Tag Archives: holocaust

Bring It Home

Today was Yom HaShoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day) in Israel. While there are many ways to commemorate the Holocaust, and those family members we lost, I wanted to bring to people’s attention a very interesting attempt at remembering those who were lost.

Menorah rescued from Budapest flea market, now being used in Israel.

We know the Nazis stole an incredible amount of artwork from Jewish families during the Holocaust, from valuable paintings, to even Judaica. While the Nazis were known to steal expensive Judaica such as gold menorahs or silver candlesticks, what happened to the everyday ritual items that most Jewish families used? Certainly the Nazis didn’t bother to collect cheap Judaica and send it by train somewhere – so where did it go?

Kiddush cup rescued from flea market.

Some of the Judaica might have been taken with Jews when being sent by trains to death camps, some may have been sold cheaply in an attempt to raise some money before fleeing, but most of it was likely left behind in their homes. What happened to the Judaica left behind? Either it was looted following the mass deportations, or the people who moved into the homes left behind by the Jews just took it when they moved in. Maybe they sold it, maybe they stuck it in a box and stuck it in the attic, maybe they just threw it in the garbage. No one knows exactly what happened to all of that Judaica, but we do know that there are likely millions of such ritual objects from candlesticks to menorahs to spice boxes to seder plates that once existed and many of them may still exist.

Which brings me to Bill Frankel. On a trip to to Budapest, he stopped by the very large Esceri flea market in that city. While wandering around looking at the various wares for sale, he started noticing things like kiddush cups, menorahs, Torah yads, spice boxes, etc. Hundreds of them. When he would show interest in a Jewish piece, the dealers would inevitably pull ut a box from under their table with more Jewish objects. The supply was endless.

A strange mixture of items for sale in the Esceri flea market.

On the trip Bill Frankel bought several objects, but determined that more of these Jewish ritual objects needed to ‘come home’. Moreover, he didn’t want these objects to end up in museums or on display somewhere in some exhibit – he wanted them to be used again by Jewish families. With this idea he founded Bring It Home, a charity with exactly that goal.

Bring It Home was founded to facilitate finding these items, purchasing or otherwise acquiring Jewish ritual objects in Europe, distributing them to new Jewish homes, and creating an educational experience for those who get involved in the process.

Bring It Home is brand new, and are still putting together their marketing materials, organizing their first buying trip, etc., and need funds to get off the ground. To that end, the charity has started a fundraising campaign through crowdfunding site indiegogo. They’re looking to raise $10,000, and they have two weeks left in the campaign. To see the current status, go to the campaign website, or check the widget below (and then go to the web site).

There are many ways to memorialize those killed in the Holocaust, but I think this is one of the more interesting and personal ways that one can commemorate those killed – by facilitating the return of these lost ritual objects, and putting them back into use by Jewish families worldwide.

Database of Polish Victims of the Nazis


There’s an interesting database listing Polish victims of the Nazis, organized by a group of Polish government and non-government organizations, and sponsored mainly by Polish media organizations.


The site is connected to three Polish organizations: the Institute of National Remembrance, the Foundation for Polish-German Reconciliation, and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. It is also sponsored by a number of Polish media organizations, including the Polish Press Agency and several Polish TV stations.

The site, Straty.pl, is unfortunately only available in Polish. Luckily, it’s not too hard to use without knowledge of Polish, especially if you use Google Chrome and the built-in Translate feature. Even without Translate, you can get around the site. This is what the search page looks like:

Straty.pl Search Page
A quick translation of the fields:

Nazwisko (Surname)
Imię (Given name)
Imię ojca (Father’s name)
Imię matki (Mother’s name)
Miejsce urodzenia (Place of birth)
Data urodzenia (Day of birth)
Data śmierci (Day of death)
dzień (day)
miesiąc (month)
rok (year)

SZUKAJ is Search, and CZYSC is Clear.

You can search for a surname alone, but apparently not a town alone. If a surname has too many hits, it will force you to fill in additional search fields to help pare down the umber of results.

Victims listed in the database include Polish soldiers who were killed, prisoners of war, resistance fighters, concentration camp prisoners, those persecuted for reasons of race (aka Jews and Gypsies), those executed by the Nazis, those sentenced to death by German courts, slave laborers, displaced persons, children, civilian casualties (such as from bombing raids), etc.

This list is not exclusively, nor even predominately, Jewish. The site was not set up as a memorial to Jewish victims of the Nazis, but rather as a database of Polish victims of the Nazis, some of which happened to be Jewish. In fact, one looking at the site might wonder if Jewish names in the database are more of an afterthought than a primary section of the database.

There are many sources of data in the database, and each listing will tell you which source they came from, which can help you track down further information. Data sources I’ve noticed include:

International Tracing Service (Bad Arolsen) (http://www.its-arolsen.org/)
Jewish Historical Institute (http://www.jhi.pl/)
Polish Red Cross (http://www.pck.pl/)
State Archive in Krakow (http://www.ank.gov.pl/)

Obviously this database is not complete, and it’s not going to be 100% accurate (and certainly not complete when it comes to Jewish names). It is still useful to supplement the other existing databases out there, and to give you some direction on possible research routes. For example, if you see records from the International Tracing Service, you can contact them to get more information on the person you find.

You can also contribute data to the database, although I have not tried to do this. They have a questionnaire that you can fill out on individuals, listing their name, parents’ names, birth date and location, nationality, religion, place of residence before the war, education, occupation, political organization membership, social activities, etc. This is, unfortunately like the rest of the site, only available in Polish. I’m not sure what would happen if you filled out the form in English.

Of course, when searching for information on Jewish victims of the Nazis, the most important database is the Yad Vashem Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names. One important distinction between these databases, beside Straty.pl’s focus on Poles and Yad Vashem’s focus on Jews (with obvious overlap), is that Straty.pl’s database contains victims who are not necessarily people who were killed. Prisoners of camps, etc. even if they were not murdered, are contained in their database.

For example, the database includes two people with the surname Trauring, the couple Ferdynand and Stefania Trauring, who I know to appear on Shindler’s lists. They show up in the Straty.pl database as prisoners of the Gross-Rosen sub-camp in Brunnlitz, which happens to be where prisoners working in Oskar Schindler’s factory were interned. Whether this couple survived the war or not, they are listed in the Straty.pl database as having been prisoners. That’s an important distinction.

A look at progress on the USHMM records indexing

Back in May I wrote about how the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Ancestry.com had teamed up to index some of the USHMM’s millions of records online. The indexes would be created via volunteers using special software provided by Ancestry.com, and the indexes would be be freely available on Ancestry.com (although not the images which would only be viewable on site at the USHMM itself). This project was dubbed the World Memory Project (similar to their existing volunteer indexing project the World Archives Project) and the first results were introduced some months later.


The World Memory Project currently has over 2400 volunteers and has indexed over a million records. The databases that are currently available include:


All of the databases can be searched at once through the main search page.