30 June 2009

Poland: Finding a grave via an old tape

Most families have them. There are both packrats and thrower-outers. This story demonstrates why it is important to keep things from the past.

The bottom line of this story, as Dr. Isaac Perle says, "It's good for other people to know that they can be successful in looking for and finding their ancestors."

The story details how a two-decades' old tape helped a Boston man find the graves of his grandparents, who were murdered in the Holocaust.

"All of my mother's relatives, besides one surviving sister, were killed by the Nazis," explained Dr. Isaac Perle in a phone interview with The Jerusalem Post this week. His great-grandparents, Faivel and Hinda Schattan, died in the Lodz Ghetto in 1941 and 1942.

"About 75 people would go into the back of the van" the Nazis would herd them into, Perle explained. Inside they were gassed and "driven into the woods, where the bodies were burned."

Perle's mother and aunt escaped to America, never to be heard from and did not form any connection with their lost relatives.

But recently, an unlikely set of circumstances paved the way for Perle and his family to discover the graves of Faivel and Hinda.

In 1988, Perle's father, Bendet Perle, traveled to Poland. He brought a cassette tape recorder with him and recorded his impressions and memories, unearthed by the familiar location. On his return to the US, the tape was put into storage.
Long after his father died, Isaac made a DVD about a trip he took himself to Poland. During that process, he found his father's tape and added it to the DVD. As the family listened, they realized there was important information on the tape.

"My father was at the cemetery discussing the location of my mother's grandparents' grave," Isaac recalled. His mother, Helen, then contacted the Lodz Jewish Cemetery. "They ended up finding the original files," he said.
The grandparents were buried in marked graves, but lacked headstones adding to the difficulty in locating them. individual graves in the cemetery. This week, Isaac, his mother, siblings and nephew, will travel to Poland to visit the graves. They plan to erect a headstone. Isaac also plans to take some earth from where his great-grandparents were killed and put it on his father's grave in Israel.

His mother Helen, 81, said

"The reason that I survived Bergen-Belsen is so that I should be able to place a headstone for my grandparents together with my children and grandchildren," she said. She wants to memorialize her grandparents together with their children and grandchildren.
Read the complete story at the link above.

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