15 April 2010

I have been without the use of my left arm for 3 weeks now. One more week of rest from bookbinding is what the Dr ordered.

So in that time I decided to research my own family history some more.
It has been a difficult yet illuminating time.

I have been able to enlist the help of family all over the world, some I know well and others I have never formally met yet. We have been conference calling, poolling  all our resources together. Sometimes grasping at the tiniest bit of information to set off another lead. I have worked many hours into the night, looking for clues, any evidence or trace.

What makes it so very difficult for us is that most of the family on my fathers side was obliterated in The Holocaust. That means most records, photos and those who could have assisted my research are gone, lost forever.

There are ways to find information but most of those records, from the small Shtetlach - towns from where my families lived were burnt by the Nazis' so no trace of them could be found.

I decided it was time to log in to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Site and log all those family members of ours that they had documents on.

The image above is from when I was in Israel in January.
This is the room in which all written testimonies are stored.

It is a circular room and enormous.

In the black boxes, which are in alphabetical listing, are all the names of people who were killed and have been written, testified about, by family friends or neighbours.

The word you see on the boxes is Yizkor, meaning Remember.

So, quite by chance, on monday I wrote the number 62 on my facebook wall.

That was the number I was up to.

Downloading and printing both the original testimony from immediate family members who managed to survive and downloading and printing the detailed document of

where they were from,
who they were married to
how many children they had


where they were transported to
where they were finally killed.

As I kept logging in the numbers of IMMEDIATE family
I increased the number on my facebook wall.
People were curious but I could not bring myself to tell them what I was doing.

I stopped at 81

For now

These are some of the photos people attached to their written testimonies at Yad Vashem.

These make up a circular wall of images and testimonies behind the images within the room I referred to above.

The photos go up to the Heavens

It seems to never end

When one looks up this is what one sees.

My research has been extensive.
That is why I have been quiet on my blog.

This is too important to stop.
Those small minority of my family who survived have mostly died out now.

So I am racing against time to get any information I can.
The plethora of skype-ing and emails and conference calls have been helpful.
New leads have been found.

There may even been a photo, a last sighting of my fathers sister.
I am waiting for that to arrive.
My father wants to know.
My father needs to know.
Where exactly, the tragedy, for him happened.

Also, the last letter my grandmother wrote to my beloved Great Aunt, her sister  whilst she was sneaking food into her and her 2 children in The Warsaw Ghetto may have been found.

My grandmother wrote to her telling her not to sneak any more food parcels to her because they were going to be moved again.

When I get that letter, hopefully today, it may have have her address within the Ghetto.

If I know that address I can 100% confirm to my father to which extermination camp they went.

I spoke to a university lecturer today who wrote his thesis on the Jews from the area where my fathers family were from.
New information, that has only been released recently, lists my fathers mother, sister and brother on a specific transport. It was the first transport of its kind to the Ghetto.

He knows the street where those from that transport resided.
Those that lived on that street were exterminated at TREBLINKA.
It is 99% that this was the case for them.

I still want to see if the letter is addressed any different.
Researchers know which street of people went to specific extermination camps.
The trauma, for my father, of not knowing exactly where there final destination was has been too great for words.

At the bottom of the circular photo wall at Yad Vashems Hall of Rememberance,
one looks at this bottomless pit.
Water is at the base so when one looks at the reflection of the wall of photos, it seems endless.

Monday, when I typed the numbers of my family who perished, one by one, so happened to be the official Holocaust Rememberance Day. I did not realise till today as I go to a memorial service on the weekend.

It also seemed liked an endless pit, looking up names - most are spelt differently as they are transliterated. It can take hours to find a name - so many are the same. So checking the details and the source is vital.

Today my twin brother flew into Poland for a few hours.
He went to Auschwitz for a very special ceremony.

Today, my brother is the first one in the family to step on Polish soil and recite Kaddish
the memorial prayer for the dead.

I stopped my number at 81 so far.

If I were to hold up 81

in a mirror

I would see the number 18.

18 means "Chai", in Jewish numerology.
"Chai" means LIFE

We live on!

How pertinent that my brother is there, in Poland, at Auschwitz, saying the memorial prayer for the family.

Standing there, testament to the fact that Hitler's Final Solution did not succeed.

He is the evidence of that for our family today.



lisa said...

tears and choked up as i read your post, judy. i so hope you find all the answers you and your family are looking for. 81-18. BRILLIANT. TO LIFE, L'Chiam to you and yours.

Kim Logan said...

so incredibly compelling, i do hope you find the answers you seek for your family. i will be in Berlin in July..taking Ellie for her yearly European city birthday shop....if there is anything you want me to look up for you....email me.

Lynn said...

So often I come here and leave with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes and it is okay.

So many questions. How is it that your father survived? Was he a child sent to the countryside, another country, hidden in a home?
I wonder.

Yes, good to hear your bother is in Poland NOW. Such a doubly sad time there right now. This and the plane crash with the President and all the others who died.

Judy, I embrace you and all that you are doing for your family...but for all of us too.
We all need/must remember.
And you are such a light.

Your photos as I have said before are so moving.
Thank you for sharing all that you share.



BloggingQueen said...

Oh, Judeleh... I so wish I could hold hands with you at the memorial service. You do such great honor to your ancestors. And there must be a diamond of joy in your father's heart that you're working so hard to learn everything you can about what he lost.

neva gagliano said...

chilling waves pass through me.
very few words can i emit.
i will sit with this.
read again.
oh, the heart.


Leslie Avon Miller said...

I'm crying as I read this Judy. WWII was such a horrific tragedy, and will never be forgotten.

I celebrate with you that your family lived, and flourish. Is your Dad still alive now?

My Dad, my Uncle and my Father-in-Law all fought in that war as very innocent, very young men. They came home changed of course.

May it never happen again.

studioJudith said...

Remarkable work, Judy.
And yes,
much too important to stop.

Keep your momentum going -


Judy Wise said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Judy Wise said...

keep making me cry Judy, and heaven help me if I ever become numb to the horror.

as neva said, "oh, the heart".

ArtPropelled said...

Judy your post has moved me to tears. 81 and still counting is devastating. The circular wall with all the photographs spiralling up is .... beyond words. Yes your dad needs to know but oh so sad.

Studio Sylvia said...

So much sadness within these lines. Like a centrifugal force, I start reading and am pulled into the centre of the passage of words, just like the well. Oh Judy I can't express how I feel. Thinking of you with a prayer in my heart.

Cherie said...

The tears well ... there are no words ... realising the urgency of this search is ... shaking my head, reaching for a tissue ... you're a g*dsend, a wise knowing woman, you're a blessing Judy. xoxo

Samantha Marshall said...

It's just amazing- all the research. I'm absolutely fascinated by what you have been able to find out. x

Carol said...

Gosh, Judy, I'm sitting in a public library and crying. What a beautiful post, as they always are. I do hope your arm is getting fit for work - you have so much to say and share. XO

Harnett-Hargrove said...

So thoughtful, deep, committed. Your determination is inspirational. -J

A bird in the hand said...

Oh, Judy.
You know I feel for you, in a very visceral way. I hope you find the information you need to put your father's heart at rest.

Laurie Mika said...

Dear Judy,
Wow, you have been busy researching since I saw you...amazing what a little time away from your creative endeavors can do.....your family's story is so compelling, I couldn't stop reading. I showed my husband and he said that one of his students is in Poland right now as well for the memorial service. What an amazing trip for your twin...(didn't know you had a twin!) Anyway,thanks for being you!

suzenj@aol.com said...

Judi, having just done Yom Hashoah services I completely understand how important this is for you and your father. It was an honor to meet him and he has so much to be proud of in his wonderful daughter.
Have U also been to the Holocaust Memorial in Wash DC? Very similar with the wall of photos.
Gods watching over you...you'll find the info. I feel it.

Chrisy said...

I read and I weep and I marvel. What a precious gift you are darlin girl. You will find the missing pieces...I know it... Thank you for this post...

Kari of Writing Up A Storm said...

Oh, bless you, Judy, and your family, and all your family who suffered so much, going back so far in time. I sit before this post with bowed head, in tears. My mother gave me The Diary of a Young Girl when I was twelve years old, and I, wanting to be a writer, too, tried so hard to understand what cannot be understood. Bless you for giving us the hope of Life in the face of so much suffering. May you find something wonderful to set against this. But I think you have set your own precious life against this already, you are the glorious, shining proof that such madness can never triumph. xo Kari

Seth said...

Such a powerful and emotional post. I so admire your fire and passion for all things that are truly important. I hope you are able to find the answers to the questions you seek. And perhaps it is a blessing that your arm requires rest, as it has given you the time for this quest. Those pictures of Yad Vashem blow me away. And, my word verification for this comment is actually buriesid -- which somehow seems meaningful in this context.

Carmi said...

This post is just so overwhelming. Thank you for opening up your life to anyone who stops by.

Sara said...

Judy, there are no words.....bless you.

Riki Schumacher said...

What an amazing story Judy. I hope you find what you are looking for and have some closure of some kind. Who really can when it comes to this terrible era. I hope this journey can bring some peace to your father. Riki xox

Silver Artisan said...

I cry as I read, as I imagine your quest. Prayers.

lindaharre said...

Oh Judy.....what a gut wrenching experience! In some strange way I know it must bring closure to your father....but I am sure the process has been overwhelming to you:( Because of you many family trees have been given new life....you are such a pure artist from the inside out:) I admire you in more ways than you will ever know.....artful hugs, L.

Janine said...

What more can I say that hasn't already been said? You are truly amazing Judy. xo

Renee Troy said...

Absolutely awesome! Your journey is incredible. The level of caring and desire to know is astounding and the lengths to which you go to know is truly inspiring.
God bless you in your search for your family's past and thank you for sharing your journey.

sinnlighet said...

Thank you for your sweet comment on my blog, it makes me so happy.

Your post today is just wonderful, amazing and makes me dream!

Agneta, the swedish one;)

Jen Crossley said...

Hope your arm is okay Judy and the rest has done it some good.
Your research on your family history is heart wrenching

rivergardenstudio said...

Dear Judy, wow, what a journey into the past you are making, so sad, but so powerful. Good luck with your research, and in resting your arm. Your heart is never quiet. Sending love and hopes and dreams. roxanne

Pilar said...

Dear Judy,

When I am feeling blue or have feel a loss in the human spirit, I come here to rejoice in the celebration of life. The work you have and continue to do to preserve the history of your family and those who perished in the Holocaust reminds me how precious life is and how it is a truly a gift to live it. The various monements you have shared from your travels to honor those who have past reminds me of we are all connected by our breath and our path. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Yaya Chique, Home of debi lynn designs said...

Hey girlfriend! What a beautiful and loving tribute to not only your ancestors---but your father! I can't wait to see where this leads. xo....deb

emily said...

I have always been moved by sheer brutality of the Holocaust and baffled by the horrible efficiency of it all. To read your personal journey about your father's family is truly humbling and a reminder to all of us that we must never just file this under "historical events" and move on. Thank you for sharing.

kL said...

this must be so hard for you and your family and yet so powerful to be finding the answers to such painful and tragic questions.
love & hugs.

Diana said...

Oh my goodness, Judy...what a journey you are on. I can't even imagine the horrificness of all of this. I, too, hope that you and your family find some peace and closure with your discoveries. I also pray that your arm continues to heal. I experienced a frozen shoulder last year which took several months to heal so can identify with you there. Take care of your sweet self.

Chris said...

Thank you, Judy. I have traced some of my family, so few of whom I know, and the journey is exhilerating and sad and haunting and hopeful and very rewarding. Your journey is so much more challenging and poignant, and I'm very appreciative of you for taking the time to share it like this and to be open.
Chris M

Joie Moring said...

honoring your family this way is such a gift...the way you present each piece of information is artful and priceless. best of luck to you.

Kim Palmer said...

Good luck with the research Judy, I hope you find the information you are seeking. Perhaps it is fortuitous that you needed to rest up that arm now. It is such a moving story, the pain and loss must be horrific for you and your family. Remember indeed.

layers said...

What a powerful and sad story of your family history-- a history for the world to never forget- of course it is important to pursue and explore and find out so much more for your own story to connect to your art work.

rscoach said...

Judy my friend and sister - tears roll down my cheeks - tears of sadness and tears of joy - that your brother was able to stand on the soil of your ancestors and honor their existence - and that life prevails - how I wish I could do the same for my family - thank you for sharing this - much love - Reva (Los Angeles)

Maija said...

Your story is not only fascinating, it brings tears to my eyes as I feel your lost and longing.

barbara said...

what a beautiful tribute to your family.
yes, we must always remember.
continue your work...you will always be grateful that you did.
how beautiful that you saw the 81/18 correlation.
best wishes on your journey

Samm said...


I always read your blog but dont often post comment... today I am covered with goosebumps after reading of your search. I can only wish you good luck with it all. I cannot begin to comprehend such loss but can read and learn from you and others with similar stories. I am also addicted to my genealogy mystery but, I am aware, with far different results.
Hope all goes well.

lisa mitchell said...

Judy, my feelings echo so many of the other comments already here...
What you are doing is so powerful, the energy guiding you, you are moving so many to heal.
Much serendipity...and grace
It leaves me speechless.
it's amazing.

ps. 18 is my favourite # :)
(was born on the 18th).

Anonymous said...

Dearest Judy
You are a marvel, your creations, your amazing books, your love for your family...may G_d help you find out more in your research.
I am not Jewish, but I love the Jews as a most beautiful people and nation. My husband is a quarter Jewish but does not practice Judaism. When I went to purchase the edition of 'Cloth, Paper, Scissors' at JoAnne's Fabrics here in the states I told the sales clerk about your wonderful compilations of your heritage including the Holocaust. She looked at me and said "It's over." I was speechless at her obviously, heartless comment. I cried when I got home. We all have our choices to make and being heartless is one thing I will never be. May G_d have mercy on that woman's soul as she will face Him some day.
Keep your head up girl, you will have already been an amazing blessing to so many.
Teresa in California and in Cloth and Clay Doll ning site.