It is late at night, has been a long day, an emotionally challenging day, but I wanted to get back to my cousin in Israel, so I dropped him an email just now. He has been searching for the traces of our family and recently found some real clues. The hamlet our people came from, on a fork in a marsh south of the Pina River a short ferry ride from Pinsk, has been erased from history, wiped off the map– the people who lived there and the name of the hamlet that all those who lived there called it by.
Truvovich was the name, wiped from every map in existence, as far as my cousin, and I, and a friend who lives in Poland and is a pretty fair researcher himself (and who searched in Polish), have been able to ascertain. Between us we turned up one map, with a Jewish star and the letter T at the place we suspect may have been that site where one of my grandmothers, and one of my cousin’s grandfathers, were born. The link I sent my cousin to that map no longer exists, though we have my screen shot of the pertinent section of the map.
This takes us into the realm of What the Fuck? We know the Nazis were fucked up, that the einsatzgruppen, the special killing units that followed the Wermacht, the army, as the secret police state was imposed in one occupied territory after another, were merciless (until they started going mad, becoming alcoholics, became unable, most of them, to continue murdering unarmed civilians and their children, usually by shooting them into ditches).
The Final Solution, with its mechanized extermination camps, was put in place partly because the number of Jews and others believed by those insane Nazi fucks to be genetic poison was too great to be wiped out by shooting alone, and partly because the killers they sent to massacre these folks just couldn’t keep doing it, psychologically. Those rare sadists among them who loved to kill became another kind of problem. Easier to just put them in charge of a crew in one of the death camps, where their perversion would be a virtue.
But I am getting ahead of the story. At one time all of my family members were alive and supremely insecure in the impoverished little shit hole in the marsh where they lived. Of two of them, Harry Aaron (who I always knew as Uncle Aren) and my grandmother, Chava, I know what can be known. Aren fled the Russo-Japanese war, made a life for himself in America, had three children, all of whom I knew. My cousin in Israel is the son of Aren’s daughter. I remember Aren too, he lived until I was eleven. Chava, Aren’s youngest sister, begat my father and my uncle and died in Peekskill a few years before I was born. There was a cousin, Dintsche, who had two kids in America, both still around,
Beyond that, the fate of the rest of our family is a statistic. The einsatzgruppen rounded up all the Jews of Pinsk, and the outlying areas, and wiped them out in two major aktions, a few months apart, in 1942. The details are here.
It is late, and airless, the humidity is like a continual punch in the face. Outside the sky is black. I haven’t the strength at the moment to follow all the thoughts that led me to begin to write this. Except to note the mystery, as we are alive here in this wink of an eye, and the need to know. The desire, like a serious thirst, to find something out, to learn even a single detail. It is too maddening to know nothing.
Recently my cousin learned that one of his great-uncles, a man I’d heard of as Volbear, a man he names Wolf Bear on his family tree, is listed in Yad Vashem as killed in 1942. This was big news, to see the testimony, our ancestor’s name in writing. The testimony consisted of a few names: Wolf Bear’s (born 1888), his wife Tzirel’s (age unknown), their two children, Leah Reizel, 14, and Yisrael, 10, and the year they died in the slaughterhouse that was Nazi-occupied Belarus in 1942. This is far more detail than we have about the fate, and lives, of Aren and Chava’s other brother Yudle or their sister Chaska.
The other day my cousin sent me this photo, taken in 1938, found among his mother’s papers (she lived to 104!). The niece and nephew of our common ancestor, named for the matriarch and patriarch as far back as our family tree goes (four generations). Those ancient ancestors would be my great-grandparents on my mother’s side, Leah and Azriel . The nephew and niece in this photo are Azriel and Leah. Look at them:
1938, before Hitler’s war, the war the madman insisted the Jews made him start. Their photo, taken that year, came with a note, in Yiddish, which my cousin had translated into Hebrew. My cousin wrote: they state that life is difficult and they are looking for help.