16 April 2007

A 60-year-old treasure is found in Poland

A collection of family pictures, hidden in the chimney wall of a Polish house in Chelm before the Holocaust, were returned to their Israeli family 60 years later.

"A month ago, on the evening of his mother's death, Pini Beeri received a phone call from a stranger. "I have something that will interest you," said the stranger, who identified himself as Zvi Lander. "Can we meet?"

Beeri apologized that he could not, his mother was on her deathbed. Indeed, she died six hours later. Lander arrived at the house between the funeral and the shiva, and handed over an album of 178 previously unseen photographs: photos of the murdered family of Beeri and his sister, Riki Ariel."

Until then, Beeri's mother only had one picture of her parents, and now they have photos of their grandparents, aunts and uncles and much more.

To see 100 of the recovered photographs and help identify them, click here

Familes mentioned in the story include ARIEL, BODEN, BEREZOWSKY, BEERI, WEIKSELFISH, and LANDER.

How were these images rediscovered? A group of young Poles in Chelm are attempting to preserve the town's Jewish traditions. Today a bar sits where the synagogue used to; the group wants to turn the building into a museum in honor of the destroyed Jewish community.

Chelm was one of the oldest Polish Jewish communities, dating back to the 12th century. Its Jewish cemetery dates to the 1300s and is being restored, in an effort funded by the town's survivors.

A computer programmer whose father was born in Chelm, Lander visited the town a year ago and was handed, by a local history teacher, a CD with 178 photographs found in her home during renovation. Lander didn't know who was shown in the photos, but he brought them to Israel.

The breakthrough came when he saw that one of the photos showed a sign, Warsaw Laundry and the name of P. Boden. Lander looked in the Yad Vashem archives and found the name of Pearale Boden Berezowsky, and brought the photos to her son.

The photos are a microcosm of normal Jewish life, and in contrast to the traditional depiction of a religious Polish Jewish community, "these images show stylish men in sharp suits, next to beautiful girls and fancy cars, playing sports, picnicking, in the countryside on Shabbat or on the busy town streets."

Most of the people in the pictures are unidentified, not family members. Do you recognize anyone? Read the complete story, then visit the photograph gallery to see how you can help.

To read more, click here.

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