survive the Shoah.

After the war, he came to Kansas City, adopted his mother's family name and joined the US Army, serving from Europe to Vietnam as a proud American citizen - his tragic and heroic past gladly forgotten.

Normally, that would be the end of the historical part of a holocaust survivor's story - but not for Bruno Ritter.

As fate would have it, justice finally caught up with the brutal, sadistic Nazi SS officer who oversaw the murder of the Jews of Przemysl, Joseph Schwammberger, when he was extradited from Argentina to stand trial for his crimes in 1990. Ritter was called to be a star witness at the trial and his testimony was key in convincing the court to condemn this monster to life in prison. Schwammberger died in prison in Germany in 1997.

A few years ago, Washington Post writer Marc Fisher wrote a piece about Bruno Ritter, a son of Przemysl, titled:

Please read it. It is a moving story about an amazing life.

Special thanks to Wendy Hodgden, Bruno's American daughter, for sharing her father's story.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Posting Comments

Everyone is welcome to post comments by clicking the "xx comments" link at the bottom of each post. You can comment anonymously or with a Google user name. I will answer all serious comments and look forward to hearing from you! - - David

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Extremely detailed maps - c. 1910

Here is a link to a series of extremely detailed topographic military maps of Austria-Hungary made in 1910. They show every town, every road and every hill, regardless of size. Click on the sector you want to look at, but be careful - they are 3.5Mb each - they take a while to display!

Here is the Przemysl area map