The Hebrew Society and the Oxenhandlers

I was looking up the name Sigal on the Ellis Island database, and found myself looking at the manifest of a ship, the Gregory Morch, which began its journey in Odessa in late October 1906, and took a month to travel through the Mediterranean, stopping at Greece and Sicily, and then went on to New York. Only two trips were made with this ship, both in 1906, before it was scrapped. Mindel Sigal was a middle-aged woman travelling alone to her daughter, and her name proved difficult to follow in America. Then my eye travelled down the page to other people from Odessa, particularly a young widow, Leah Rifke Ochsenhandler, usually Oxenhandler, 31, and her five children, Samuel 12, Isaac 10, Idel 7, Mania 5 and Basia 2. This was the only family on the page where, instead of the address of a family member or friend in the United States, it simply said Hebrew Society. She was held for special enquiry as an LPC or ‘likely public charge’. The Hebrew Society may have been enlisted to help her while she and her children were being detained.

Lea Oxenhandler and children SS Gregory Morch October 1906

Oxenhandler Hebrew Society

Lea Oxenhandler held for special inquiry ‘likely public charge’

There was one Oxenhandler in the Odessa 1905 pogrom death records, Osip Oxenhandler (Оксенгедлер, Oksengendler) on one of the last two images where the names were not in alphabetical order and obviously added after the others. Most of the names have the age and birthplace like the others, but in this case they are missing. So if he was identified after the others it seems that the identifier did not have this information.

Osip Oxenhandler Odessa pogrom death records

I wondered how Leah was going to manage in New York without any relations. How could she make a living and look after her five children? I have always assumed that no one would take the journey to America without having a sponsor in America, a family member or friend, someone who could help them until they could support themselves. I thought having a sponsor was a condition of being allowed into the country and if ‘Hebrew Society’ was written in the space for a friend or relation, it meant that the Hebrew Society had agreed beforehand, possibly from Odessa, to sponsor the person until they could support themselves. However, when I looked up the history of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, I found no mention of agents from the society in Odessa or at the ports around Europe. Their main work was at Ellis Island, providing food, translators and preventing deportation by providing temporary accommodation and information about work.

It seems that Leah had taken a gamble on being able to support herself and look after her children in New York. They arrived in the middle of winter, 24 November 1906. The Hebrew Society did look after Leah and her family, giving her accommodation at the Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society house at 229 E. Broadway.

229-31 E. Broadway Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society 1915

Photograph from the Museum of the City of New York blog

Minnie Fisher, Immigrant and Labor Activist

The Jewish Immigrant 1909

But on Christmas Day 1906, a month after they had arrived, Leah applied for her three middle children to be admitted to the New York City Hebrew Orphan Asylum. The oldest child, Samuel, was considered to be old enough to work. The mother kept three-year-old Bessie with her. According to the orphanage admittance form, the children were rejected because of a case of measles in the family, and were not admitted until March 1907. The application also lists the parents’ names, Joseph and Rifke, born in 1870 and 1876, and the father’s death in 1905, killed in the massacre.

Oxenhandler admission form to the Hebrew Orphan Asylum

The only other time I had come upon a reference to someone killed in the massacre were the parents of the Scheindless brothers who were also at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum at the same time as the Oxenhandler children. The residence of the mother is 229 E. Broadway, the Hebrew Sheltering H (blotched out). In the 1905 census, the Hebrew Sheltering Society housed about 20 old people, several over 100, and a couple of school-age children. By 1910 the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society used the building for free meals and helping people find jobs, but was no longer accommodating people. A final remark on the form was that the mother has $170 with which she wishes to establish a business but is unable to care for her five children and has no relations. It is also clear from the form that Bessie, born 5 September 1903, was admitted on her fourth birthday in 1907. On her separate admittance form, her mother is listed as applicant, but under the column that states whether the child is committed or surrendered, it appears to say that she has died, less than a year after they had arrived in the country.

Bessie Oxenhandler admission to the Hebrew Orphan Asylum

Possibly Rifke had applied while ill to have Bessie admitted, but then died before she entered the asylum. There is no death record for Rifke, which may be a failure of the record-keeping system, or, sadly, one begins to think of a suicide like drowning in one of the rivers surrounding Manhattan where the person may never be found.

The five Oxenhandler children only appear sporadically in the records – the four children at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum appear on the 1910 census in the orphanage. Idel had become Judah (and later Julius), Mania became Minnie, and Basia became Bessie. Isaac kept his name until later when he more often used Isidor. There are discharge forms for Julius and Minnie who left the orphanage in 1916. Julius had a job with a Jewish farmer, Jacob Bloch, in Parksville, New York, in the Catskill Mountains, a little town whose main street has now been bypassed.

Parksville, New York

However, by 1918, when Julius filled in his World War I registration, he was working as a machinist in Brooklyn and married. In 1920, he was living with his in-laws, his wife and his baby daughter, in Brooklyn, but then he and his family disappear from the records. None of the other children appear on the 1920 census, and Sam, the older son who did not go to the orphanage, does not appear at all. It is as if he disappeared with his mother, or changed his name completely. There is one Samuel Oxenhandler of the correct age in the 1940 census, a hotel clerk with a wife and a son who was an electrician, but as that census does not include year of immigration it is difficult to know whether they are the same person.

Isaac was the oldest of the children in the orphanage and probably left before 1916. He first appears on the World War I registration as Isidor, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, working as a milkman and living with the owner of the business. Possibly the orphanage tried to get jobs for the children outside New York City. His nearest kin is an aunt, Rose Lebovitz, in Brooklyn. The next record for him is a naturalisation form in 1936. It lists that he was born in Odessa and came to the US in 1906 on the ship Gregoria. He married Stella in 1918, had four children, lived in the Bronx and had his own window cleaning business. He then appears in the 1940 census and the World War II registration.

Isaac/Isidor Oxenhandler naturalisation form 1936

Minnie does not appear after her discharge from the orphanage in 1916. She was withdrawn from the orphanage by her aunt, S Tartakofsky, as she was able to maintain herself, age 15 or 16. Tartakofsky is a name that appears in the 1904-5 Odessa directory, both a doctor and the owner of an ink factory, although these may not be the same families. Minnie may have married before 1920.

There is a Betty Oxenhandler in the marriage records, who married Benjamin Zuckerman. On the 1930 and 1940 census there is a Betty Zuckerman, who is three years younger than Bessie  and emigrated from Russia in 1905, and Barnett Zuckerman. He is a real estate broker and by 1940 they have two children. A possibility, especially as there is no other Betty Oxenhandler in the records, and the only Bessie Oxenhandlers are all much older than the Bessie in the orphanage. So, from what began as a horrific story of a murdered father and a mother dead a year later, of five children in an orphanage or out working at age 12 or 13 in a strange country where they did not know the language and had no relations, three of the children, although Bessie/Betty is a guess, seem to have done well for themselves with jobs and families. As there is not another form from the orphanage for Bessie, it is a relief to think that these records do belong to her and that she did have a good life after such a tragic beginning, even if she always had a dark hole inside of lacking a parent’ s love and having to grow up and fend for herself as a small child. Who knows whether she had some memories of her mother and the day she was brought to the orphanage. At least some children did seem to find temporary love and kindness at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum from staff and other children. Like many of the Odessa families who emigrated, the other two children, Samuel and Minnie, disappeared from the records.

 

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Art and the Russian Revolution

The Royal Academy of Art in London has had an exhibition called Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 which was inspired by a Leningrad exhibition in 1932 Fifteen years of artists of the Russian Soviet Republic, an exhibition which showed the incredible diversity of Russian art at a time when the avant-garde and social realism still existed side-by-side. However, from the late 1920s pressure mounted against abstraction in art and after 1932 it was deemed to be unacceptable. The exhibition includes paintings, prints, posters, photographs, ceramics and film clips, some from the 1929 film The man with a movie camera. A few of the art works from the exhibition are copied below, along with others by the exhibition artists that were not in the exhibition. Some celebrate the excitement of the time, while others express something more ominous. Many of the photographs, like futurism, play on the repetition of industrialisation and mechanised work, but others delve into blurred identities, overlapping images, and images taken at disconcertingly strange angles, possibly hinting at the confusion and uncertainties of the times.

Boris Kustodiev The Bolshevik 1920

Kazimir Malevich 1915

Dmitry Moor Help!

Pavel Filonov Formula of the Petrograd Proletariat 1920

Andrei Golubev fabric

Boris Ignatovich

Vavara Stepanova

Kandinsky Blue Crest 1917

Heroes and Victims 1918 Vladimir Kozlinsky and others

Ilya Chashnik

El Lissitsky 1924

Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin 1919 sketch for 1925 Anxiety

 

Daria Preobrazhenskaya fabric

Ivan Puni 1919

Alexander Rodchenko

Vladimir Kozlinsky Then and Now

Arkady Shaikhet 1928

Sofia Dymshits-Tolstaya

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February Revolution: 1917-2017

A moment to remember the February 1917 revolution. Looking at the artwork in the proliferation of satirical journals that sprang up in 1905-6, it feels like the energy for revolution was actually at that time. But it was in 1917, when the country was already torn apart by war, that the population was ready for a revolution which was then followed by three more years of civil war and more pogroms against the Jews. It is probably difficult or impossible for some years to get the kind of meticulous records that existed before the revolution and many people would have fallen into the cracks of history.

To mark this moment I will try and put together some of the posters, illustrations and photographs from 1905 and 1917, and look at the memoirs of two young girls who lived through the revolution, one from the impoverished branch of an aristocratic family, and the other the daughter of Jewish revolutionaries. Both girls ended up leaving Russia shortly after the Civil War and ending up in England.

1905 Revolution

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Freedom 4 December 1905

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Burning books 1906

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The Bee back cover 1906

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Russian Symphony Isaak Brodsky 1906

1917 Revolution

A chronology of the February revolution http://www.vokrugsveta.ru/vs/article/3004/ :

18 February: The strike at the Putilov factory in St. Petersburg
23 February: the beginning of anti-war demonstrations

24-25 February: the general strike under the slogan “Down with autocracy!”
26 Feb: battles between soldiers, divided between support for the revolution or the tzar
27 February: The beginning of the armed uprising, a massive shift of soldiers to the side of the rebels. Establishment of the State Duma of the Interim Committee under the chairmanship of the president of the Duma, Rodzianko

1 March: the establishment of the new government in Moscow

2 March: the abdication of Nicholas II from the throne in favor of Prince Michael, who handed over power to the Provisional Government. Formation of the Provisional Government headed by Prince Lvov, who was replaced in July by socialist Kerensky

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28 February 1917

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February Revolution 1917 Ivan Vladimirov

Edith Almedingen wrote her memoir about her childhood in early 1900s Russia, Tomorrow will come, in 1941, never having believed that anyone would be interested in her mundane life in St Petersburg simply trying to survive on the periphery of the great political events between 1905 and 1920. Her mother had been brought up in England in a Russian aristocratic family with an English mother, and her father was a well-known professor of chemistry, from a wealthy family, but her father left the family when she was a baby and her mother scraped by teaching English. Shortly after the 1905 revolution, when Edith was six, her brother drowned falling through cracked ice in the river. Her father, who she had never known, died when she was 12, and an older brother died in the First World War. She had been living in extreme poverty with her mother after the 1909 crash and then had a few years at an aristocratic girls’ boarding school where her father had modernised the curriculum and taught science. The beauty of this book is in her descriptions of the sights, smells and feelings of hunger, cold and horror that she experienced as a teenager after the revolution as the infrastructure of the city failed and there was no longer any running water in the city, food to eat, or fuel for heating. People dressed in rags, spent most of the day queueing for bread, and went from one illness to another. Her mother died of starvation and illness in 1919.

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Queue 1917

revolution

She tells a story about the brightly coloured painted signs with pictures used by shopkeepers in Russia as most people were illiterate. In 1919 the shops were mostly empty and closed but the signs remained mocking people, especially one with a “luscious purple ham, reinforced by twin coils of fat crimson sausages”. She continues:

But that morning I saw a cluster of people in front of the deserted shop, and, coming nearer, I saw a frail, grey-haired man, his thin hands coming out of the sleeves of a very shabby overcoat. Those hands clawed at the gaily painted sign. An old lady, a torn black lace scarf over her grey hair, was trying to wrench him away. Yet, though obviously feeble, he resisted her efforts, and there was something of a nightmare about those thin, blue-veined hands clinging to the painted wood. I heard a tremulous voice: ‘No, my dear, I simply must have another slice of that ham. I wish you would be a little more patient. See if I don’t cut it off neatly. If we were to leave it here, somebody else would get it, and nobody could be as hungry as you and I are’, and the thin hands went on clawing away, until blood began trickling from under the nails, and the painted wood showed white where the knuckle of the ham had been scratched. (124)

Eventually, she meets a nurse she had known early in the war when she had translated for an English charity who shares her room with her and encourages her to apply to the university. In 1922, as she was finishing her degree, precious passports for foreign travel first began to be issued. She had recently managed to arrange a convalescence in the Crimea for possible TB, but then remembered the first letter in five years she had received from her mother’s sister in Italy a few months before hoping they would meet again. Possibly they would allow her to convalesce in Italy. A couple of months later she had her passport and left Russia forever.

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Civil War

The other memoir, Daughter of revolution: a Russian girlhood remembered, by Vera Broido (1998), was written from the perspective of a child who was only 10 when the revolution began. She had been living in Siberia with her mother, Eva Broido, who had been exiled for her revolutionary activities, but they hurried back first to Moscow and then Saint Petersburg. Vera also translated her mother’s memoir Memoirs of a revolutionary which is a much more political and factual book. This is a far less bleak book than Edith’s, partly because Vera was still a child, although often having the responsibilities of an adult, still had family alive, and, most importantly, had a family with strong connections and deep friendships with other revolutionaries who were quick to help each other. Although eventually, as Mensheviks, they were on the losing side against the Bolsheviks. Also, although they were still hungry and freezing cold, Vera and her mother had been given the apartment of a wealthy banker, who was hiding, to look after, while Edith had nowhere to live after her mother died, losing their two rooms, moving from one sordid shared room to another.

Vera emphasises the ordinary side of life at that time, both for exiles in Siberia, where her mother ran the hospital pharmacy and they knew many other interesting professional exiles, and after the revolution in Saint Petersburg, where, although there was little to eat, the arts were flourishing and they went to the theatre, concerts and the opera. She also went to school for the first time, although, by 1919, when the Civil War reached Petrograd, school simply meant sitting by a stove and getting a bowl of gruel . Vera’s mother also became ill but they were able to escape in 1920 to Berlin, where Vera crammed most of her education into one year and passed the examinations for German universities. In 1927, her mother returned to Russia with false papers for a short visit to make contact with Mensheviks who had remained in Russia, but she stayed longer and was arrested, imprisoned, and eventually shot in 1941. Vera studied art in Paris and then returned to Germany, remaining until 1933, when her whole family moved to England, where her brother was working as an engineer. Unlike Edith, Vera always had some family around her, and often old friends from Russia and their exile in Siberia.

russian-civil-war-posters-w

Be on guard!

 Like all stories of war, in both these memoirs survival depended on luck – a chance meeting, a moment of kindness, or an official turning a blind eye. At a time when she had no job and no place to stay, Edith met the nurse she had known earlier after being knocked down by a carriage and breaking her ankle. After Vera and her mother crossed the border into Polish territory, they used their last money on the train to Warsaw hoping they would find her father there. Instead they found he had moved on to Vienna and they were left penniless, wandering the cold, slushy streets with their boarded-up shops until her mother noticed a diamond earring on the ground. After more wandering they saw a small light inside one shuttered jewellers and found a Jewish jeweller there who was dubious about receiving what would appear to be a stolen diamond. However, he listened to their story and said he would put the diamond aside until a later date, but, first things first, he would get them a first-class compartment and meal on the train to Vienna. Without these chance moments of kindness the stories might have been very different.

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From Odessa to North Dakota

Shneer Motev Chersonsky (Херсонский, Khersonsky) from Tiraspol, was 32 when he died in the Odessa pogrom. Yankel Chersonsky, 29, who sailed from Rotterdam to New York in May 1907, with his wife, Leah, and their one-year-old daughter, Maria, may have been his brother. An M. Chersonsky owned a house on the outskirts of Perecyp, near Soldatskaya Slobodka, partially shown on the far left centre of the map.

slobodka-baltovka

I followed this family because they were on their way to Leah’s brother, Chaim Skadron, in Anamoose, North Dakota, and I was intrigued by a family travelling to the emptiness of North Dakota and a settlement named after a moose.

anamoose-welcome

I discovered that North Dakota had been settled mainly by Russian Germans, Germans who had been encouraged by the Russians after they took over Ukraine, in the late 18th century to settle in and cultivate the huge empty areas of the steppe in the southern Ukraine, bringing much needed up-to-date knowledge of farming to the area. In the early 1800s, Jews were also encouraged with the promise of free land to leave the overcrowded towns of Belarus and farm in colonies in southern Ukraine. This was intended to also give the Jews a more productive occupation than peddling and being middleman, having never been allowed to own land previously, although Jews often managed farms and estates for Russian landowners. Many of these colonies sprang up from the mid-1800s and several people in the pogrom death records came from agricultural colonies: two Grinbergs from the Novo-Podolsk colony in Ekaterinoslav Gubernia, Balanovsky from the Gelbinovoi Kamenets colony in Podolsk Gubernia, two Borsch brothers from the Bogachevka colony in the Balta region, and a nine-year-old boy, Ber Duvid Bosakov, son of a farmer from the Abazovka colony in the Balta region. There is quite a lot of online information about the Jewish agricultural colonies in Ukraine on the following websites.

http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/colonies_of_ukrain/Chaim’s%20Introduction.htm

http://evkol.ucoz.com/colony_kherson_en.htm

Several of the colonies can be found on this 1902 Balta map to the east of Balta at the bottom of the map.

http://easteurotopo.org/images/new%20rmt-126_2014/XXVII-8_s126_Balta_LC_1902.jpg

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Abazovka Colony, Balta

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Gelbinova Colony, Balta

Many of the colonies were not successful because the government promises of help with housing and equipment did not materialise and there were high rates of illness and death. But many of these colonies were begun and some lasted until the Second World War. On this map the Jewish colonies are specifically labelled but there are also many places where Kol is written so there may have been many tiny colonies as well, whether Jewish or not. The idea of agricultural colonies was taken up by Zionists and others thinking about Jews settling in countries where they could have the equal rights of full citizens which had not been true in Russia but was gradually occurring in other nation states. The idea of Jews finding a new home, whether in Palestine or elsewhere, came to a head after the 1881 pogroms and small groups from southern Russia set off to form socialist agricultural colonies in Palestine, Canada, America and Argentina. The first two agricultural colonies in the US, in Louisiana and South Dakota, were organised by Herman Rosenthal, who also wrote a 1906 Jewish Encyclopaedia which is online, with chapters on agricultural colonies in Russia and in the US.

1906 Jewish Encyclopaedia 1906 by Herman Rosenthal

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/908-agricultural-colonies-in-russia

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/909-agricultural-colonies-in-the-united-states

Many of these colonies did not succeed for similar reasons to the colonies in Ukraine – lack of proper management, falling through of government or charity promises, lack of knowledge of farming, inappropriate land, mounting debts for equipment and materials – but a few were successful and carried on for some years and some settlers would remain in the area either farming or as shopkeepers. Often it was disagreements, different philosophies, and breaking into factions that led to the death of colonies.

Two of my great uncles were part of the first groups to set up colonies in the US in 1881 and 1882. One went from Odessa to New Odessa in Portland, Oregon in 1882, and this colony possibly deserves its own entry. Several members of this family eventually helped set up a colony in New Jersey, where there were many early experimental colonies, which lasted until the 1950s. The other was part of the first colony in America in Sicily Island Louisiana, an almost uninhabited piece of wetland along the Mississippi River, which was not an ideal place for Russians used to a northern climate to settle. There were very few locals to help with appropriate farming methods and after a malaria outbreak and a severe flood, the colony disbanded, and many moved north to South Dakota, then still called Dakota Territory, near a town called Mitchell. There were also several colonies in North Dakota, the most successful one called Painted Woods.

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Mitchell Main Street 1880s

 The South Dakota colony, called Cremieux, was near a tiny settlement called Mount Vernon. The land was divided into squares called townships bounded by numbered streets. My great uncle, Joseph Petrikovsky, a socialist journalist, took part in both the Louisiana and South Dakota colonies, and wrote about them in the Russian Jewish press and as stories. In a semi-fictionalised story for an English newspaper he describes his party of four Russian merchant families and a dozen single male students on a four-day train journey to South Dakota.

Most of Mitchell’s 1000 population is at the depo waiting to see the foreigners. The town consists of 200 wooden cottages, a couple of two-storey hotels, a few boarding houses, lumber yards, three drugstores, a few country stores, three newspaper printing offices, a school, a photographer, three churches, four banks, and several land offices. All the 168-acre homestead claims were taken in south-west Aurora County, 22 miles from Mitchell and 17 from Mount Vernon, the little town with a railroad station.

By the end of two months, my great uncle had his own little cabin and was surrounded by new houses, barns, artesian wells, cattle and fields growing with corn, flax, oats and sorghum. According to a local newspaper, the leader of the colony, Herman Rosenthal, had a 1000 acre farm and an eight room house which was also used for schooling the children. In the winter, the Russians had musical gatherings which were popular with the locals.

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Cremieux colony

The area does not look like it has changed much since the time of the Cremieux Colony in the 1880s.

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Baker Township (Google streetview)

As Russian Jewish immigration increased after 1881, Jewish charities in the big cities began to encourage immigrants to become settlers in the West and they set up programs and networks to help accomplish this. The New York Removal Office, which helped find apprenticeships in towns across the country for Jewish orphans, was attempting this. But it seems that the Skadron and Chersonsky families chose their own route to North Dakota. In 1902, Shulim, 45, and Chaim Skadron, 25, from Kherson, travelled with a large family called Hirsch, Russian Germans, also from Kherson, who were travelling to relations in Harvey, North Dakota, a settlement very close to Anamoose. Two other Russian German teenagers, Friedrich Wohl and Christian Engel were travelling with them and had family in and around Anamoose and remained as farmers in the area.

Soo Line Depot and Elevator 1928 http://www.anamoose.com/images/Soo%20Line%20Depot%20and%20Elevator%201928.jpg

anamoose-north-dakota-2Anamoose, North Dakota

petes-tractor

Shulim and Chaim do not appear again in the census records but Salomon Skadron, his wife, eldest son and family, and several younger sons, are on the 1910 census, along with the Chersonsky family, farming in Alexander in McKenzie County, further west in North Dakota.

alexander-north-dakota

Solomon and Chaim, his eldest son or brother, may have gone to North Dakota to settle in before Solomon’s wife and family arrived. The only discrepancy between Solomon and Shulim is that Solomon says that he emigrated in 1907 rather than 1902. There is no trace of Chaim, the brother Leah was joining in Anamoose. The Chersonskys, later Cersonsky, went on to have five more children, and eventually the elder Skadrons and Chersonskys moved to a nearby town, Williston, and became shopkeepers.

A diary by a Jewish settler to Anamoose, who came from the Odessa area to America in 1905, Charles Losk, is in the North Dakota archives and presents a picture very similar to the Chersonsky and Skadron family experience (http://www.prairiepublic.org/radio/radio-programs-a-z/plains-folk?post=60250). They proved up homesteads which involved farming them for five years, married Jewish women from nearby towns, and eventually moved to nearby towns like Williston and Watford City. Another brother, Moses Losk, is on the 1915 North Dakota census with Sam Skadron and his family in McKenzie County, but that census only enumerates people without addresses or occupations. By 1920, Sam was a butcher in a nearby small town on the Missouri River, Sanish, and Moses had a dry goods store in Watford city.

The younger Cersonsky generation were scattered in the area, mostly in small towns. The father, Jake, died in 1931 at only 51. Two of the children died young, Kathryn at 18 in 1934, and Mayer at 33 in 1944.

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Miriam, the eldest, born in 1905 in Odessa, was the only one to remain in North Dakota where she died the same year as her husband, 1973, and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Minot, North Dakota. The others gravitated to other Western states, Colorado and Texas, and produced a long line of farmers, business people, doctors and lawyers. They probably all knew of their Russian ancestors, Jacob and Leah, who courageously, with a small child, followed relations to take up homesteads in North Dakota, but they probably do not know what propelled them to leave Russia, the 1905 Odessa pogrom, and the death of a relation, just as they were beginning out in life.

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Lost children – the Weitzmans, Chaits, and Schoichets

The Weitzman (Вейцман) family

Trawling through the family names in the pogrom death records again, this time I focused on children travelling with an older teenager or other family as these were more likely to be orphans from the families affected by the pogrom. Having discovered that these families were sometimes able to get onto ships leaving a few weeks after the pogrom, I started my search from November 1905, and because families often left at different times scattered over several years, I continued my search until 1912. Starting at the end of the alphabet on an Ellis Island search, first in English, then Russian, I quickly found a child of 11, Avrum Weitzman, blacksmith, travelling with his cousin Isaac Ostrovsky, 18, printer, to New York having left Hamburg 22 December 1905, just eight weeks after the pogrom.

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Avrum Weitzman and Isaac Ostrovsky ship 22 December 1905

They were both going to uncles in Boston, Isaac to Moshe Silberberg and Avrum to Pesach Weisberg. It seems strange that a boy of 11 was already being characterised as a blacksmith even if he had begun an apprenticeship at that age. However, neither boy, with many different spellings of their names, and variations on their age and different destinations, reappeared in the records. I tried using the names Weisberg and Silberberg. I could not find out whether the two boys were lurking somewhere, possibly with different names, or whether they had never entered America or left soon after. One of them, possibly Avrum, did have a note on the ship’s manifest saying that he had been seen by a doctor but I could not read the cause. The manifest had several pages of the names of people who were detained, many of whom were temporarily hospitalised, but the boys were not on any of the lists.

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The two uncles and the medical note

The Weitzman family were unique and well-known to the Odessa archives, in newspaper reports and the pogrom death records, as recorded in an earlier blog entry, The pogrom in Slobodka-Romanovka. Four members of the family, all from Balta, are in the records, an older man Avrum Moishe, 58, a middle-aged man of 35, Chaim-Chaikel Avrum-Zus, a young man of 20, Yaakov Abram, and a boy of 13, Naum. There were also two members of another family, the Varshavskys, who were related. The Weitzmans were a prominent family in the working class area of Slobodka. In The Odessa pogrom and self defence, 1906, the story of the Weitzman family is spelled out in more detail. Veitsman and his family wanted to hide at the Slobodka town hospital where he was acquainted with Dr Golovin (professor of ophthalmology); but they were not allowed at the hospital. The policemen Kolloli, Ivanov, Andreev and the coachman killed four of the Veitsman family and five died later in hospital.

In ‘Jewish History as Reflected in the Documents of the State Archives of Odessa Region’ Avotaynu The International Review of Jewish Genealogy.Vol XXIII; 3, Fall 2007. – P. 41-52), Deputy Director of the archive, Lilia Belousova, writes: ‘Materials on investigations of concrete pogrom cases are also in the Fond 634, Prosecutor of Odessa District Court (Prokuror Odesskogo okruzhnogo suda), 1870-1917. One of them is a case of Rosa Drutman, the victim of pogrom in Odessa in October, 1905. She served at the house of a rich Jewish family of Veizman-Varshavsky and became a witness of cruel massacre by the crowd of Christians against the Jews. Soldiers sent by the local authorities to prevent crimes, in fact marked the beginning of the drama using fire-arms against the Jews. 6 from 9 members of the family were killed. Rosa was wounded three times but survived after two months of treatment. Her witnesses, medicine card, materials of cross-examinations and protocols of court meetings let us to reconstruct the events in details.

In the 1904-5 directory, an A Veitsman owns 63 Gorodskaya, at the corner of Krivovalkovskaya in the Slobodka district.

63-b-gorodskaya-veitsman-2

63b Gorodskaya

Could 11-year-old Avrum have been the grandson of the Avrum Weitzman who was killed in the pogrom? Could he have had an eye problem the doctor at Ellis Island noted, that had led his family to know the ophthalmologist who had not been able to save them? In the 1890s there were four Weitzman families in the list of Odessa Jewish small businesses in the heart of the Moldavanka area, where the pogrom was most active. However, the only property under the name Weitzman in the directory (therefore owned not rented) was the property in Slobodka. The Ostrovsky family or families also had four small businesses, three in the centre and one in Moldavanka. They owned many properties across Odessa, in the centre, Moldavanka and two in Slobodka. One was in Lavochnaya St, which can be seen in Google Streetview pictured below.

lavochna-st-ostrovsky

Lavochnaya St

The sidestreets of Slobodka contrasted sharply with those in the centre like the Ostrovsky residence at 21 Bazarnaya.

bazarnaya-21-ostrovsky

21 Bazarnaya

Although there were quite a few Weitzman and Ostrovsky families in Odessa and many in the Odessa birth records for the 1890s, there is no birth record for an Isaac Ostrovsky or Avrum or Abram Weitzman. This might relate to the fact that the population was changing so rapidly and many families may have only been in Odessa a few years. The ship’s manifest for 1906 does not state where people were born, only their last residence, making it difficult to trace them in the US records which occasionally state city of birth. There were no Abraham Weitzmans or Isaac Ostrovskys in Boston. There was one Abraham Weisberg but he was several years older and from the very north of Ukraine, not Odessa or Balta, where most of the family was born. The few Abraham Weitzmans and Isaac Ostrovskys in New York and Philadelphia had very few records and were either the wrong age or had the wrong emigration date, or in one case was someone who had arrived with his whole family. There was also a Weitzman family from Balta, with a son called Abraham of a similar age, who had emigrated to London in the early 1900s. Because the Weitzman family had such a detailed story of their experience in the pogrom, I particularly wanted to follow Avrum’s life in America, but every time I felt I was possibly finding him, he slipped through my fingers.

The Chait (Хаит) family

Another family of probable orphans were the Chaits, an older sister, Leie, 17, and two brothers, Pesach, 9 and Isser, 8, who arrived in New York in August 1907 en route to their aunt, Lily Fellman, in Detroit. They had been living with a relation in Odessa, Feiga Chait. The Chait in the pogrom death records was Shmuel Mordko, 40, from Yanov, who I later found out was not a direct relation of the children. According to one marriage record their father was called Frederick, which may have been a translation of a name like Fishel. There is an F. Chait in the 1904-5 Odessa directory who owned several properties in the centre.

At first I could find no trace of the Chait children, but then I found the two boys as Peter and Oscar Chayte, in a huge Jewish orphan asylum in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1907, when the Chait children had arrived in the US, their aunt, age 25, who was married with a seven-year-old son, had only been in the country a year. Maybe she did not feel she could take on her two nephews or thought the orphanage would give them a better chance at a livelihood.

cleveland-jewish-orphan-asylum

Cleveland Jewish Orphan Asylum

Both boys did appear to do well in life and returned to Detroit, one living with his aunt after he married and had a child. By 1921, when Oscar married, they had changed their names to Clayton. Peter sold advertising for a newspaper and Oscar worked as a chemist for a paint company. On the 1930 census, Peter wrote that he was from Odessa in Russia as were his parents, but by 1940 the brothers wrote that they were born in Ohio. The 1940 census was the first census that did not ask where parents were born and was more preoccupied with work and income. The brothers may have decided to avoid their background on an official document because of the rise of fascism, the war and memories of the pogrom and anti-Semitism in their childhood, or they may have decided that they now felt more American and could put the past behind them. Or it was simply easier. On Oscar’s marriage record his parents first names are Frederick and Pauline, so I looked on the Odessa 1904-5 directory for F. Chait. One property was at 9 Raskidailovskaya in Moldavanka.

raskidaiya-9-f-chait

9 Raskidailovskaya

The person I could not find at all was the 17-year-old sister who brought the two brothers to America, Leie Chait. There are marriage records for Michigan and Ohio but she does not appear. I tried the various surnames and any first name beginning with L – Leah, Lea, Lizzie, Lena. Had she returned to Odessa or simply disappeared through moving somewhere in the vast spaces of America and not filling out censuses?

The Schoichet (Шойхет ) and Janco (Янко) families

Two more brothers, Jacob, 10, and Isser Schoichet, 7, were travelling with Meier, 30, Sofia, 25, and Rose, 4, Janco from Odessa to New York in August 1912. Their address in Odessa was the Janco’s friend, Ester Schoichet, at 11 Gospitalnaya, one of the streets most affected by the pogrom in the heart of Moldavanka, possibly the boys’ aunt or grandmother.

 gospitalnaya-11-schoichet

11 Gospitalnaya

This was already five years after the pogrom but both families probably lost a relation in the pogrom, a young man, age 31, from Odessa, Moidel Israel Janco, and a 42-year-old from Tuchin, Yankel Duvid Schoichet. Meier Janco had left Odessa in 1903 and married Sophie Jacobs, also from Odessa, in New York, and they were returning to Odessa for a visit. The brothers were on their way to their father who had emigrated to Philadelphia and changed his name to Miller. It was difficult to read the initial of the father’s first name – a straight line with a loop at the top which could have been an I, S, L, or J. I couldn’t find any family in 1920 with two sons called Jacob and Isadore or Irving or another name with an I. There was one family with no mother and a father called Louis who had a son of the right age called Jacob which was a possibility. On the other hand, there may have been a mother and the two sons had stayed in Odessa longer for health reasons. Or the father may have married again. I did find a 1945 California naturalisation form for an Irving Eddie Miller, formerly Itzchok Schoichet. He was 43, so was born in 1902 and would have been 10 instead of 7 in 1912, if his age is correct. I also found the marriage record of his daughter, Constance, in 1952, which included the name of his wife, Lillian Kleinberg, from Hungary. There is also a World War I registration record for Jacob Miller, a carpenter in Philadelphia, the son of Louis Miller, but there are no more records for him which might clarify whether this was the Schoichet family from Odessa and no record of what happened to him after 1917.

The Janco family do appear in many records. Meier Janco received a US passport for himself, his wife and daughter for their trip to Odessa in 1912. He states that he was born in Odessa in 1882 and was a brass moulder. In 1914, Meier got another passport in his name alone and he says he was born in Botoshan, Romania. His profession is still brass moulder and he gives no reason for travelling abroad.

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Botosani 1900

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Botosani main square

Botosani, or in Yiddish,  Botochan, in north-east Romania, is the capital of a county and has an impressive main square, of which this photograph is only a small corner, flanked by 19th-century balconied houses similar to those in Odessa. In 1917 Meier received another passport in order to travel to Canada for his work as a salesman for a metal film box manufacturer. There is a supporting letter from someone at the Impco Indestructible Metal Products Company. In 1920 he was again applying for a passport, this time to travel to Poland, Italy and Switzerland en route to Romania in search of his parents. He has a letter of support from a friend who says that Meier has not heard from his parents, two brothers or any other relations since the beginning of the war and will be looking for them in Poland and Romania. In the 1920 census, Meier’s wife and daughter appear as lodgers at a house in Brooklyn. The couple may have separated as long ago as 1914 when Meier first applied for his own passport. In 1921, Meier had moved to the Bronx and in the move lost his passport. He explains this in a letter attached to his new application for a passport to travel for business purposes to Czechoslovakia, Romania and Switzerland and states that he has lived outside the United States, in Romania, Germany and France, for two periods of several months in 1920 and 1921. He appears on a ship’s manifest in March 1921 travelling from France to the United States saying that his last permanent residence was Paris and his nearest relative in the country from which he came is his mother who lives in Podonliloia, Romania, where he says he was born. On the 1921 passport, he declares that his father, Israel Janco, is deceased.

janco-passport-photo-1921-detail

Meier Janco

By the 1930 census, the daughter has married and her mother is living with the couple, using her maiden name, Sophie Jacobs. The last piece of the complex jigsaw of Meier’s life is a ship’s manifest from 22 December 1905, a month after the pogrom, on which Meier, age 22, was travelling with his sister Esther, 23 and his mother, Channe, 48, who must have returned to Odessa or Romania. The victim of the pogrom in the death records was Moidel Israelevich Janco, who could have been Meier’s older brother. On all of his passports Meier states that he emigrated to America in 1903 and had remained in America consistently since then until he was naturalised in 1912. He did emigrate in 1903 by himself to a brother in New York, but must have returned at some point between 1903 and 1905. Meier seems to have had a very complex relationship with both Russia and his home country of Romania, and possibly with the deaths of his brother and father, who he said he was looking for after the war but who had not emigrated with the family in 1905. He seems to have spent the years when he might have been concentrating on his family and creating a home with them, travelling and living throughout Europe possibly in a bid to find or recreate a lost family. As I wrote the date that Meier and his family left Odessa, 22 December 1905, I realised that they were on the same ship as the two lost boys, Abraham Weitzman and Isaac Ostrovsky. There were a dozen or so people from Odessa on the ship, but among hundreds of immigrants, these young people probably passed by each other on the decks like ships in the night, never knowing they had suffered and lost family in the same pogrom a few weeks before. Meier died in 1931 at the age of 44 having moved back to Brooklyn. His birthplace is listed as Russia.

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Odessa 1905 pogrom: handwritten list of murdered Jews

The next two entries are about things (documents, people, ghosts) I have not managed to find, but they suggest there is still more to find. In June 2011, a 12 page booklet The pogrom in Odessa on 18-22 October 1905 (Der blutiger pogrom in Odessa fun 18-22 oktober 1905 yor) by David Horowitz, Odessa 1906, was auctioned in Jerusalem (Kedem Auction House, Auction 15, Lot 521, 1 June 2011). The booklet came from the collection of Dr Israel Mehlman and included an additional 4 pages with the handwritten names and ages of Jews murdered during the pogrom. (https://www.kedem-auctions.com/search-page/Pogrom%20Odessa%201906%20leaves%20are%20unknown%20bibliographically)

Is this list copied from the original pogrom death records which are now in the Odessa archive? Was it done at the time or at some unknown time between 1905 and the present? Is it written in the original Russian Cyrillic or translated into Hebrew? Is it exactly the same list as in the records or have other names been added? Or is it a different list altogether? Were there other official lists, such as a police or government list? Or did someone in the Jewish community at the time make another list? The possibilities are endless. It would be fascinating to compile a larger list of those killed in the Odessa 1905 pogrom, if there are additional lists or if people know of others who were killed then. Possibly the owner of this booklet will find this blog and check whether his list is the same as the names in the records. Possibly other people have handwritten lists or know of official lists in records somewhere.

odessa-pogrom-horowitz

The pogrom in Odessa 1905, David Horowitz

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Maps of Eastern Europe

In the course of my search for the people listed in the Odessa pogrom death records, I have looked up many of the towns which were the birthplaces of those in the records, many of which were very difficult to find either because the spelling or name has changed. Often there were many variations over the years depending on whether the Russian, Ukrainian, Yiddish or Polish name was used. JewishGen has a town-finder database which lists many different names and spellings for towns throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. But still not every village or every spelling is covered. Another way to find the old names in the records are on old maps. Old maps of Odessa are useful for finding original street names and small villages around Odessa, but most of the people in the death records came from all over Ukraine, Bessarabia, Moldova and some as far north as what is now Belarus or Lithuania. Most of the oldest maps are lacking in detail, but from the late 19th century there are some incredibly detailed maps which seemed to get down to the level of individual trees. I would not have been surprised by individual blades of grass.

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Berdichev outskirts 1909

http://easteurotopo.org/indices/view/view.php?map=s84index&section=Berdichev

berdichev-street

gorodishche-very-close-up-1930

Gorodishche near Baranovichi (west of Minsk) 1930

http://www.mapywig.org/m/WIG_maps/series/025K/P35-S42-H_HORODYSZCZE_WSCHOD_1930.jpg

Old maps, either written in Russian or Polish, can be very helpful in finding small towns whose names, size or importance have changed dramatically over time. Towns that were once important Jewish centres of learning and commerce may have declined if they were not near railways as rivers were no longer so crucial for trade. My great grandparents were rabbis in the small town of Gorodishche (above) near Novogrudok in Belarus, which had been a thriving town, but almost ceased to exist when the main railway from Moscow to Warsaw came a few miles to the south and the town of Baranovichi was built. It is only by looking at earlier maps that one can discover that what are now tiny towns were once important centres. The same great grandparents originally came from what is now a village near Pinsk, Lubeshov, in a marshy area of northern Ukraine, well supplied with rivers and now a national park. On old maps it is quite a prominent town. The 1837  map below shows both Gorodishche south of Novogrudok and much further south, Lubeshov south of Pinsk.

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Minsk to Pinsk 1837

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Lyubeshov and surrounding marshes 1929

The 1837 map below shows many of the small towns and villages that the people in the Odessa pogrom death records originated from. Although many Jews had a hometown where their family had lived for generations, probably an equal number travelled from place to place whenever they heard of new jobs and opportunities.

odessa-area-1873

Odessa and its surroundings 1837

Listed below are the websites mentioned above of maps of Eastern Europe (although the David Rumsey collection is worldwide, including some brilliant very detailed maps of New York City from the late 1800s into the 1900s by G W Bromley.

bromley-map-1899-plate-25-clinton-street

Bromley New York City map 1899 E. Houston Street and Clinton Street

There are also two websites with historical maps of Odessa.

1837 map of Eastern Europe (close-up maps of Minsk area and Odessa area)

http://easteurotopo.org/images/regional%20maps%20of%20eastern%20europe/European%20Russia/Kriegsstrassen%20Karte%20eines%20Theiles%20von%20Russland_1837.jpg

Topographic maps of Eastern Europe – many from US Library of Congress and David Rumsey maps

http://easteurotopo.org/maps/  and links to other map sites

http://easteurotopo.org/indices/s84/alphabetical/ index of towns

Karte des westlichen Russlands (KdwR) Prussian military map 1917

includes Pinsk, Lubeshov etc in German

http://easteurotopo.org/indices/kdwr/

David Rumsey map collection

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/view/search?QuickSearchA=QuickSearchA&q=+Russia&sort=pub_list_no_initialsort%2Cpub_list_no_initialsort%2Cpub_list_no_initialsort%2Cpub_date&search=Search search page for Russian maps

Maps of Poland

http://igrek.amzp.pl/mapindex.php?cat=WIG25

close-up 1920s to 1930 maps of certain areas of western Russia which comes from this Polish website http://polski.mapywig.org/viewpage.php?page_id=29

Polish Jewish shtetls

http://www.sztetl.org.pl/en/selectcity/  includes those in western Russia

Historical maps of Odessa

http://www.citymap.odessa.ua/?30

http://www.retromap.ru/show_pid.php?pid=g4032

 

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