Friday, September 17, 2010

The Story of Mann

As we have become accustomed to, Lukasz in Warsaw comes through with the answers regarding Family of Mann:

Hello David,

I owe you some stories on Przemysl. The last question about Manns deserves an answer. Fasten your belt, I'll take you and Kenny on a ride.

"His sister's name was Clara, I believe.", writes Kenny. Klara died in 1941 and her tombstone is among not so many (ca. 750 out of thousands) that survived.

The sentence on the plaque of Klara's tomb reads: "To my mum who taught me to be eternally young. Son."

What's more, we have a story about her funeral, written by her granddaughter. This is a piece:

“I’m on Slowackiego Street. A little higher up is the Jewish cemetery, where my grandmother was buried during the winter. I think back to her wretched funeral: that little coffin on the rickety cart, Mother and I following behind. I go to the cemetery. […] It’s quiet and peaceful in the cemetery. Fat insects crawl over the grass. The old stone grave markers tell the histories of former families. The gold letters of the shining sepulchres call to those who have gone and assure them of the impeccably good taste of those who have remained. My grandmother’s grave is off to the side. In the beaten clay a black marker has been stuck. ‘Klara Mann, born… died 12 XII 1941’... a beginning and an end. I stand by my grandmother’s grave but I do not cry. I am not thinking any more of her lonely death. She loved me so much. In my thoughts I beg her to help me rescue my parents and my brother.”

Sounds familiar? Yes, this is a part of memoirs I uploaded at ARC website years ago.

Aleksandra Mandel was the daughter of Salomea Mandel (born Mann), Klara's daughter, and Aleksander Mandel. She was the only survivor. She later changed her first name to Cecylia. Diminutive of Cecylia is Cesia (pron. Tsesha) and it must be "someone known as Aunt Tseckia", as Kenny writes. Kenny may not remember that Cesia visited them in Africa, sometime in 60's. This visit was foreseen in prophetical conversation in Przemysl ghetto, moments before it's liquidation started:

"‘To turn my Mother’s sad thoughts to other things – my Mother, who is so bravely bearing the burden of our poverty – I hug and kiss her, and talk to her about my uncle, who from far, from Africa, writes to us through Switzerland and who will certainly help us as soon as the war finishes.

“And you, Mama, will be the first great lady of Africa, and Tata and Jozio will eat bananas for breakfast and pineapples for dinner.”

Mama looks around at our shabby little room, at the lamentably empty cupboard, at the unlit stove, and says: “Child, you might see it, but my grave will be growing grass by then…”

And next passage:

“The Gestapo bang on our window.

“We’re coming,” says Tata, “Here you are, my watch, it will stay with you.” He puts the old watch that was his father’s down on the buffet.

“Think that you were with us on a ship during a wreck, and we went down, while a life buoy brought you to shore...”

“Uncle will ask you to Africa after the war,” Mother adds.

Here is the most disinterested, sublime love in the world. Even now my parents don’t think of themselves.”

After the war Aleksandra/Cesia lived in one of Galician towns and worked as a journalist, like her father. She wrote an article about her african trip which is remembered there.

She and her husband founded an obelisk at Przemysl cemetery commemorating her parents and her brother.

The rest is also true - her son Oles and a grandson Maciek are well known photographers indeed, now in Krakow.

Aleksandra deposited her memories in 1946 at Jewish Historical Commission in Krakow. They are kept at Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw now.

I wish you, all your family, and Kenny too, sweet and peaceful New Year.
And Gmar Hatima Tova.


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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Family Mann

Over the transom comes yet another amazing Przemysl diaspora tale.  Does anyone out there have any information on family Mann?

I have just been reading your website with interest. My father was born in Przemysl and lived there until 1939 when he walked out barefoot as Hitler invaded. He ended up in Bucharest where he met my mother and they married. they had to escape yet again and ended up in Kenya, where they settled and where I was born and raised.

I am making a film about their extraordinary story - there were very few Jews in Kenya - and while I have a lot of material on my mother, I have virtually nothing about my father and his family. He was born in 1907. His name was Igor Mann in later life, but I believe his real first name was Izidore. He trained as a veterinarian at the University of Prague and he had a sister who died of TB before the war. I believe his father died when he was 13 and his mother died in 1942.

Is there any way in which I might be able to find more information about him or his family? He was 32 when he left, so there must be some records - or maybe not, since the Jewish population was so thoroughly wiped out. Anyway - if you can make any suggestions for me as to further research, I would really appreciate it.

Many thanks!
Kenny Mann
Some additional information on her family:
Yes - you may post my note to the blog. Some of the people contributing were about the same age as my father - perhaps they knew the family. His father was a bricklayer. My father became an orphan at age 13 and made money by de-backing and selling stamps and mending tennis racquets. His sister's name was Clara, I believe. There is someone known as Aunt Tseckia (I don't know how to spell this) who has a son called Olesh who apparently became quite a well-known photographer - they now live in Krakow, I believe.

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