Families from Mlynov and Mervits


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Israel Jacob and Rivkah (Gruber) Demb. Courtesy of Ted Fishman.
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The Demb Children from Mlynov. Contributions from Demb descendants.
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Shiman and Anna (Fishman) Goldseker. Courtesy of Audrey Goldseker Polt.
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The Family of Shimon and Anna Goldseker 1906.[1] Courtesy of Audrey Goldseker Polt.
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Toba, wife of Berel Fishman (no photo). Courtesy of Audrey Goldseker Polt.
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The Children of Berel and Toba Fishman. Courtesy of Audrey Goldseker Polt and Irene Siegel.
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Tsodik and Pearl Malka (Demb) Shulman. Courtesy of Ted Fishman and Howard Schwartz.
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The Family of Moshe and Goldie Herman. Courtesy of Debra Weinberg and Lynne Sandler.
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Schwartz Brothers, Chaim, Morris and Israel. Courtesy of Howard Schwartz, Audrey Goldseker Polt and Myra Schein.
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Chaim Schwartz and Yetta (Demb) Schwartz. Courtesy of Howard Schwartz.



The following summaries of families from Mlynov and Mervits have been collected both to honor our ancestors from these villages and to provide a window into what life was like when they were there. Discussion covers mobility of residents and the background on the following families: Bergers, Dembs, Faxes, Fishmans, Gelbergs, Goldbergs, Goldsekers / Holtzekers, Hermans, Halperins (see Hirsch family), Hirschs, Hurwitz / Rivitzes, Katz Family (see Wurtzel), Mohel Family, Nudlers, Polishuks, Schuchmans, Schwartzes, Shargels, Shulmans, Steinbergs, Teitelmans, Wurtzel/ Vortsel Family, among others to be added.


Imagining Life in Mlynov and Mervits

Because of the paucity of data contemporaneous with the lives of those living in Mlynov, we have to exercise other ways to imagine what life may have been like when our ancestors lived there. All of the first hand accounts of life in Mlynov or Mervits, including those in the memorial book, come from memoirs of people thirty to fifty years after they lived there. And while they are invaluable recollections of the place and life there, they are after the fact and are recollections tinged by the challenging history that happened afterwards.

One of the best ways to reimagine life in Mlynov and Mervits, therefore, is to grasp what we do know about the families who lived there and left there once upon a time. When doing so, what is striking is the robust interconnectedness of all the families. Every family it seemed had married every other one. When you realize that these townlets were smaller than typical American high schools today, it makes perfect sense that this deep intermingling occurred. Whom else would they marry? I have found three first cousin marriages among the families I have researched as well as marriages between an uncle and a niece, a child and her uncle's brother, a boy and his aunt's niece, and so on. The interconnectedness across families was deep and pervasive.


Mobility in Mlynov and Mervits

Not only were Mlynov and Mervits small, but there was much less general mobility than today. In the 19th century, trains were starting to connect the nearby cities of Dubno and Rivne which Mlynov residents visited occassionally to purchase nice goods for the Jewish holidays, or to catch a train to a port when visiting or emigrating to the US. The reliance on horse and wagon and walking made such trips infrequent, except for those engaged in commerce. Reflections in the Memorial book refer to coachmen who used to transport grain from Mlynov's mill to Dubno and other neighboring towns and bring groceries from surrounding towns back to Mlynov.

Market days may also have been a source of local mobility. "They occurred once a week and hundreds of people, mostly farmers from the area and Jewish businessmen would come to the market square. A large variety of items were sold, such as tools, supplies, food and drinks. Some Jewish families made their weekly earnings from this one single day at the market."[3]

It is not surprising, giving the small nature of the towns, and the limits on mobility, that so many of the marriages of young men and women took place with others they knew from Mlynov and Mervits. The young people from the town of Mervits socialized with their counterparts in Mlynov leading eventually to marriages like that of Ben Fishman from Mervits, who married Clara Shulman, from Mlynov. Subsequent DNA tests seem to bear out the interrelatedness of many Mlynov descendants who don't otherwise appear in the same family trees. A funny story in the Memorial book recalls that at the wedding of Sonia and Mendel Teitelman the local rabbi had a difficult time finding witnesses who were not related to the bride and groom.

Still, we do find some marriages between Mlynov born individuals and those in other towns and villages and we do see some mobility of families from these towns. Moshe Gruber, for example, left Mlynov and travelled to yeshivot (centers of learning) in Ludmir (Volodymyr-Volynskyi) to find a learned scholar to marry his daughter Rivkah. Pearl Malka Demb married Tsodik Shulman from Lithuania who, the family suspects, may have been passing through Mlynov when serving in the Russian army. Pearl's younger sister, Mollie Demb, married Samuel Roskes who came from the town of Lutsk and Ida Rivitz married Getzel Fax from Demydivka.

In the next generation, we find what appears to be increased mobility. By 1902, David and Bessie Rivitz's oldest daughter, Gulza, for example, had moved with her husband Leizor Mazuryk (Louis Mazer) to Berestechko for commerce opportunities closer to the Austria-Hungary border. Simha Gruber, with his two sons, Samuel and Nathan, were in Novohrad-Volyns'kyi presumably for business around 1912, and Simha's brother, Motel Demb, apparently settled there and married a local girl. For his part, Simha, apparently was in Berdichev (today Berdychiv, Ukraine) in 1912, but back in Mlynov by 1913. This mobility likely exposed Mlynov Jews to a variety of the impulses shaping Jewry during the period of the Tsarist regime. For example, by 1897, Berdichev, which Simha visited in 1913, already had a population of 53,728, and 41,617 (about 80%) were Jewish. To a Mlynov born son, this must have felt like going to London or New York. Berdichev thus crystalized some of the key conflicts in the Jewish community of the time being the center of conflict between Hasidic and enlightenment-oriented Mitnagdim (Oppposers).[4]

Traditional religious education was also a source of mobility during the period. For example, Mendel Teitelman from Mervits describes studying in the yeshiva in Baranovitch (today Baranavichy, Belarus) during WWI when the Germans occupied the city during an offensive on the Eastern Front. Mendl was moved, along with his friend Simha Zutelman, to army barracks near Ostrov where they were assigned to heavy labor parties supporting local noblemen for the duration of the War. Before the War, he recalls, having studied in a yeshiva in Rovno and Stolpts as well.[5] One can get a sense of mobility at this time, from the distances of the various towns that people from Mlynov and Mervits mention and visited.

Known Mobility of Mlynov / Mervits residents

Name of City/Town Contemporary Town Name KM from Mlynov Miles from Mlynov Driving Time Today Details
Demydivka Demydivka, Ukraine 23 14 25 min Getzel Fax was from Demydivka and married Ida Rivitz from Mlynov. They were the pioneers to Baltimore. A photo in the Memorial book shows members of the Zionist Youth Group from Mlynov in Demydivka playing volleyball. Shmuel Mandelkern also recalls collaborating with Demydivka residents following the Bolshevik Revolution when both towns were organizing self-defense.
Baranovitch Baranavichy, Belarus 409 254 5 hrs Mendel Teitleman from Mervitz studied in yeshiva here in WWI when Germans occupied the city.
Boremel Boremel', Ukraine 38 24 40 The Mohel children were born in Boremel and came to Mlynov in the 1920s when their father was hired as the third schohet in town. (see the Mohel story)
Berdichev Berdychiv, Ukraine 288 179 4 hrs Simha Gruber was in Berdichev in 1912 and back in Mlynov by 1913 according to records.
Berestechko Berestechko 38 23 48 min The oldest daughter of David and Pesse (Demb) Rivitz, Gulza Mazuryck, moved to Berestechko with her husband before 1902.
Dubno Dubno, Ukraine 22 14 22 min Clara Fram reports in her Memoir that her father, David Rivitz (later Hurwitz), left for America and returned via the train station at Dubno. Dubno was also where her mother, Pessie (Demb) Rivitz went to purchase nice things for the holidays. Sonia (Gruber) Teitelman in "Joys and Sorrows in Mervits" recalls that brides would travel to Dubno to get wedding dresses. Survivor Ezra Sherman recalls walking by himself from Dubno, where his father had moved, back to Mlynov to visit his grandmother.
Ludmir Volodymyr-Volynskyi 113 70 1 hr Moshe Gruber brought back Israel Jacob Demb from Ludmir to marry his daughter Rivkah.
Lutsk Lutsk, Ukraine 36 22 37 min Mollie Demb from Mlynov married Sam Roskes from Lutsk before 1901. Bassa Tatelbaum (also spelled Ferteybaum) married a Isadore Barditch from Lutsk and moved there. They were the parents of Sylvia (Barditch) Goldberg who was on the editorial book of the Memorial book. Syvlia writes about how much she liked leaving her crowded city of Lutsk and going to the rural community of Mlynov to visits her grandparents. Sylvia describes a wedding ceremony between a Mlynov woman and a Lutsk man in the Memorial book.
Novograd Novohrad-Volyns'kyi 150 99 2 hrs Simha Gruber (née Demb), his two sons, Nathan and Samuel, were in Novograd in 1912 possibly for business. Simha's brother Motel Demb married a local girl and had a child here.
Ostrog Ostroh, Ukraine 90 56 1 hr 10 m Liba Tesler's father, Abraham Kotel, came to Mlynov from Ostrog after receiving his draft notice. He acquired false papers and took the name Avrum Tesler. See David Sokolsky's, Monument: One Woman's Courageous Escape from the Holocaust, p. 18.
Ostrozhets Ostrozhets', Ukraine 26 16 30 m Moshe Fishman indicates that his father's sister married Rabbi Benjamin Putcher (or Futcher) from Ostrozhets a brother of Aaron who lived in Mlynov.
Radzivilov Radyvyliv, Ukraine 73 45 56 m Avraham Gelberg from Mlynov married a woman from Radzivilov and moved there to live with her family before migrating to the US.
Rovno Rivne, Ukraine 94 58 40 min When a refugee in WWI, Helen Lederer (née Gelberg) recalls how her family wandered to Rovno after trying to find shelter in closer towns. The Shulmans from Mlynov list Rovno as their last residence before heading to Baltimore in 1921. After the Liberation by the Russians, a number of the Mlynov survivors went to Rovno to get behind the front lines for safety, as reported by Fania (Mandelkern) Bernstein in "Mlynov After the Liberation of the Soviet Army"
Stolpts Stowbtsy, Belarus 46 290 5.5 hrs Mendel Teitleman from Mervits studied in yeshiva here before 1914.
Trovits Torhovytsya, Ukraine 19 12 40 min Shmuel Mandelkern describes heading to Trovits, among other towns, for a wedding in the winter as part of an effort to raise money to send Yaakov-Yosi to the Land of Israel.
Varkoviche [alt. Warkowicze] Varkovychi, Ukraine 34 21 29 min Helen Lederer (née Gelberg) describes being a refugee from Mlynov during WWI and walking to Varkovitchi in her essay in the Memorial Book. So too Eliyahu Gelman recalls that his father fled Mervits to Varkoviche during WWI. According to family memories in the Goldberg family, Sura Gelberg's met her future husband, Sam Spector, in Varkoviche before he left for America. According to family memories in the Steinberg family , Steinberg survivors had a sister, Faiga, who married a man named Shtivel Falik and moved to his home town in Varkoviche. Her sister Bunia used to travel to Varkoviche to help her sister. They and their two children perished there.

We can assume that mobility was motivated by a variety of factors: commerce opportunities elsewhere that drew young families away, traditional education in the yeshivas, WWI which led to an evacuation of Mlynov at one point, and probably by the internal turmoil in Russia during its first revolution which reached as far as Mlynov. Russia also pursued a policy of "selective integration" and Jews who pursued higher education were able to move beyond the pale to large cities such as St. Petersburg.[6] For the most part, the impact of these larger macro trends in Russian history on the residents of Mlynov and Mervits has to be inferred and imagined since so little is left of contemporaneous accounts or records.

For this reason, one important window into life in Mlynov before WWI and WWII is by understanding who married whom, who stayed and who left, and when. Many were lucky enough to leave when they did in the first European Jewish migration from Russia to the United States, between 1890 and 1914. Another wave followed after WWI between 1920–1929. The migration to Palestine appears to have picked up speed in the 1920s due in part to dislocation and violence from WWI experiences, the growing popularity of Zionism, and the quotas imposed on immigration to the United States, which drastically reduced immigration from Eastern Europe!

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A large Berger family from Mlynov made their way to Chicago between 1910–1914. I originally stumbled on the Berger family name on the 1926 passenger manifest of another Mlynov boy named Isaac Wulaj (soon to be Isadore Wallace) who had passed through Buenos Aires on his way to the US. He was heading to someone named Sol Berger in Chicago. Was Sol Berger also from Mlynov and if so when and why did he land in Chicago?

What I discovered was a fascinating saga of a Mlynov family that had been split between Mlynov, Chicago and Palestine, a family that would produce a significant Chicago politician, a young soldier who scaled the cliffs of Normandy during the invasion of WWII, and an expert sheep breeder in Palestine. I found, too, that many of the surviving photos we have today of Mlynov were taken by one of the Berger descendants who went back to Mlynov in 1938, shortly before WWII started.

These Bergers were all descended from four Berger brothers who were born in Mlynov (Tevel, Faivel, Wolf, and Ben Zion). Their father, Nuta Bir Berger, is listed in the 1850 census and 1858 census showing this Berger line had been in Mlynov for quite some time.

The Chicago Bergers

The first Bergers who settled in Chicago were the children of Ben Zion and Zelda Berger. Zelda was herself from the large Hirsch family in Mlynov. Ben Zion and Zelda married by 1892 when their first daughter Sheindel (Sarah Berger) was born. They had three other children: Chava Berger (Eva Neistein) (1884–1947), Nathan Berger (1889–1958), and Samuel (Symon) Berger (1894–1986).

Their son, Nathan (Nuchim), was the first of this Berger family to arrive in the US, landing in Baltimore in May 1912, before heading to Chicago. He was following his sister's husband, "Pinchus Neustein" (Paul Neistein) from Lutsk, who had arrived in Chicago in 1910. Nathan was joined two years later by his widowed mother, Zelda, and his two sisters, Sara and Eva Neistein, and Eva's two children, who arrived in the US in May 1913. Nathan's brother, Symon (Samuel), was supposed to be traveling with the large group of travelers, but his name was scratched out on the manifest, apparently being delayed for some reason; he would arrive a month later.

Accompanying the large Berger group of travelers were two other Mlynov immigrants: Yankel Wulach and Ruchel Steinberg. Yankel Wulach (soon to be Jacob Wallace) was also headed to the home of Eva's husband, Paul Neistein, and lists him as a nephew. Ruchel Steinberg, the other traveler, was the daughter of Abraham Steinberg and Sarah Hannah (Shulman), and a niece of Tsodik Shulman. She was headed to her brother Symon Steinberg who was living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At this point in time, Ruchel was probably already betrothed to Nathan Berger, who arrived already, and she would soon marry him and become Rose Berger.

Among the first generation of cousins born in the Berger family in Chicago were: Ben Berger, who would become a hero in WWII, and Bernard Neistein, who would become a powerful Chicago political boss in the rough and tumble politics under Chicago Mayor Daly.

The Children of Wolf and Golda Berger

Another young Berger man, Israel "Sol" Berger, arrived in Chicago during July 1914 just before the outbreak of WWI. "Sol", as he would come to be called in America, was 17 at the time he followed his first cousins to America. Sol was the eldest son of Wolf Berger and Golda (Kentor) who had married by 1897/98 when Sol was born. Sol's four other siblings included Shaul (1901–?) Hannah Berger (1903–1942), Kalman (Karl) (1906–1990), Aaron Harari (1908–1984), and Rosa (Berger) Chizik (1910–1994).

As we shall see, only one of Sol's siblings followed him to the US. Two of his other siblings made aliyah in the 1930s. Read more of the Berger Story.

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When Rivkah Gruber was eleven years old, and was of marrying age, her father Moshe Gruber left Mlynov and "traveled to various Yeshivohs [centers of learnings] to find the proper scholar for her to marry. From the town of Ludmir (today "Volodymyr-Volynsky", 68 miles away), he brought a fifteen year old scholar named Israel Jacob Demb and, according to the prevailing custom, promised perpetual support for him and his growing family." Moshe Gruber was apparently wealthy enough to support a son-in-law who would study full time and apparently didn't think there was a local boy good enough for his daughter in Mlynov.

This story was recorded in the memoir of Rivkah's granddaughter, Clara Fram, who was born in Mlynov in 1902 and recorded her memories in 1981 in Baltimore.[7] Clara recalls that her grandmother had been "an only child of wealthy parents;" and Rivkah's father, Moshe Gruber, "owned a brass and copper foundry, employing about two hundred laborers." The size of the foundry appears to be exaggerated in Clara's memory since she left Mlynov when she was about seven-years-old and there is at least one external source that mentions an iron-casting shop in Mlynov employing 60 people in 1903–1904.[8]

This Rivkah Gruber and her father Moshe appear to be the "Rivka" and "Moshko-Leib" Gruber who are listed in the smaller of two Gruber households in the 1850 and 1858 censuses from Mlynov. These censuses (or "revison lists" as they were called in Russian) suggest a small household of five individuals who have been living in Mlynov since at least 1830 and may have been there when Mlynov became part of Russia in 1793. In 1858 Moshko-Leib is head of household, age 34, with an implied birth year of 1824. His father's name is Srul-Noah (i.e., Israel Noah). Moshko is married to a woman named Surah, age 32. Rivka is 16 in 1858, not yet married, with an implied birth year of 1842. According to this census, Rivka had two siblings: a sister, Molka-Roislya, age 4, and a brother Mordko, who had died in 1855 at the age of 9.

Israel Jacob Demb and Rivkah became the patriarch and matriach of the Demb family and had nine children: Six of the nine immigrated to Baltimore between 1909-1921. By 1930, there were thirty Demb descendants living in Baltimore.

The Demb children who migrated were: Pesse Demb (later Bessie Hurwitz) (1864–1939) and her husband David (Rivitz) Hurwitz (1867–) and five children, Yenta Demb (1870–1962) and her husband Chaim (Hyman) Schwartz (1865–1933) and three sons (Benjamin, Norton and Paul), Pearl Malka Demb and her husband Tsodik Shulman (1863–1947) and five of their seven children and their families, Motel Demb (Max Deming) (1871–1929) and his wife Freida Korusnia (1881–1966) and one of their children, and Aaron Demb (1876–1970) and his wife and two sons.

Simha (Demb) Gruber (1864–1913) remained in Europe and apparently remarried. Family oral tradition speculates that he was given his mother's maiden name of Gruber instead of Demb to avoid conscription in the Russian military. The three children from Simha's first wife, Chava, all immigrated to Baltimore. They were Malka (Mollie Gruber) Herman, Nathan Gruber and Samuel Gruber.

According to oral traditions from the Herman family, the oldest daughter Malka (Mollie) Gruber:

left home when, after her mother died when she was 13, her father married his second wife, Chaindel. Mollie did not get along with her stepmother. It is unknown whether there were children by the second marriage [ed note: a photo from the Gruber clan suggests there might have been]. Mollie went to Berdichev where she worked in a dress factory sewing sequins onto dresses. She later was back in Mlynov and married Israel Herman (see Herman family below) and they had their first child there.

We don't know much about other two Demb children who are remembered in family trees only. One, Edle, died young, in a possible drowning, and there is no family information about another daughter beyond the name of Hannah.

I recently discovered and connected with descendants of another Gruber family in Mlynov and Mervits who were Shoah survivors and are living in Israel. Rachel and Sonia Gruber were daughters of Yosef Gruber and Shifra Teitelman. Their grandfather was Mordechai Gruber. Both of them became part of the Teitelman family through marriage. It is not known how this Gruber line was related to Moshe Gruber from whom the Demb line descended.

You can purchase a printed copy of the Demb Family Journey from Mlynov to Baltimore from JewishGen or Amazon or download an earlier version of the full length digital version here.

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Getzel ("Eliakim Getzel") and Ida (born "Chaia" Rivitz) Fax (originally "Fuchs") are the first known Mlynov family to leave for the US in the early 1890s. Their addresses at 818 and 836 E. Pratt Street in Baltimore, next to what is now the Star-Spangled Banner House, became the launching pad for the first wave of Mlynov immigrants to that city, between 1890–1910. Thus far, I have not found any Mlynov resident who immigrated to the US before Getzel and Ida, and almost all the Mlynov to Baltimore immigrants in the first wave of immigration stayed for a while at their home. Getzel and Ida's son, Joseph Fax, was the first descendant from a Mlynov family to be born in Baltimore and he went on to become a well-respected lawyer who ran for city council in 1919.

Getzel Fax was born in 1862 in the small town of Demydivka, which is 24 km (24 minutes driving today) southwest of Mlynov on the road to Berestechko. His brother Sam (Fox), also an immigrant to Baltimore, was born quite a bit later in 1883. We don't know how Getzel met his wife Chaia (Ida) Rivitz, who was born in 1867 and living near Mlynov. Perhaps he was in Mlynov one market day during business or staying at the inn that the Rivitz family ran outside of Mlynov.

Ida, for her part, was born during a lengthy journey of her parents, Mordechai and Zecil (also "Lisel") Rivitz, from Sevastopol in the Crimea back to Mlynov. Her niece, Clara Fram, recounts the story of how Ida's parents (and Clara's paternal grandparents) first met: Mordechai Rivitz had been conscripted into the Tsar's army at the age of seven and released after fifteen years in Sevastopol, near the Turkish capital of Constantinople. There "at age 22, he met a young Jewish orphan girl, the owner of a wine cellar. He married her, and began making plans to bring her to his home town in the Ukraine." It took them 2 1/2 years to get there, during which time Ida Rivitz was born.[9]

Back in Mlynov, Ida's brother (and Clara's father) David Rivitz was born. Clara recounts that the family lived in the countryside not far from Mlynov and had a variety of means on their property to produce a living, including "an inn where travelers could stop and be refreshed," "a distillery making vodka," "cattle," and farming. It should be noted that Jews were known to dominate the liquor trade during the Russian period, and were blamed at times for the debauchery of Russian peasants on that account.[10]

David grew up and went to school ("cheder") in Mlynov and there met and fell in love with Pesse Demb (later Bessie Hurwitz), the beautiful eldest, daughter of one of the town's scholars, Israel Jacob Demb, and his wife Rivkah (Gruber) Demb, daughter of the well-to-do Moshe Gruber. According to Clara, it was an unlikely match because Bessie's father, Israel Demb, would have preferred a scholar for his eldest daughter. But Israel was himself supported by the foundry business of his father-in-law, Moshe Gruber, and the business had started to decline and could not support another non-working scholar. Clara explains, "By the time my father and my mother saw each other in Cheder, though he [i.e., Pesse's father, Israel Jacob Demb] would have desired a scholarly bridegroom for his beautiful and accomplished Pesse, my grandfather did not object to her marrying into the Rivitz family that was well-off in their Possessia."[11]

In 1891, after Tsar Alexander II was assassinated, the Rivitz family had to sell their property outside Mlynov and moved back into town. This loss is what triggered Getzel and Ida Fax to leave for Baltimore. Being such a small town, word must have spread fast about the pending migration. Over the next twenty years, many Mlynov families followed the Faxes to Baltimore and lived with them until they got on their feet.

Getzel and Ida had three children. Their oldest child, Theresa (also Teresa) Fax, born around 1880, arrived in Baltimore in 1891 (probably with her mother) where she married Israel Goodman and they had their first child, Rose, in that city in 1898.[12] Theresa and Israel Goodman went on to have an additional eight children in Baltimore.

As noted earlier, Getzel and Ida's son Joseph Fax, born in 1894 in Baltimore, was the first child of a Mlynov immigrant to be born in Baltimore. He went on to be a prominent Baltimore attorney and represented a number of lantzmen in real estate and even in interesting zoning disputes with the city of Baltimore. Joseph married Zelda (Selma) Bronstein (1897–1935), from a large prominent Baltimore family in the garment business. Zelda arrived in Baltimore with her mother in 1899 at the age of two.

Getzel and Ida had a third son, Michael or Max, who was born in 1896 and appears in the 1900 census. But then he mysteriously disappears from the records and is not present in the 1910 census. When I tracked down Getzel and Ida's great-grandson, Charles Fax, I asked him about this and learned that Max had been run over by a trolley car while riding a bike just outside their home. The incident was documented in this story in the Baltimore Sun on March 21, 1903 (p 12). Recounting this story, Charles told me that this loss stayed with his grandfather and none of the children were allowed to ride bikes for the longest time. The descendants were thus surprised when I turned up this newspaper story, which mentioned nothing about the bike.

Ida's brother, David Rivitz, traveled back and forth from Mlynov to Baltimore throughout the 1890's and lived with the Faxes before moving permanently to Baltimore in early 1901. During his itinerent period, David's wife who was still back in Mlynov was known as "Pesse the American," "a name given to her because her husband keeps going to America and returning, because he doesn't want to raise his children in the 'traife' America." Clara adds: "'My mother, years later, fond of reminiscing about my father, said frequently: "Whoever didn't see him get off the train in Dubno [on his return], has never seen a handsome man.' He had come home perhaps to go into the grain business, so he thought." Apparently it didn't work out and David left permanently for Baltimore in 1901. According to Clara, David changed his name from Rivitz to Hurwitz there, because he was told by someone in the synagogue when he first arrived that Rivitz was too hard to spell. Growing up, Clara never knew her family name was Rivitz back in Europe. David Hurwitz became a peddler and worked for a company called Nachlas and Freiden in dry goods. (Clara Fram recalls other memories of Mlynov here.)[13]

In 1904, Getzel Fax's brother, Sam arrived in Baltimore and at his brother's urging took the family name Fox rather than Fax, which Getzel had accidentally adopted upon his arrival in the country. In fact, Getzel's name appears in many different English variations in the records, including Georg Fax, Geo Fax, and Getzel Fox, indicating in part the attempt to settle in and find a new identity. As one of the few Faxes in the Baltimore City directory who was not African-American, Getzel's name appears without an asterisk next to his name, the asterisk a convention at the time signaling a person was "Negro." This lack of an asterisk is an early indication of how Russian Jewish immigrants were being mapped "white" in the hierarchies of Baltimore in the late 19th and early 20th century, even though they were also subject to housing discrimination because they were not Christian. Getzel's great-grandson, Charles, explained to me that the African Americans with the name Fax often:

decended from the slaves who were freed, at his death, by Lord Fairfax, who owned much of Northern Virginia during the colonial period. In gratitude, the emancipated slaves took the surname "Fairfax" or "Fax",... The author Elton Fax is from one of those slave families. My father used to recount how, when he was on business travels, occasionally he would get a call in his hotel room from another hotel guest who introduced himself as "Fax," advised that the front desk had told him that there was another "Fax" registered at the hotel, and asked whether they might be related. "I doubt it," was my father's standard reply.
Soon after his arrival, Sam Fox married a woman named Zipporah, and the couple had two sons (Martin and Ernie) in Baltimore. Unfortunately, Sam was widowed sometime before 1910 due to unknown causes.

In 1907, David's son Yitzhak Rivitz ("Jechok Riwez" and later "Isaac Hurwitz") arrived in Baltimore via Bremen followed in early 1909 by David's wife, Pesse, his mother Zecil, and three youngest daughters, Minnie, Rose and Clara. They traveled across Europe from Mlynov to Trieste, Italy where they caught took a ship called the "Martha Washington" to New York and then took a train to Baltimore.[14] The youngest daughter, Clara, the author of the memoire from which I have been quoting, apparently did not recognize her father when they were reunited. He had left Mlynov when she was two years old and was seven when they were reunited in 1909. Clara tells us that there was not much room in the Faxes' home when they first arrived and her sister Minnie lived around the corner at the home of her Aunt Mollie (Demb) Roskes before Minnie was quickly married off through an arranged married to her uncle Getzel's brother, Sam Fox, who had recently become widowed. Sam and Minnie Fox went on to have three additional children together: Sarah Ann (Fox) (Kappelman) Harris (1910–2019), Michael (also Michel) Fox (1911–1973), and Jack Fox (1914–1982).

Sadly, Yitzhak Rivitz would be the first Mlynov immigrant to die in Baltimore in 1918 from the Spanish flu epidemic, but not before he married a woman named Cecilia and had a son named Howard Hurwitz. (Ceilia became Sheila Shapiro after she laer remarried). David and Pesse's oldest daughter, Gulza (Rivitz) Mazer, would not arrive with her family in Baltimore until after WWI in 1921, as part of the third wave of immigration following the War.

Rose went on to marry, Henry Finkelstein, who ran a men's clothing business in Baltimore and they had four children. Clara would later marry Philip Fram from Texas, son of an immigrant rabbi, when he was stationed in Baltimore. They had two children: Betty J. Korpeck (1933–) and David H. Fram (1937–2019).

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The Fishmans were a large family from Mlynov. Fishmans married members of the Demb, Goldseker, Gruber, Schwartz, and Shulman families. From the Baltimore descendants, we know of three Fishman brothers: Berel, Nathan and Qabish.

It appears that the ancestor remembered as Berel Fishman may be the man listed as "Ber" in the Fishman family in the 1858 census. In 1858, Ber is 14-years-old with an implied birth year of 1844. He is part of a small household comprised of four individuals: his father, Abram-Itsko, his mother Sura-Rivka, and a 16 year old sister, Hava. In the earlier 1850 census, only the parents Abram-Itsko and Sura are listed even though the children Ber and Hava would already have been born. We do not know why they were not listed in that earlier census, whether because they were living elsewhere or the parents were hiding their son to avoid his conscription. The 1850 census indicates that Abram-Itsko's father, Leib, died in 1840 at the age of 41 (implied birthdate of 1793).

The other two Fishman brothers, Nathan and Qabish, do not appear in the 1858 census. We have very little information about Qabish Fishman and his wife Gitel, only the names of their four children: Benjamin, Hinda, Silke and Yankel. The other brother, Nathan Fishman, was born in 1862 and would not have appeared on the 1858 census. Nathan and his daugther Anna came to Baltimore in 1911, where Anna soon married Mlynov immigrant Ben Schwartz in 1914. It was not until ten years after Nathan's arrival that he was joined in Baltimore by his wife Ida after WWI. Nathan was among a number of Mlynov husbands who came to Baltimore before 1914 and were separated from their wives and children when WWI broke out in late July of that year. Many were reunited only six to ten years after they had last seen their families.

We know from descendants that Berel Fishman married a woman named Toba and had five children: Hennie (Anna), Sarah, Meyer, Moishe, and David. According to an essay in the Memorial volume written by their son, Moshe Fishman, Berel had a sister who married the Rabbi from Ostrozhets whose name was Benjamin Putcher or Futcher and who had a brother in Mlynov named Aaron.

The eldest daughter of Berel and Toba was Anna Fishman (1867–1914). She married Shimon Goldseker (1867–1926) and they twelve children, a number of whom came to Baltimore (see summary of Goldseker family below). Berel and Toba's daughter, Sarah Fishman (1878–1963), married Israel Schwartz (1874–1935) and they both were in Baltimore with their two children by 1912. (Sarah's husband, Israel Schwartz, traveled to the US with Sarah's uncle, Nathan Fishman and the two of them an a third Mlynov man appear on the passenger manifest together.

Berel and Toba's son, Meyer (also Meier) Fishman (1884–1965), married his niece, Ida Goldseker (1888–1968), the eldest daughter of his sister Anna (Fishman) and her husband Shimon Goldseker. Meyer and Ida had a child, Ben ("Berl"), before coming to America. Meyer arrived in Baltimore in April 1909, traveling from Trieste, Italy to New York. Ida followed him to Baltimore in January 1912 with their 4-year-old son. Meyer and Ida subsequently divorced. Meyer was remarried twice more. Once to Ethel Moverman and they had two children, Tillie and Sydney. He subsequently divorced again and married Tillie Bierenbaum.

Berel and Toba's son, Moishe Fishman (1873–1968), writes in the Mlynov Memorial volume that he lived for many years in the nearby logging town of Slobada and worked in road construction before becaming a passionate Zionist. He, his wife Chava (Gilden), his son David ("Dudek"), and daughter Chuva, immigrated to the Land of Israel (then Mandate Palestine) in 1921 and were early settlers in Moshav Bafouria.[15] Balfouria was founded in 1922, the third moshav to be established in Palestine, and was named after Arthur James Balfour, writer of the Balfour Declaration, which endorsed Zionist plans for a Jewish "national home". The Fishman family was one of the first families to leave Mlynov for Palestine and made a big stir in Mlynov at the time, a story recounted in the Mlynov Memorial book.

In 1920, before Moshe left for Palestine, his other son Ben (Berel) (1902–1993) volunteered to join three other Mlynov families as they migrated to Baltimore. Though Ben didn't seek his parent's permission, they ultimately supported his decision to go to America and gave him some money for the trip. In Baltimore, he married his Mlynov sweetheart, Clara Shulman. This split in the Fishman family between America in 1920 and Palestine in 1921 signaled a growing shift in the inclinations and opportunities of Mlynov immigrants who wanted to migrate after WWI.

The last of Berel and Toba's children David Fishman, passed away young before 1899 when Moshe named his son (David) after his father's deceased sibling.

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There are two Gelberg family lines from Mlynov which both migrated to America. One of those lines stayed with the Gelberg name and settled in Jersey City. The other line took the name Goldberg and settled in New York and Baltimore.

The first Gelberg line I initially learned about when visiting the Schuchman family in Baltimore in 2019.[16] This Gelberg line is descended from Labish Gelberg who married Eta Leah Schuchman (more on the Schuchman line below). The descendants from this line who immigrated to America adopted the surname "Goldberg." Photos from this family appear throughout the Mlynov Memorial Book. I became particularly intrigued to know more about Sylvia Goldberg, whose photo appears throughout the Memorial book, and who was the only woman and only American on the Book Committee of eight that pulled together the memorial volume. Sylvia, is as it turned out, married into the Goldberg family and was not even born in Mlynov. I eventually discovered that Sylvia had a special connection to Mlynov.

As I started researching this "Goldberg" line from Mlynov and their migration to the US, I bumped into records of other Gelbergs from Mlynov who arrived in the US. In Hebrew lettering, there is no difference between Goldberg and Gelberg, so it seems very possible that these two lines from Mlynov are related and even one family back in Mlynov. Indeed, the line that would eventually call themselves "Goldberg" in the US was originally called "Gelberg" back in Mlynov as I learned from the family.[17]

In the family line that stayed "Gelberg" in the US, there were in fact three brothers from Mlynov who came to the US and at least one who remained in Europe. One of these Gelberg brothers traveled on the same ship as the first member of the family who became a "Goldberg" in the US, appearing just one page away on the same manifest. It seems hard to believe that the two travelers with the same family name from the small town of Mlynov didn't plan their trip together and know of each other. Yet descendants of the two lines don't remember a family relationship between these two family lines, though the evidence of a relationship is suggestive and discussed in a more detailed account .


The Labish Gelberg Line

Labish Gelberg, as he was known back in Mlynov, is remembered by descendants in the Goldberg family as an orphan who was knowledgeable in Torah studies, and who showed up in Mlynov and was taken into the Schuchman home. Descendants don't know anything else about Labish's life before he married.

It seems possible, though not provable, that Labish Gelberg was the young orphan son of the man named Haim Leib who is listed in Gelberg family (#48) in the 1850 census and family (#54) in the 1858 census. The records show that Haim Leib died in 1855 and left behind a young orphan son, "Freidel," who is living with his older first cousin. It seems possible that after Haim Leib passed away that his son Freidel was referred to in Yiddish as "Labishes" [meaning Labish's son] and simply became "Labish."[17b]

Whatever his origins, Labish comes into focus in family memories when he was married off to Eta Leah, a daughter of Gershon and Shaina Bluma Schuchman who also appear in the 1858 census. Labish and Eta Leah were married by 1874 when their first child was born and eventually had seven children. Descendants include members of the Schuchman, Schechman and Sherman families.[18]

A great many of the oral traditions I learned about this Goldberg family line came from my recent exchanges with Edith Geller, a sharp ninety-six year old with many memories of the various members of the Goldberg family. Edith was born in 1923 and is the daughter of Sarah (Sura Gelberg) and Sam Spector and a granddaughter of Labish and Eta Leah.

As was the case of other Mlynov families, three of the older children stayed behind in Europe when younger members of their family left for the US. The three who remained behind were Pinchus Gelberg (1874–1935), Esther (Gelberg) Malar (1888–~1942) and Chana Gittel (~1890–~1942). Pinchus became an educated man, married Chaia Rive in Klevan, where he had a leather goods store and two sons. He was wealthy and visited his parents often. He died in 1935 and his wife and sons were later killed during WWII.

Esther Gelberg, for her part, married a man named Yussel (also "Josef") Malar and they had two children: David and Gissie Malar. All of the Malar family were killed in the Shoah except David who survived, got married in a displaced person camp and subsequently came to America and died at the age of 94 in 2004.

Labish and Eta's third child who remained in Europe, Chana Gittel, married a man named Yankel "Preziment," the proper pronunciation located recently on the back of a postcard in the family.[19] Chana Gittel and Yankel had three children. The family all died in the Holocaust as well.


The Gelberg Migration

Labish and Eta's other four children all made their way to the US and as a result we know much more about them. Those who came to the US were: Moishe (Morris) Goldberg (1875–1967), Chaya Gelberg (Ida Gevantman) (1893–1949), Sura ("Sorke") Gelberg (Sarah Spector) (1894–1941), and Gershon (Joseph/George) Goldberg (1896–1984).

Moishe Goldberg apparently was the first of Labish and Eta's children to make his way to the US in 1911. By the time Moishe left for the US in 1911, he already had four children with his wife Gitel (also "Gitla" and "Gussie") whose family name was Weitzer (or Weizer) and who lists a relative, possibly a brother or father, named Aron Weizer back in Mlynov on her 1921 passenger manifest.

"Mojshe Gilberg," as his name appears on his passenger manifest, left Hamburg on the SS President Grant and arrived in NY on Dec. 13, 1911. Like a number of other Mlynov husbands who came ahead of his family during this period, he would be separated from his wife and children during WWI for ten years and would be reunited with them only in 1921. His youngest son most likely had no memories of his father by the time they remet in 1921.

Also traveling on the same ship and listed only one page away on the manifest, was "Nussen" Gelberg, one of the three brothers from the other Gelberg family in Mlynov. He was traveling to the US with his oldest daughter Sima. It seems likely that Nussen Gelberg and Moishe Gelberg knew each other and in fact planned their passage together. As we shall see, two of Nussen's brothers, and two sons, had already arrived in the US and had settled in Jersey City.

Moishe's passenger manifest also makes evident that other Goldberg cousins had already made their way to the US. Moishe's destination was a cousin in NY, whose name appears to be "Idel Goldberg" (Judel?), a person whom no one has yet been able to identify. Moishe's destination, which I couldn't decipher on my own, turned out to be 60 Orchard Street in the tenement district, as I learned from my 96-year-old collaborator, Edith Geller, who recalls visiting with the Krellin family at that address growing up.

During this time, two other close relatives of Moishe arrived in the US. Moishe's sister Sarah (Sura) Goldberg arrived in September 1913 and she was headed to the home address of her boyfriend's uncle. According to family accounts, Sarah was brought to the US with the help of her future husband, Samuel Spector, who met her briefly in Dubno before he left for the US, fell in love with her there, and made arrangements for Sarah to join him in the US. Upon her arrival, however, Sarah fell in love with another man. But then a dream of her father Labish set her straight and convinced her to marry Sam. They were married on New Years Eve 1918.

Like other Mlynov immigrants who had arrived before the WWI, Moishe and Sarah were separated from their family who was still back in Mlynov during this time. Meanwhile back in Mlynov,...



When I first learned about the Goldbergs who had come to America from Mlynov, I started searching for records of their passage. They were from the Labish Gelberg line and they settled on the name "Goldberg" in Ameica.

As I was looking for their records, I started stumbling into records of other "Gelbergs" from Mlynov who retained the Gelberg name in America and were unknown to the Goldberg descendants. It seems plausible that both of these lines were related to each other since back in Mlynov both family lines were in fact called "Gelberg." Furthermore, was it purely an accident that the first member to arrive in America from the "Goldberg" line was traveling on the same ship with one of the brothers who stayed "Gelberg" in America? They were less than one page away from each other on the passenger manifest and, had the page break fallen differently, they would have appeared on the same page. Coming as they did from the same small town of Mlynov, could their passage on the same ship have been purely an accident? Unlikely.

From tombstones in America, we know the father of these Gelberg brothers who arrived in America was named Pinchus Meir. I suspect he was related to Labish Gelberg, the ancestor of the Goldberg line, though it hardly matters since everyone in Mlynov seems to have been related to everyone else anyway.

The ancestor of this Gelberg line appears to be the man listed as "Pinhos-Meer" Gelbarg in the 1850 census, in one of the two Gelbarg households listed (family #26). Pinchos-Meer is age 21 with an implied birth year of 1829. The census indicates that he was present in Mlynov when an earlier 1834 census was conducted, and it seems likely he was born there. In the household with Pinhos-Meer is his father, Ios Fayvish, age 46, who is head of the family and Ios Fayvish's wife "Henya" age 25. It appears Henya is a second, younger wife since she is not old enough to be the mother of Pinhos-Meer, age 21, or his sisters, Hana and Sura, who are listed as 18 and 15 respectively.

By the 1858 census, Pinchas-Meer (listed in family #29) is 29, has married a woman named "Sima" (who is remembered by descendants as "Sadie") and has a daughter Gitlya who is age 4. [We can guess that Gitlya was the namesake of Pinchas-Meer's mother who was already absent in the 1850 census and perhaps had died]. His father, Ios Fayvish, now age 54 is still alive and head of the household and is still married to "Genya" (called Henya in the 1850 census) age 33. Three daughters are listed (ages 6, 4, and 1) who were born in the intervening years. A son Duvid-Morko is now listed as having died in 1856 at the age of 14. He did not appear in the 1850 census at the age of 9 and may have been in hiding to avoid conscription. Based on his birth year (1842) it seems likely he may have been a son of Ios Fayvish's first wife.

The Four Gelberg Brothers

On December 23, 1911, "Nussen Gilberg" from Mlynov arrived in New York and was heading to his son Gershen. Traveling with him was his daughter "Sima" (Sarah) and their manifest indicates that Nathan's wife "Reise" was still back in Mlynov. Nathan and his daughter were traveling for fifteen days on the SS Grant from Hamburg, the same ship taken by Mlynov-born Moishe Gilberg, the first immigrant to New York from what became the Goldberg line.

The discovery of Nussen and Sima's passenger manifest provided the first clue to the presence of the three Gelberg brothers who were born in Mlynov and who had come to the US and settled initially in Jersey City. We shall see that there was a fourth Gelberg brother in this family, who remained back in Mlynov and who is mentioned as a well-to-do person in two of the narratives of the Mlynov-Muravica Memorial Book.

Nussen, or Nathan as he was soon to be, was the first of the Gelberg brothers I found but he was not the first to arrive. After digging into his records, I tracked down one of his great-granddaughters, Amy Westpy, and with the help of her knowledge managed to begin piecing together the Gelberg family story.

When I first approached her, Amy was not certain her great-grandfather, Nathan, was from the same Mlynov town I was researching. "There are two Mlynovs," she said to me, "And I'm not sure which one they were from." There is in fact another Mlynov that is now in Poland, and not in Ukraine where our families' Mlynov (now called Mlyniv) is now located. The records, however, eventually confirmed that her Gelberg family was from the district of "Volyn" and that meant we were talking about one and the same Mlynov. Our Mlynov became part of Russia in 1793 with the Second Partition of Poland and returned to Poland only after WWI when Poland was recreated. When Nathan and Sima left Mlynov in 1911, it was still part of Russia.

From Amy, I learned that her great-grandfather, Nathan Gelberg, had a brother named Abraham Gelberg. My hunt in the records would turn up another brother, Joseph (Gedale) Gelberg, who was the first of the brothers to arrive in the US. One thing led to another and I eventually tracked down and connected to Joseph Gelberg's granddaughter, Denise Gelberg, a writer now living in Ithaca upstate New York.

One of my great pleasures was getting to introduce third cousins, Amy and Denise, who discovered they had common childhood memories of family gatherings in the Catskills. What follows is the story of this Gelberg line from Mlynov as best as I can reconstruct it. If you prefer, you can read download the longer version here.


Nathan Gelberg and his wife Reisel

Nathan Gelberg, born in about 1858 in Mlynov, was the oldest of at least four Gelberg brothers, all of whom we will meet below. Nathan's seven children were also born in Mlynov. He wrote their names on his Petition for Naturalization in the US on June 23, 1927. By this point, six of his seven children had arrived in the US as well. The children's names were David (1884), Sima (Sarah Epstein) (1886–?), Morris (1895–1965), Gussie (Gertrude Miller) (1893–1976), Gershen (Jack) (1895–1928), Chane (Anna Curtiss) (1897–?) and Sadi (Hirsch) (1897–?).

Only Nathan's oldest son, David Gelberg, stayed in Russia. Amy tells me that there were oral traditions in her family that David may have had a deformity that may have prevented his immigration with the rest of his siblings, though we know from other Mlynov families that it was often the oldest in the family, who had put down stronger roots in Russia, perhaps having married and had children, who never immigrated. This was true in the Goldberg line, as well as my own Shulman line.

As noted earlier, "Nussen Gilberg" (line 4) and his daughter "Simai"(Sarah) (line 6) traveled on the SS Grant from Hamburg to NY landing on December 23, 1911. "Nussen", (line 4), age 51, described himself as a "dealer" and his daughter Sima, age 17 identified as a "Tailores." The manifest indicates that father and daughter were headed to Nathan's son and Sima's brother, Gershen Gelberg, who is living at what appears to be 184 1/2 E. 7th Street, in Jersey City. We'll come back to Gershen in a moment, who arrived in 1907.

Nathan's wife, "Reisel Gelberg" (soon to be called Rachel), followed her husband to the US three years later in 1914 accompanied by Nathan's two younger daughters, Gittel (later Gussie Miller, Amy's grandmother) and Chane (later Anna Curtiss). From Amy I learned that Reisel was Nathan's second wife. The name of Nathan's first wife and the mother of his children is lost to history. Reisel's own daughter, Ruchel, from a previous marriage we believe, was also traveling with them.[20]

Map of Pogroms

Nathan Gelberg, second wife Rachel, and stepdaughter Rose
Courtesy of Amy Westpy
Little is known about Reisel's background. Her passenger manifest says she and her daughter, Ruchel, were born in Mlynov. A death certifcate suggests her father's name was Hyman Steinberg, a family name familiar in Mlynov. But Reisel's later Petition for Naturalization, which Amy put her hands on, indicates she was from Studinka, which is about a 4 1/2 hour drive from Mlyniv on the maps today, quite a distance in the early 1900s when they got married. Whether Nathan met her in Studinka or she arrived in Mlynov for some other reason, we do not know.

In any case, the blended family of Reisel and the children travelled on the SS Pretoria from Hamburg to New York and landed on US soil on March 16, 1914. War would break out at the end of July that same year. Arriving a few months before WWI broke out, the family managed to avoid the situation that confronted a number of other Mlynov husbands, like Moishe Goldberg, Aron Demb, and Avram (Joseph) Lerner, among others, who came to the US before the War, and were subsequently separated for the War's duration from their families they left behind in Europe.

Upon arrival, Reisel and the children where headed to her husband Nathan who by this time was living at 230 Van Horne Street in Jersey City. We shall learn of other Gelbergs living there as well during that time. It turns out that members of the Hirsch family from Mlynov also settled in the same neighborhood and started a successful laundry business only a few years earlier.


Reisel's passenger manifest indicates that her closest relative back in Mlynov was her brother-in-law, one Yossel Gelberg. This is the only record to indicate that Nathan still had a brother living in Mlynov. Yossel Gelberg turned out to be a well-to-do owner of the mill in Mlynov as recalled from essays in the Mlynov-Muravica Memorial book. Read more of the Gelberg Story.

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The five Holtzeker brothers, children of Avraham and Baila: Hirsch, Moishe, Yankel, Shimon and Yoel.

The Goldseker family (also called Holtzeker by some descendants) is remembered as the largest family in Mlynov once they arrived in Mlynov around 1891. According to descendants in two different family lines, the original word "holtzhaker" means "wood chopper" and may allude to one of the family's early occupations. In the Mlynov Memorial Book, the spelling of the family surname in Hebrew lettering appears in two variations: sometimes with a "he" (Holtzeker) and sometimes and a "gimel" (Goltseker). In the list of martyrs, they appear with a gimel as "Goltzeker." The variations probably reflect the fact that Slavic languages couldn't originally pronounce the "h" sound. Other surnames from Mlynov exhibit a similar variation in the Memorial Book such as “Galperin” and “Halperin.” In English, the transliterated variations of the family name multiplied and sometimes morphed and include Goldseker, Golceker, Golcekier, Holtzeker, Holzeker, Golz, Givoni and more. In what follows, the family name is spelled Holtzeker except when referring to the Baltimore line which thinks of itself as Goldseker.


The Holtzeker family was originally from Dubno according to an essay "Mlynov in the Past," written by Moshe Fishman who was born in Mlynov but met the Holtzeker family while living in the nearby town of Slobada where he worked for many years. Moshe's sister, Anna, later married Shimon, the second to youngest of the five Holtzeker brothers. Records of "Golcekers" in the Dubno Memorial Book and Yad Vashem records for Dubno may belong to relatives of this Holtzeker family.

The head of this Holtzeker family was a man named Avraham Holtzeker and his wife Baila. Moshe Fishman estimates that the Holtzekers arrived in Slobada by 1870 where they worked a piece of land they leased from the local nobleman. The village was remembered by descendants as a thirty minute ride by horse and wagon from Mlynov. Slobada is also mentioned in the Mlynov Memorial book by Shmuel Mandelkern when describing where one of the self-defense units trained on the east side of Mlynov. The area was "encircled by a large expanse of fields, which leads towards the villages of Slobada, Ozliiv and the main road that regularly was busy with movement 24 hours daily...." It appears from an old Polish map that "Slobadka" was located in the area that was between contemporary Uzhynets' and Ozliiv, Ukraine, both towns close to Mlynov.

The Holtzekers remained in Slobada until Tsarist Russia promulgated the law forbidding Jews to remain outside towns, a law put in place after the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881. At Moshe Fishman's suggestion, the Holtzeker family moved to Mlynov, Moshe's hometown, where Avraham worked in construction for the local Count. Baltimore descendants recall the names of five sons of Avraham and Baila, several of whom had their own very large families in town: Hirsch, Moishe, Yankel, Shimon, and Yoel. Moshe Fishman also mentions the existence of a daughter, though Baltimore descendants have no knowledge of her.

The Goldsekers became the largest family in Mlynov and were called by nickname "Slobadar" because they had previously lived there. In a Memorial book essay, "Small Shtetls, Large Families," survivor Mendel Teitelman recalls the large Holtzeker family in Mlynov. "I want to write about the multi-branched, honorable Goldseker family, the largest family in Mlynov. I greatly doubt that there was such a large family in the kehilla of another shtetl. Thanks to its sizeable numbers, this family had the luck of having a few surviving remnants. Very many other families did not leave the slightest trace of their existence; they were literally wiped out.”

The Goldseker/Holtzeker family tree below is based on Baltimore descendant memories supplemented by information recovered from Yad Vashem records and the martyr list in the Mlynov Memorial book.


What is known about the five brothers who came to Mlynov and their descendants follows below. We know the most detail about the descendants of the second to the youngest brother, Shimon, since five of his children survived and four migrated to Baltimore where many family memories and photos have been preserved. The other family lines were devastated by the Shoah with the result that the information available about them is fragmentary and had to be recovered from Yad Vashem records, a few descendants contacted in Israel, and from episodic citations in the Mlynov Memorial book.


Hirsch Holtzeker

Hirsch was the oldest of the Holtzeker brothers who arrived in Mlynov. He married a woman named Ida and had five sons and three daughters: Lee (possibly Leah), Aisik (or Yitzhak), Miriam (1870–1942), Yoina, Libba, Gittel, Menucha , Yankel (also called Yantil), and Calman (or Kalman). In "An Event in the Shtetl," Hirsch is recalled by his grandson, Boruch Meren:
Of all the Jews in the shtetl, only my grandfather had the honor to go inside the manor, because Hershko was a useful Zhid (Jew). He was a contractor and he worked for the Count. When Jews needed a favor from the Count, my grandfather, Hirsh Goldseker, was the intermediary. Everyone knew that he found favor in the eyes of the Count and the Countess. Everyone in the shtetl talked about how Hirsh Goldseker kisses the Countess's hand when he says hello. My grandfather used to tell us grandchildren wonderful histories of life on the estate. (Mlynov Memorial Book, p. 173 [English volume])

A funny anecdote involving Hirsch's household and three of his children (Gittel, Menucha, and Yankel) is told in the Mlynov Memorial Book by Shmuel Mandelkern in an essay about "Self-defense in Mlynov," pp. 122–23 [English volume]. The anecdote concerns young men in Mlynov who conducted a mock attack on the Holtzeker household around 1919. They did so as part of an effort to solidy support among the elders for their self-defense efforts following the disarray in the countryside after the Bolshevik Revolution. The young men chose the Holtzeker home for the mock attack in part because the senior Hirsch was an important influencer in town and in part due to the beauty of his daughters. The effort terrified Hirsch, his two daughters and a son who were living with him at the time.

Since Hirsch is not listed in the martyr list of the Mlynov Memorial book, we can assume he died before the Shoah. We know of three of Hirsch's grandsons who did not perish: Carl Gaynor (1896–1958) (son of Hirsch's daughter Leah), | Boruch Meren (1908–1996) (son of Hirsch's daughter Miriam), | and Micael Givoni (1910–1980) (son of Hirsch's eldest son, Aisik /Yitzhak). Hirsch's grandson, Boruch, contributed a number of essays and memories to the Mlynov Memorial Book including a poignant story about a gramophone that Hirsch owned before WWI.

What we know of Hirsch's children and their families:

Hirsch's son, Yankel (called "Yantil" in the anecdote of the mock attack because of his speech impediment), is included in the Goldseker matyrs, along with his wife Rachel, and their children Avraham, Batia, and Tzviya. Also listed is Hirsch's son Kalman and his wife Dina. This Dina Holtzeker may be the same one who came under scathing criticism for collaborating with the Russians when they occupied Mlynov in 1939 as discussed by Yosef Litvak in "The Town of Mlynov," p. 266 [English volume].

We know the most about Hirsch's son Aisik/ Yitzhak from Israeli descendants (Sari Fishman) and Yad Vashem records.

Aisik is listed as having perished with his wife, Perel Schohet (née Gelman)[20b] and their son Aba (his photo below). Aisik's other son Abraham (photo below) is also listed as perishing with his wife. Their daughter, Malka, perished with her husband Mordechai Shefer (or Shiper). No children are listed for them in the matyr list. Malka appears with a group of young adults in a photo below sent by her sister Baila to her cousin "Zeen" (Sam Goldseker) in Baltimore.

Aisik and Perel's son, Srul (Yisrael) (1906–1942), perished with his wife Shifra Kotch (or Kotel) (1915–1942) and their two children, Rachel, age 5 and a 1 year old child whose name is forgotten. They appear in Yad Vashem records filled out by a surviving brother of Shifra's, Abraham Kotsh (also called Avraham Abrasha Abraham Kotel). Aisik and Perel's daughter Baila sent photo postcards to her cousin "Zeen" in Baltimore (see below). No additional information is known about her.

Aisik and Perel's son, Micael (1910–1980), as noted earlier, made aliyah before WWII. He studied and lived in Mikve Israel, a youth village and boarding school established in 1870 and the first Jewish agricultural school in what is now Israel. Micael wrote letters to his siblings begging them to make aliya, but they didn't believe Hitler would reach Mlynov. In Palestine, Micael Hebraicized his Diasporean name of "Holtzeker" (meaning "wood chopper") to Givoni, the name in the Hebrew Bible for the Gibeonite people who were known as "hewers of wood" (Joshua 9:27). Micael's granddaughter, Sari Fishman, indicates Micael may have had 9 siblings who perished, though not all their names are known.

We know less about Hirsch's other children and their families:

Hirsch's daughter, Miriam (1870–1942), married Ben Tzion Meren (1867–1942). She is listed as having perished with her husband and their daughter Seril. Their son, Boruch Meren, made aliyah in 1938 with the help of his then sweetheart, Rosa Berger, who made aliyah in 1933, in a story told elsewhere on this website. Were it not for this relationship, Boruch would have perished with his family. When his relationship with Rosa didn't work out, word reached Mlynov-born Milka (Amelia) Shargel who by then was in Baltimore. She traveled to Palestine where she and Boruch married. In 1940, Boruch left Palestine for Baltimore. He later contributed a number of essays and memories to the Memorial book.

Hirsch's daughter, Leah (probably "Lee" in Baltimore family tree) married Elia Aron Gaynor (or Gener). The Geners are not listed in the martyr list, but a photo (below) shows Leah with her two sons and two or three daughters, with spouses and grandchildren, around her. Leah sent this family photo to her son, Carl, who had already migrated to New York in 1913. Carl traveled as "Kalmen Giner" from Trieste, Italy on the SS Belvedere and arrived in New York on Sept. 18, 1913. As far as we know, the rest of Carl's family perished. According to an unverified oral family tradition recalled by Gelberg descendant, Edith Geller, who remembers Carl as her cousin she visited in New York growing up, Carl's paternal grandmother (i.e. Elia Aron's mother) may have been the sister of Labish Gelberg (who is an ancestor in the Gelberg family above).

Read more about the other Holtzeker brothers and their families.

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There was a large Herman family in Mlynov and the nearby town of Dubno. The family name sometimes appear in variations of "Erbman" and "Herbsman." We know of two brothers, Moshe and Joseph Herman, though we know more about Moshe than Joseph.

Moshe married Chaya Golda and they had seven children. Moshe, Chaya, and three of their children, Israel Herman (1881 –1942), Isaac Herman (1895–1975), and Sadie (Shava) Korn (1899–1992), all immigrated eventually to Baltimore. The other children, Paul, Aaron, Samuel and Sonia, perished in the Holocaust.

In 1899, Moshe's oldest son, Israel Herman (1881–1942) married Mollie (Malka) Gruber (1882–1959), the oldest daughter of Simha (Demb) Gruber. Israel was a cabinet maker and was drafted into the Tsar's army according to family oral traditions. In 1906, the couple and their two eldest children, left on the qt so Israel could avoid conscription. Israel and Mollie traveled across Europe before making it to the United States, as you can see from the birthplaces in four different countries of their children (see photo below, left to right): Jennie (Zlate), was born in Mlynov in 1900, Hyman (later Albert) and Betty who were born in England in 1908 and 1911 respectively, and Sarah born in Toprev, Austria in 1907 (later part of Czechoslovakia and called Toplice).

According to family accounts, another son named Herschel died of a fever and by falling off a bed (or both) while the family was in Toprev. Sarah was told that her father was so depressed that he decided they should leave. He went ahead to Paris but didn't like it there and headed to London, where he earned enough as a cabinet maker to send for his family. In London, the family's surname became Herman and two children were born there. Two other children, Joseph and Sadie (later Sally) were born in Baltimore.

Israel arrived in Baltimore in Decemember 1911 traveling via Halifax and Toronto, and Mollie and the children followed in August 1912. Israel and Mollie had other additional children who were born in Baltimore, Joseph and Sadie Chancey.

Israel's brother Isaac, and their father Moshe arrived in Baltimore in 1913. Isaac later married Helen "Elke" London (Lamdan) in Baltimore and had four children. I suspect, but cannot prove, that Elke was related to the Lamdan family from Mlynov.

Israel and Isaac's sister, Sadie Korn, was in Toronto with her husband Samuel Korn by 1932 when their first child was born before eventually entering the US in about 1939 and heading towards Baltimore.

Moshe's brother, Joseph Herman and family, remained in Europe through WWI and appear to have been living in the nearby town of Dubno for much of this period. I have no information about how many children Joseph had. Joseph's daughter, Rebecca ("Rifka") married a man named Simon Seltzer (1867-1925) from Dubno before 1889 when their first child, Rose Stein (1889–1972) was born and they had four additional children.

Rebecca's husband, Simon Seltzer, immigrated to Baltimore in 1913, according to his naturalization papers (or possibly earlier) but like several other husbands was not joined by his wife and children until 1921, after the war. Simon and Rebecca's oldest daughter Rose, and her husband Paul Steinmann (Paul Stein), arrived in Baltimore sometime in 1913. While living in Baltimore during those years, Simon, Rose and Paul were sharing addresses with the other Herman immigrants from Mlynov who had already arrived and were living on Albemarle Street. They eventually purchased the mom-and-pop grocery of Mlynov-born, Benjamin Schwartz, who had arrived in 1910.

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The story of the large Hirsch family from Mlynov is in many ways the story of Jewish identity in the 20th century. Among the Hirsch descendants was a grandson, Aleph (Morris) Katz, who would become a well-known Yiddish poet in America. Aleph was only one of a large number of the Hirsch descendants who, beginning in 1905, migrated to the US.

The majority of Hirschs who immigrated to America did so by 1914 before the outbreak of WWI. The first Hirschs to arrive stayed in the Lower East Side before moving uptown to 116th Street in East Harlem. They were not there long. They soon settled in Jersey City where they purchased a laundry business and capitalized on a new laundry method which helped the family become well-off in their new community.

Their success enabled one of the Hirsch families to return to Mlynov in 1935 and they took a home movie during that visit, the only known such film taken of Mlynov. The story of the Hirschs, like that of the Berger and Gelberg families as other examples, spans three continents and evokes all the key themes of that century: American migration and success, Zionism and aliyah, the Shoah and survival. The whole history of Jewish identity in the 20th century is rolled up into this family's story.

The patriarch of the Hirsch family was Aaron Hirsch ("Nuta Behr") who married a woman named Liebe before 1862 when their eldest son, Ephraim, was born. They had five other children in Mlynov: Pessia (1864–?), Zelda (1865–1938), Henie (Anna) (1875–?), Clara (1879–1962) and Moishe. Five of their six children came to the US with their families. Of those families who stayed behind in Mlynov, a few of their offspring got involved in the Zionist Youth movement and were able to get certificates to make aliyah to Palestine in the 1930s; almost all of the rest were killed in the liquidation of the ghetto in 1942. The one survivor, Saul Halpern, made his way to Toronto, Canada and settled there.

Before the large Hirsch migration to the US, all of the Hirsch children had married and had begun families of their own in Mlynov.

The Children and Grandchildren of Aaron and Liebe Hirsch
Children Spouse # of Children Grandchildren
Ephraim Hirsch
Gitel Kolter (1863–1915) 5 Isaac Hirsch (1879–1973) | Ruchel Leah (Ruth Gurtin) (~1881–1960) | Abraham "A. D." Hirsch (1881–1975) | Harry (Hersch) Hirsch (1884–1986) | Jacob (Gedalie) Hirsch (1889–1981) | Lewis Albert "Abe" Hirsch (1897–1975) | Jeannette "Jennie" Levine (1899–1967)
Pessia Hirsch (~1864–?) Lipa Halperin (?–?) 5 Yosel (Joseph) (1880– ?) | Israel (1882–1942) | Avraham (1924–1942) | Sarah (?–? ) | Faiga (?–? )| Chaya Leah (?–?)
Zelda Hirsch (~1865–1938) Ben Zion Berger (1865–~1912) 4 Eva (Chava) Neistein (1884– 1947) | Nathan ("Nuhim") (1889–1958) | Sara (Sheindel) Berger (1892–1972) | Samuel (Symon) (1894–1986 )
Anna (Henie) (1875–?) Chaim (Hyman) Yeruchim Katz (1872–?) 5 Shifre (Sophie) Cohen (1893–1982) | Samuel B (1895–1969) | Aleph (Morris/Moshe) (1898–1969) | Helen Goldstein (1904–1997 )
Clara (Chaya) Newman (~1879–1962) Jacob (Yankel) Newman
5 Leo H (Hyman) (1896–1970) | Harry B (1898–?) | Sophie Mendelsohn Lehmann (1902–1995) | Benjamin (1906–1989) | Leo (Leon/Leonard) (1915–? )
Moishe Hirsch (?–?) Bluma Fischmann (?–?) 1? Esther (?– ?)


The Hirsch Migration To America

The sons of Ephraim and Gitel Hirsch were the first movers in the migration to America. Hersch (Harry), age 22, arrived in July 1905, followed by Jacob "Gdalie Girsch" in December 1906 and Abraham "A. D." in August 1907. In 1907, two of the Hirsch uncles also arrived: Jacob Newman (Clara Hirsch's husband) and Chaim Yerukim Katz (Anna Hirsch's husband). Chaim Yerukim was also accompanied by his eldest daughter, Shifre (soon to be Sophie Katz and then Sophie Cohen).

In July 1909, the eldest of the brothers, Isaac ("Eisik Girsch"), age 30, followed his brothers to the US leaving behind his wife, Sure (Kypher later Cooopersmith) and four children who wouldn't join him until 1912. In December 1909, five months after Isaac arrived, the Hirsch brothers were finally joined by their parents, Ephraim, age 48 at the time and Gitel, age 47, and their two youngest siblings: Abe (Lewis), age 11, and "Yeute" (Jennie), age 10. Ephraim and Gitel were traveling together with another young woman from Mlynov, Mollie ("Mali") Shargel, who was the eldest daughter of the Shargel Family from Mlynov and the first of her immediate family to immigrate.

With the arrival of Ephraim and Gitel and their two youngest children in New York, all of their immediate family had made their way to the US with the exception of one daughter, Ruchel Leah, who had married Jacob Gurtin by 1904, when they had their first child, Saul Gurtin (1904–1986). Four other Gurtin children followed: Beatrice (1907– ~1926), Miriam Fidel (1908–2002), Edna Aronson (1912–1995), and Milton (1915–1977). The Gurtin famiy remained in Europe until after WWI when they finally were able to immigrate and join the family in Jersey City in 1922.

The Hirsch brothers initially lived in the Lower East Side of Manhattan at 86 Lewis St. and stayed with a friend or cousin whose name was something like "A. Waitzer" or "Weizer", but who has not yet been identified. They remained in the Lower East Side until shortly before their parents arrived in 1909 when they moved uptown to 116th in East Harlem. They were not there long and by 1911 moved across from Manhattan to the up-and-coming Jersey City where they acquired an existing laundry business. There they capitalized on the shift emerging in the industry from "steam" laundry to what was called "wet wash." The laundry business now picked up dirty clothes and linens from a family's home, washed them, and then delivered them back to the family still wet, for the wife of the house to hang dry. The innovation in practice significantly dropped the cost of the laundry and made it available to a far great number of families. Advertisements at the time touted the cost-effective, labor saving new approach that improved the lives of housewives, and also leveraged a cleaner more sanitary process. Wet wash laundry took the industry by storm.

By 1930, "Standard Wet Wash Laundry," as the family called it, had grown from the old Sherwood firehouse with two horse-drawn wagons into a modern plant with a fleet of cars and over three hundred workers. During this time, the business supported all of the Hirsch brothers' families, plus a number of cousins such as Aleph Katz, who worked there. By the late 1920s, A. D. Hirsch and his brothers were the largest financial contributors in Jersey City to the new Jewish Community Center, the auditorium of which they named after their mother, Gertrude (Gitel) Hirsch, who had passed away in about 1915.

Read more about the Hirsch family, their migration and what became of who remained behind in Mlynov.

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The Mohel Family

The Mohel family came to Mlynov from Boremel in 1924–1925 when Rabbi Eliezer, a shochet (ritual slaughterer), mohel (ritual circumciser), and scribe was hired for a position in Mlynov. He arrived in town with his wife Hanna-Leah (also remembered as Hanna Beila née Kaszkiet) and their five children: Batya (1906–1942), Yehuda (1908–1989), Yaakov (1911–1974), Dvorah (1914–1987), and Chaika (Chaya) (1916–1985). Two other daughters were born while they were living in Mlynov: Bouzke’leh (also called Bracha and Batya) (1926–1942), and Yenteleh (1930–1942).

Four of the seven children (Yehuda,Yaakov, Dvorah, and Chaika) fled at the German invasion in 1941 and survived WWII in Russia. Yaakov contributed a lamentation and an essay to the Mlynov Memorial book about his family's fate. His sister Dvorah contributed a moving poem about the "menorah tree" that grew between Mlynov and Mervits near where the liquidation of the ghetto's residents occurred.

We know the most about the extraordinary and unique life story of the second oldest child, Yehuda, as told in his own words later in life and captured by his son Dani Tracz (née Issachar Mohel). Yehuda was born in Boremel sometime in 1908, but his formative teenage and young adult years were in Mlynov which he considered his “hometown” for the rest of his life.


Yehuda Mohel, Vegetarian, Zionist, Communist and More...

The arc of Yehuda’s life is breathtaking. His life was affected deeply by the critical events and ideologies of the 20th century. As a young boy, he became a vegetarian for personal reasons—an extraordinary and rebellious decision for the son of a shochet. The decision created tension in his family and anticipated both his deeply moralistic outlook and his willingness to follow the beat of his own drum.

As a young man, he got involved in Zionist youth group activities especially after he arrived in Mlynov. After a few years, he made aliyah to the Land of Israel (called "Mandatory Palestine" at the time), was arrested and jailed in Palestine by the British for being a Communist, was deported back to Poland where he was again jailed for being a Communist. Upon his release he finally returned to Mlynov shortly before WWII. At the German invasion in 1941, he fled east with his wife and three siblings deep into Russia where they survived under extraordinary circumstances.

Not much is known about Yehuda’s parents. His father, Eliezer was from another town, Kopachovka (Kopaczówka), not far north of Lutsk. Yehuda didn't remember his grandparents. A younger brother of his father lived with them for a time in Boremel but went to Argentina in 1925 while the family was living in Mlynov. Another brother and sister, apparently, were living in Minsk for a time.

It is unknown how Eliezer first met his wife Hannah Leah in Boremel, but apparently she was his second wife, after his first marriage did not work out. Eliezer and Hannah Leah married sometime before 1906 when their oldest daughter Batya was born. Later in life, Yehuda recalled that his father was a Olyker Hasid and he would accompany him to the Olyka synagogue in Boremel. There was no formal school in Boremel and he studied for two years with the rabbi’s son, a man named Moshe Zucker who was an “apikoros” and who later ended up teaching at the Jewish Theological Seminary in America.

Yehuda’s mother, Hanna Leah Kaszkiet, was the daughter of a shochet and by marrying her Yehuda’s father, Eliezer, acquired the right (called “a holding”) to be a shochet as well. In Boremel, the competition was fierce between ritual slaughters and Eliezer was persecuted by the other two shochets in town. During the years of dislocation caused by WWI (1914–1921), when Yehuda was between age 6 and 14, the family was nomadic traveling from village to village for short stays of up to six months as Eliezer found work.

It was during this time that Yehuda became a vegetarian through a deeply personal experience. Yehuda grew attached to a hen and chicks that the family was raising. When they began slaughtering them for food, Yehuda was heart-broken and sickened and couldn’t eat the meat. In response, he decided to become a vegetarian. It was unheard of: a shochet’s son had become a vegetarian and the decision created friction in the family. This was not the last time that Yehuda was moved by his deeply moralistic perspective, nor the last time he and his father diverged on religious issues.


The Mohels Go to Mlynov

In 1921, following WWI, the Mohel family returned to Boremel only to find all of their belongings and property gone. There was not enough work for three shochets in town and Eliezer had the least seniority. The shochets made an agreement to compensate him if he would leave town. The payment made it possible for the Mohel family to purchase their own flat in Mlynov when an opening for a shochet became available. They arrived in Mlynov in 1924–25 in the autumn when Yehuda was 16 or 17 years old.

Mlynov already had one shochet named R. Pesach Gelman, a son of Itzi Shochet (Gelman). It is not known for certain why a second shochet opening became available, though it might have been related to the tragic and premature death of Anshel Steinberg, the head of the Steinberg family in Mlynov. According to descendants, Anshel Steinberg was a butcher in town and died about this time from an infection after cutting his hand. Perhaps his death created the vacancy that Eliezer Mohel filled.

The first flat the Mohel family occupied was in a communal building. It was somewhat dilapidated but had three rooms. It was the first time the family owned their own place. Yehuda recalls being friendly at this time with another young man in the building named Yona-Reuven, whom Yehuda recalled only by his first name.

He was a relatively well-educated fellow who had studied and was quite clever. I did become quite friendly with him. We talked, we debated, and we also wrote together. Sometimes we wrote letters to each other, even though we lived next door to each other. These were my first social connections in Mlinov.
It seems likely that Yehuda’s friend was Yona Reuven Holtzeker, a grandson of Yankel Holtzeker, one of the five original Goldseker brothers who arrived in town in 1891.


Zionist Youth Group Activities

Not long after Yehuda’s arrival in Mlynov, a celebration took place for Shmuel Mandelkern and his wife Malcah (Lamdan) who were leaving soon for the Land of Israel. Yehuda was quite a bit younger than Shmuel Mandelkern who is remembered in the Mlynov Memorial Book as one of the first Zionists in Mlynov and a founding leader of the Zionist Youth Group, HaShomer HaTzair. The celebration of Shmuel’s aliyah made a deep impression on Yehuda. Yehuda recalls that:
There was a very large party before he left. Of course, I was not invited, but nonetheless, together with [my friend] Yona-Reuven, we wrote a farewell poem, and the first letters of each line formed Shmuel’s first name and surname. We sent this poem to him, with a messenger, to the party, but of course, we never received a response.
When recalling this part of his story, Yehuda remembered Shmuel Mandelkern as the second person to leave Mlynov to go to the Land of Israel. Yehuda probably knew that Yitzhak Lamdan, the brother of Shmuel's wife Malcah, had gone to the Land of Israel in 1919. Since Yehuda arrived in Mlynov only in 1924–1925, he apparently didn’t know that the Fishman family made aliyah in 1921.

Photos from Mlynov in the late 1920s show Yehuda and his sisters with the Zionist Youth Group HaShomer Hatzair which gained popularity in Mlynov in the 1920s. Yehuda became the group secretary during this period when Aaron (Berger) Harari was head of the local “nest.” The group apparently met at times in the Mohel home. Looking back on this time, Aaron Harari believes the educational model of the youth group influenced Yehuda’s own father:

Twice a week, after the evening prayers, there was a study group on the books of the Chofetz Chayyim etc., for Jews who didn't know [how to study] a chapter of the Mishnah; the leader of them was Rabbi Eliezer [Mohel], the shochet, z”l, the father of Yehuda, Yaakov, Dvorah and Chaika, who are living in Israel. This study group was modeled on the discussions of the older youth group in the nest of The Young Guard (Hashomer Hatzair). Since Rabbi Eliezer's home housed the leadership committee of the movement, where meetings and preparations took place and occasionally continuing education discussions of the older youth, and he related to us with much friendliness—I have a reason to conclude, that he borrowed the [educational] model from us... ("Local Color in the Synagogue," p. 159)

Yehuda remembers the Zionist youth group as a “movement of rebellion” which considered itself revolutionary. “Clashes arose between the older and younger generation." Yehuda remembers that instead of saying "Hearken, my son, to the discipline of your father," which is a saying in Proverbs, they would say "Do not hearken to the discipline of your father.”

Looking back, Yehuda recalled that none of the youth could see a future for themselves in Poland at the time. Under the influence of the Zionist Youth Group, Yehuda made the decision to make aliyah. He went for prepatory training ("hachsharah") and recalls being the first person in Mlynov to do so. He headed to Horyn’ the small settlement near Stolin. It was 188 km away from Mlynov (2 hr and 41 min driving today). There Yehuda met his future wife, Riva, for the first time; they would meet again and become close later in Palestine. The Zionist group worked in a sawmill and 20 people rented a place and slept together in one room on the floor on matresses. Yehuda worked there for a year before moving to another group in the city of Siemiatycze (today in Eastern Poland) where he worked in a plywood factory.

In the summer of 1929, Yehuda learned that the British had approved his certificate for emigrating to the Land of Israel.

In September 1928, the Hashomer Hatzair nest bid convened a party to bid Yehuda farewell (photo of large group above). In addition to Yehuda (in the white shirt center), his brother Yaakov is also present (standing right with white tie) as well as his two sisters, Batya (next to Yehuda) and Dvorah (third row, on the right with black tie in front of Yaakov).

Note: Other members identified in the farewell photo include: Aaron (Berger) (row 3: 4th person from the left), Moshe Chizik (or Tzizik) (Rosa's future husband) (row 3: third from left), Rachael (Shapovnik) Givol (row 4 standing: 4th from left in dark dress), Aaron's sister, Rosa Berger (standing row 4: 5th from left in white shirt and tie), Saul Halpern (back row: 3rd from right), Yitzhak Gelberg (2nd row: first on left).

Read more about the Mohel family and Yehuda's amazing journey leaving and returning to Mlynov.

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The Nudler and Polishuk Families

The story of Nudler / Polishuk families, like other Mlynov families, is a tale of two cities, with some members of the family immigrating to Baltimore and some remaining behind in the shtetl.

Arke (Aron) Nudler (1888–1948) was one of four Nudler sons born in Lutsk. He came to Mlynov when he married Masha Ita (or Etta) Polishuk (1890– ~1942) sometime before 1918 when their eldest son was born. Masha Ita Polishuk was one of four siblings, children of Ben Zion and Malka Polishuk.

Masha Ita's uncle, Chaim Polishuk, was an early immigrant to Baltimore landing in that city in May 1899 as “Chaim Polaschick” with his wife, Ester (Sadufsky/Sody), and a young 11 year old, named Abram Polishuk, who was perhaps a cousin or younger brother of Ester. There in Baltimore, Chaim became Hyman Polashuk and five children were born: Mary Strauss (1900–1999), Morris Polashuk (1902–1973), Anna Cohen Scherr (1906–1975), Lillian (1908–1970), Lillian (Lena) DeSilva (1907–1973), and Ida Polashuk (1911–1979).

Apparently, Masa Ita's father, Ben Zion, also came to Baltimore in the early 1900s, with the intention of bringing the family over when he had established himself. However, after working for a few years in the sweat shops, he chose to leave and return home. A younger brother of Masa Eata's, “Pesach Eli,” as the family called him, followed his uncle Hyman to America landing in Philadelphia February 9, 1912. He was headed to Baltimore where his uncle was then living at 1013 Watson Street.

In America, Pesach Eli became "Ellis Polashuk" and some of his descendants would eventually shorten their name to Polk. In the 1915 Baltimore City directory, he is listed as a peddlar living in crowded East Baltimore at 1155 Lombard Street, near or with the Mlynov family of Israel Schwartz and Sarah (Fishman) who were at 1152 Lombard during this same period.[24]

In May 1913, Ellis's wife "Gittel Polezuk" (Edelstein), as she was called on her manifest, and eldest daughter Celia ("Tossie"), arrived in Baltimore. Between 1914 and 1918, Ellis and Gitel had two more children, Hyman and Jeannette, before Gittel passed away. By 1920, Ellis had remarried Ida Robavsky and had gained a step-son, Nathan. By this point, they had moved out of crowded East Baltimore to Springfield Ave in Carroll County, Maryland. Here Ellis and his wife, Ida, would have a son together who became Leonard Polk. Ellis went on to become a very successful rag (cotton waste and remnants) merchant. His sons carried on the tradition in Charlotte and Statesville, NC.

Ellis’s presence in Baltimore would end up preserving the only family photo of the Nudler family in Mlynov that was still remaining after WWII. The photo would eventually make its way back into the hands of those Nudler family survivors who later came to North America.

Above is the family photo later recovered from Ellis Polashuk who had gone to Baltimore. In the family photo, Masha Ita (Polishuk), seated on the right, and her husband Arke Nudler (standing behind her) lived in Mlynov with their five children, four of whom are present in this family photo. Moshe (later Morris) (~1921–2004), standing in the back second from the right, Itzhok (1924– ~1943), all the way to right, Etka (later Helen Fixler) (1927– ) with her hand on her mother Masa Ita's shoulder, and Feigale (1930– ~1943), in the very front. The eldest son, Yehiel (later Harold) (1918–1992), was away and absent from the photo. Seated on the left side of the photo is Masa Ita’s father, Ben Zion Polishuk, his wife, Chaya, seated center, with the family of their son Moshe, who is standing behind them. I imagine that this photo was taken after Ben Zion returned from Baltimore and perhaps sent a copy of it to his son, Ellis, who was still there.

The Nudler family lived in Mlynov in a large house with a barn in the back, which housed a cow and two horses. Masha Ita would make butter and cheese from the cow’s milk. Arke worked as a peddler buying and selling grain in partnership with his father-in-law, Ben Zion. Arke’s son, Moshe, would recall traveling with his father and grandfather to Dubno on their wagon to sell their goods for income.

As the oldest siblings, Yehiel (Harold) and Moshe (Morris) were very close to one another. Their younger brother, Itzhok was a great artist, always drawing, painting, and copying images. Feigle was the youngest, and looked a lot like Moshe; both had freckles, blue eyes and light-colored hair. The other children and their parents had dark hair. Arke’s mother, Rochel Laya Nudler reportedly had red hair. Because the children grew up after Mlynov had already become part of the newly created Polish state following WWI, they recall attending Polish school and learning Polish. Helen, later in life, recalled being chosen to sing the Polish national anthem for her class. You can listen to Helen, still alive in her 90s, speak about her life in Mlynov before the War.

A photo of Moshe as a young man captures him sitting with a Zionist Youth Group, The Young Guard (Hashomer Hatzair), which became popular in Mlynov after WWI and which would gather for activities, get together to listen to speakers, have discussions, and read literature.

Read more about what happened to the Nudler family when the Russians invaded during WWII and later when the Mlynov ghetto was built in the summer of 1942.

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Gershon Schuchman and his wife Sheindel Bluma are the earliest Schuchmans remembered by descendants. They and eldest daughter, Eta Leah, are listed in the Mlynov 1858 census under the family name Hehman (family #9), which evolved apparently into the name Schuchman. Gershon, called "Chaim Gershon" (and Chaim Zus) is age 32, head of household, with an implied birth year of 1826. His wife "Scheindel-Blum" is age 28, and their daughter "Itta-Leia" is a year and a half.

In the earlier 1850 census, Gershon (listed as "Chaim Zus") is listed with his father, Yos-Bir, whose whereabouts are listed as "unknown," but whose personal details indicate he was born in about 1802 and already in Mlynov by the 1834 census. Between the 1850 and 1858 census, Gershon and Sheindel Bluma apparently got married and had their daughter, Eta Leah.

After Eta Leah, they had four other children: Joseph (1874-1958), Noach-Moshe, Hana and Dansia. Quite a bit is known about descendants of the siblings Eta Leah and Joseph. A bit is known about Noach-Moshe's and Hana's and almost nothing about Dansia.

Eta Leah married Labish Gelberg and a number of their children came to the US as discussed in the Gelberg family story above. A great deal is also known about Joseph Schuchman who came to the US in 1913 and was joined by the rest of his family in 1921 as discussed in what follows below. The brother, Noach-Moshe, stayed in Mlynov and was killed in the Shoah and is memorialized in the Mlynov Memorial Book, p. 229. Only one of his sons, Shlomo, survived and eventually came to the US as the "Schechman" family.

Very little information is remembered about the two other sisters, Dansia and Chana. Chana Schuchman married a man with the surname Golisuk and they had a number of children. Most of this family was killed in the Shoah. One of their daughters named Etel married Moshe Sherman and two of their sons, Yechiel and Ezra, survived the Shoah. Yechiel briefly memorialized his family in the Mlynov Memorial Book and his experience leaving home when the Germans attacked. His brother, Ezra, recounts his family memories and harrowing survival ordeal in an oral interview.


Joseph Schuchman

As noted above, we know quite a bit about Mlynov born, Joseph Schuchman, and his family. Sometime before 1902 when their oldest son, Samuel, was born, Joseph (1874–1958) married Chusia or Chissa Klepatch (later known as Jessie in America) (1876–1947). Jessie was born in the nearby town of Smordva. Her brother, Moshe, a wagoneer, also raised a large families in Mlynov which later perished, told in the heart-breaking story about his daughter, Chana Klepatch in the Mlynov Memorial book.

Joseph and Jessie had four children in Mlynov: Samuel (1902–1984), Ida (Chaya) Greenberg Cohen (1907–1986), Anna ("Enia") Yoffee (1909–2000), and Rose ("Rejzia") Klavan (1912–2002). The entire family ended up in Baltimore by 1921. According Joseph's granddaughter, Joyce Jandorf, "My grandfather, Joseph, was 13 when he was married to Chusia; she was 19. He was 6 ft, very tall and very mature looking in those days. They would draft you into the Russian army if one looked big enough. So they were married off to avoid conscription."

Joseph, like a number of Mlynov husbands, went on ahead of his family to the US before WWI. He arrived in North America on August 24, 1913 as "Josel Schuchman" at the port of Quebec, having sailed from Antwerp via the SS Montreal. "Josel" was 40 years old when he arrived and his youngest daughter Rose was just a year old.

Joseph was not the first Mlynov immigrant to come via Canada. In November 1911, Israel Herman also from Mlynov landed in Halifax, Canada and made his way by railroad to Toronto where he took a ferry to Buffalo, NY. Joseph, for his part, took a ship to Quebec and then crossed into the US via the railroad at Alburg, VT. His passenger manifest indicates he was headed to Baltimore to a nephew M Weinstein at 152 E. Lombard, whom I am told was Morris Weinstein, a relative of the Schuchmans. Morris was from Mervits and landed in Baltimore in 1907 according to his naturalization papers. We do know something about the address at 1152 E. Lombard Street, which was the home of several other Mlynov immigrants at various points. In 1912 when she arrived, Sarah (Fishman) Schwartz was headed to 1152 E. Lombard, which was the address at the time of her husband Israel Schwartz.

Joseph's wife, Chusia, and his children were back in Mlynov when Joseph first arrived in the US and he became one of the several Mlynov husbands separated from his family when WWI broke out in 1914. He wouldn't see his family again until 1921.

By the time, Joseph signed his WWI draft registration card in 1918 as Joseph "Schugman," he was living at 205 Albemarle St., an address he was still using in 1920 when he filled out his Declaration of Intention to naturalize. A significant change took place between his 1918 and 1920 papers. In his 1918 draft registration card, he signed his name with the Hebrew alphabet, apparently not yet knowing how to represent his name in the Roman alphabet. Two years later he signed his name in English rather than Hebrew letters. In his 1918 record he identified himself as a presser at a pants house called Morganstern and Rieser, and by his 1920 records he was identifying himself as a tailor. He would be a grocer soon thereafter as he and others abandoned the challenging garment industry which was also suffering after WWI.

According to family accounts, Joseph's brother-in-law, the husband of his sister Chana Golisuk, came to Baltimore about the same time and worked in the sweat shops with Joseph. But he didn't like Baltimore and eventually went back to Mlynov. There his family would perish.

The address of 205 Albemarle Street where Joseph had moved was a landing spot for Mlynov immigrants and even a bachelor pad of sorts for husbands whose wives were still back in Russia. It was close to 104 Albemarle, the home of Mlynov born Mollie (Demb) Roskes and her husband Samuel, an address where many of the Mlynov immigrants stayed when they initially arrived. As that address overflowed with Mlynov immigrants, reaching about 14 by 1914, a number of the Mlynov immigrants moved into 205 Albemarle Street. Morris Schwartz, for example, was already there in 1915 with his wife and son and still there in the 1920 census. Nathan Gruber, whose family was also still back in Mlynov, was at that address in 1915, and his brother Sam Gruber and wife Bessie were there in 1917 along with Morris Fishman and his wife that same year. As noted elsewhere, these streets of Baltimore had become a little Mlynov.

In what appears to be his 1920 census, Joseph is still living at 205 Albemarle and boarding with Morris Schwartz and family, another Mlynov immigrant family. The record, however, is misleading, saying Joseph had arrived in 1914, and that his and the Schwartz's last birthplace had been what looks like Kovno. The date could have been an error of memory, since he arrived in 1913, but it is unclear why Joseph, (and the Schwartzes) all listed Kovno as their birthplace. It was not long after the 1920 census that Joseph's family finally arrived in Baltimore.

Joseph's wife, "Chasia Szuchman" and their children, Shaie (Samuel, age 21), Chaja (Ida, age 17), Enia (Anna, age 11), and Rejzia (Rose, age 9) arrived in New York on Nov. 5, 1921 traveling from Belgium on the SS Gothland. "Chasia" noted that her brother "M. Klepacz" was still back in Mlynov at the time and that she was headed to her husband who was living at 205 Albemarle St.

That address must have been crowded. By 1923, the family had moved to 603 Charles St. and Joseph is now listed as a grocer, though in 1924 he is listed again as a presser at the same address. By 1930, the family had suficiently improved its situation and has move Northeast and is living together at 106 Old Pimlico Road.

Joseph and Chusia's children married and had families in Baltimore. Samuel married Sadie Lichter (1917–2006) who was quite a bit younger, and they had three children: Sidney Morris, Jacob Gutman Schuchman, and Mordecai Aaron Schuchman. Ida Schuchman (1907–1986) married twice, first Barney Cohen, who passed away in 1960, and then Max Greenberg, but had no children of her own. Anna (1909–2000) married Rueben Yoffee and they had four children: Diane Hawk, Leon B. Yoffee, Bluma S. Lewin, and Benyoman Yoffee. Rose (1912–2002) married Morris Klavan and had three children: Joyce Jandorf, Irving Klavan and Eileen Reiss.

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There were four brothers in the Schwartz family of Mlynov. Chaim (1863–1946) was the oldest, followed by Moshe (Morris) (1873–1943), Israel (1874–1935), and Michael ("Heschie") (dates uncertain). All four of the brothers and their families migrated from Mlynov to Baltimore between 1905 and 1912. At least three of the brothers had sons named Paul Schwartz, named after the brothers' father, Peretz Schwartz, who must have died by 1902, when Paul H. Schwartz was named.

Moshe and Michael Schwartz were the first to leave Mlynov for Baltimore. Moshe arrived in 1907 and his brother Mschil (Michael) arrived bringing Moses' wife with him later six months later.

Hyman Schwartz was married off to Yetta Demb (1870–1962), through an arranged marriage, because Yetta had been married and quickly divorced when a tailor's apprentice grabbed her hand and uttered the words of bethrothal in front of witnesses. We don't know if this family tradition is true. But according to the story Hyman had been willing to take the younger woman whose reputation had been besmerched, though Yetta loved another man, one of the Roskes brothers. Chaim and Yenta's eldest son Ben Schwartz left ahead of the family for Baltimore in 1910 and the rest of the family followed in 1912.

Israel Schwartz married Sarah Fishman. They had two children, Ida (Irene Edelstein) and Paul Schwartz. Israel left Mlynov in 1911 for Baltimore traveling with Nathan Fishman, his wife's uncle, and another Mlynov husband, Harry (Usher) Teitelbaum. Sarah and her children followed in 1912. Sarah travelled to the US in 1912 with several others from Mlynov, her brother-in-law Chaim and Yenta Schwartz, her nephew Morris Fishman and Nathan Gruber, Yenta's nephew.

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According to his naturalization papers and passenger manifest, Joseph Shargel (1870–1954) was born in the town of Lutsk. He married Yenta or Yetta Breindl Weiner (1872–1956) from Mlynov by 1887 and their photos appear in the Mlynov Memorial book (p. 507). Joseph and Yetta had eight children, five of whom migrated to the US and ended up living in Baltimore, as did Joseph and Yetta themselves. Two of the children came in the second wave of Mlynov migration (1910–1914) and the others in the third wave of Mlynov migration (1920–1929) after WWI. The story of the family's migration, recounted below, spanned twenty years and must have caused some serious angst in the family during the various separations that both occurred and were embraced out of necessity.

Joseph Shargel had at least one brother, Mendel, who was living in Mlynov when Joseph emigrated in 1925. So it is possible that the whole Shargel family had moved to the area by then. Yetta Breindl Weiner, for her part, had at least one sister named Udi whose photo appears in the Memorial book (p. 507) and at least one brother living in New York, whom some of the children first headed to when they migrated to the US.

The Shargel children who migrated are Mollie (Shargel) Feingold (1891–1976), Julius Shargel (1897–1947), Bernard Shargel (1906-1979), Amelia (Shargel) Meren (1910–2005), and Earl (also "Israel" and "Ezra") Shargel (1912–1981). As we shall see, a few of the children made it to the US via Mexico during the late 1920s when US quotas had limited immgration, and one of them, Yitzhak ("Itzhik"), married and settled in Mexico and changed his family name to Rom. After he died, his wife and children also made their way to the US, according to Shargel descendants. Two of Joseph and Yetta's children, Shmuel and Elka (Shargel) Yakobovitz, stayed and died in Europe at unknown dates.

Yetta's mother (remembered as "Baba" by descendants) was a sister of the famous Solomon Mandelkern , from Mlynov. One of Yetta's grandsons, Colonel Bernard Feingold (son of Mollie [Shargel] Feingold), was inspired by the story of Solomon Mandelkern's life and later wrote one of the best biographical sketches of him available in English.[25] He wrote:

Even as a child, I remember having a flame burning in my mind, heart and soul about my famous uncle, Rabbi Doctor Solomon Mandelkern. This flame was kept alive by the stories told to me by my mother, Mollie (Shargel) Feingold; my grandfather, Joseph Shargel; and, above all, my Uncle Israel Mandelkern as I affectionately called him. Israel was Solomon Mandelkern's only child.

The Shargel Family Migration

Mollie Shargel ("Male") (1891–1976) was the first of the Shargel family to arrive in the US. She arrived Dec. 14, 1909 at the age of 19, traveling from Antwerp to New York on the SS Finland. She was headed to one of her uncles with the last name of Weiner in New York, likely a brother of her mother. There are other records of "Weiners" from Mlynov coming to the US in immigration records, though I have not yet been able to flesh out their family tree.

By May 25, 1913, Mollie had married Abraham "Abe" Feingold (variants Fingold and Finegold), a cabinet maker, who had arrived in the US by 1906. In about 1914, they had a daughter in New York by the name of Beatrice (Shargel) Kraft. By 1917, the couple had moved to Baltimore apparently to join the other Mlynov immigrants there. "Abe" filled out his WWI draft card after their arrival and reported they were living at 115 Harrison St. at the time. Mollie and Abe's son, Colonel Bernard (1922–1999), was the one who was later inspired to write the essay about Solomon Mandelkern.

Mollie's younger brother Julius ("Itzik") Shargel (1897–1947) arrived in New York soon after Mollie in 1911, and following in his older sister's footsteps, headed to their uncle with the family name of Weiner, just as his sister had. According to his obituary, Julius was 14 when he arrived. He filled out his 1918 draft card while living and working Greensburg, PA. But he too made his way to Baltimore and was there by at least 1921 when he was engaged to Rebecca Edlavitch, whose family had arrived in Baltimore in the 1890's from Russia. Rebecca's father, Meyer, had just died in 1920 and the juxtaposition of his death to the engagement suggests that the loss in the family may have made the marriage welcome economically at that moment in time. By 1924, Joseph and Rebecca had purchased a property in Northeast Baltimore at 2518 Druid Park Drive, in a nicer area of the city to which Russian Jews had been migrating. They probably were getting ready to receive Julius's parents, Joseph and Yetta, who would immigrate shortly from Mlynov to Baltimore.

On April 15, 1925, Joseph ("Josel Szargel") and Yetta arrived in New York traveling first to Warsaw for their visas, then to Southhampton, England and onto New York on the SS Olympic. They were headed to their son, "Yodal" Shargel at 2518 Druid Park in Baltimore. Joseph's brother Mendel Shargel is listed as still back in Mlynov at the time.

After arriving in Baltimore, family reports that Joseph Shargel became the "shammash" (sexton) and sofer (scribe) of the Shomrei Mishmeres HaKodesh Congregation which had purchased the Lloyd Street Synagogue building in 1905, the oldest synagogue building erected in Maryland and the third oldest standing synagoguge in the United States. A number of other Mlynov immigrants belonged to Shomrei Mishmeres congregation, such as Getzel Fax, the pioneer from Mlynov to Baltimore , who was president of the congregation in about 1909.

Because quotas had been imposed in the United States in the 1920s, and immigrants could not all come directly to the US, Joseph and Yetta made what must have been a difficult decision to leave behind several of their children in Mlynov with the hopes of bringing them to the US. Other Mlynov families had also split up during this same period in their migrations to the US as well. Here is where Audrey Goldseker Polt, a descendant of the Goldseker family, fills in part of the story as told to her by her father, Sam David Goldseker. Sam had left Mlynov in about 1924 and headed to the US via a lengthy stay in Buenos Aires, in a story recounted elsewhere. Sam's leaving of Mlynov may have opened up a room in his father's house, where two of the Shargel children could stay. Audrey recounts the story told to her:

In 1925, at the age of 14, Amelia Shargel and her younger brother, Earl, moved into a rented room in Shimon Goldseker's house in Mlynov. Their parents immigrated to America in hopes of bringing the children later. December 1926, they left Mlynov and joined their two older brothers in Mexico, Yizkah (Isaac) and Bernard. Amelia, Earl and Bernard joined their parents in America in 1929. The picture postcard...in Mlynov, was sent to Dad in Agentina. Amelia is with Dad's sister Charna [Goldseker].

In addition to this New Year's postcard, a second precious postcard, written in Spanish by Bernard Shargel, who was in Mexico at the time, was sent to his close "amigo," Sam Goldseker, in Buenos Aires. The postcard written in Chihuahua, Mexico, captures this moment in time, as these two young Mlynov boys waited in Spanish speaking countries to try to get into the US and rejoin family there.

According to US records, the three Shargel children did in fact make it into the US in 1929 via El Paso, Texas. Bernard (appears as "Bertha" in the record) arrived in Jan. 24, 1929. Amelia arrived in the US on Feb 5, 1929 at El Paso Texas, from Chihuahua, Mexico, via the C.P.E. Railroad. Earl's record indicates he arrived in the US the same month and may have been traveling with his sister. The 1930 census shows that the three children (whose names appear in the record as Burnett, Milka and Isak) were now reunited with their parents, Joseph and Yetta, and living together in Baltimore on 618 Aisquith St. Another brother Isaac married and settled down in Mexico.

Bernard Shargel married Sarah Monarch before 1934 and they had their first son, Norton, in 1933 and a second son, Emanuel, in about 1937. Amelia Shargel, for her part, went to Palestine in 1939 to marry Baruch (also "Boruch") Meren, also from Mlynov, and managed to bring him to the US one year later. Boruch and Amelia had their first child, Allen, in 1943.

Baruch Meren may have been the last Mlynov immigrant to come to the US before the arrival of a few survivors of the Nazis. Baruch was the son of Ben Tzion and Miriam Meren form Mlynov. His mother Miriam was the daughter of Hirsch and Ida Goldseker.

Baruch contributed a number of the reflections to the Mlynov Memorial book including the wonderful memory of the Fishman family leaving for Palestine in the 1921. A photo of Boruch's parents and sister appear in the Mlynov-Muravica Memorial book (p. 456) and a wonderful photo of Boruch's sister Seril along with Bayla Goldseker and other from Mlynov was preserved in the photos of their cousin Samuel Goldseker, shown previously.

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No one knows why Tsodik Shulman (1863–1947) (also "Zadok," "Codyk" and "Tsodick" Szulman) ended up in Mlynov. Recollections from family say he was from Lithuania originally and spoke Yiddish with a Lithuanian accent, though the family's passenger manifest says he and the rest of the family were born in Rowno [Rivne], which apparently was where they moved sometime after WWI. Tsodik's 1926 Petition for Naturalization[26] says they were all born in Mlynov, Poland, which was true of his wife Pearl and the children. This later identification of Tsodik's birth location in Mlynov was probably to simplify his naturalization process and reduce any further complication in his naturalization process. The family had already fudged many of their relationships on their passage to the US and Tsodik may not have wanted to expose even more inconsistencies by listing his original birthplace.

It is surprising that Tsodik ended up in the small town of Mlynov. He was descended from a well-known family. His uncle, Kalman Schulman (1819–1899), was a well-known Jewish enlightenment (maskil) figure and Hebrew writer known for popularizing Jewish history and literature and "whose work was significant in the development of modern Hebrew literature." Kalman Schulman (and Tsodik's father) was born to a Hasidic family in Stary Bykhov, in the Mogilev district of Belorussia. He studied at the Volozhin yeshiva for about six years, subsequently learning German and developing an interest in Haskalah literature. He went on to be a tireless popularizer of more than 30 books on Jewish history and literature and was eventually able to support himself as a writer in Vilna.[27]

Tsodik's father (and Kalman's brother), Naftali Hertz Schulman, was named for Tsodik's great-great grandfather of the same name. Scholars identify the earlier Naftali Hertz Schulman (1770–30) as a significant figure in the early Eastern European Jewry Enlightenment (haskalah)and modernization, who was among a group who first "challenged traditional beliefs and values, and called for the reform and renewal of Jewish culture."[29]

Tsodik thus came with an well-educated enlightenment perspective to Mlynov. Clara Fram (his niece) remembers her grandfather, Israel Jacob Demb, and his son-in-law, Tsodik sitting and talking about the work of his famous uncle Kalman Shulman. She writes about her recollections of him in Mlynov.

Frequently, our cousin Hertz Shulman, a youth of about seventeen, a student in that school, would stop in our house to study, memorizing his work, while walking back and forth in the room with his book. We knew he was the son of my Aunt Pearl [Pearl Malka (Demb) Shulman] and her distinguished husband [Tsodik Shulman] whom my grandfather [Israel Jacob Demb] was delighted to have marry his second daughter. This man had arrived in Mlynow from Lithuania, well educated, rolling his R's when he spoke Yiddish; an emancipated, proud Jew, resembling one's image of Tolstoi, and possessing books in Hebrew and Russian, as well as Yiddish translations of French novels. He also subscribed to a Yiddish newspaper, and would talk to my grandfather about his uncle, the famous Hebrew writer, Kalman Shulman.

Whatever the reasons Tsodik ended up in Mlynov, by 1887 he had married Pearl Malka Demb (1867–33), the second oldest daughter of Israel Jacob and Rivkah (Gruber) Demb. Tsodik and Pearl went on to have five daughters and two sons, all but two of whom ended up in Baltimore with their families by 1922. They were Nachuma (Shulman) Meiler (1887–1944), Liza (Shulman) Koszhushner (1889–?), Simon Judah Shulman (1890–1970), Ertz (Harry) Shulman 1894–1964, Sarah Shulman (1898–88), Clara (Shulman) Fishman (1904–1990), Pauline "Pepe" (Shulman) Schwartz 1905–1985.

According to family traditions, Tsodik had a prestigious livelihood overseeing the forest for the Count who owned the village and the areas surrounding it. We are not sure what this meant exactly, but we can guess that it involved overseeing the use of the forest and its harvesting. Tsodik was not the only Mlynov resident to work for the Count and the Count's presence hovered over the life of the town as evident in other accounts in the Mlynov-Muravica Memorial book.[30]

Family speculate that because of his strong education, Tsodik was able to secure this position and perform these duties for the Count. Clara Fram in her memoire recalls her delight in visiting the forest and her cousins the Shulmans. "A visit with my Shulman cousins in their forest home was always exciting. Their father was the important manager of the entire forest. My recollection of their beautiful mother, my mother's sister, was that she wore a sweeping "pin-yar" (peignoir) and was generally reading books." [32]

It is possible that when the Count lost his property in the Bolshevik takeover, that Tsodik also lost his livelihood and this may be one reason the family decided at that point to emigrate and leave two of their daughters behind, a fateful decision for one of those families that stayed.

In 1921, Tsodik and his wife Pearl Malka, three daughters (Sarah, Clara and Pepe) and a son Ertz Shulman (named for Naftali Hertz) headed to the US with the help of a nephew. The family fudged their relationships. Ertz's new wife, Eta Perelson, and his friend Pesach (Paul) Settleman pretended to be Shulman children and joined them on their passage. The older Shulman son, Simon, was studying to be a pharmacist in Berditchev near the end of WWI and didn't know the Shulmans had migrated until he returned to Mlynov in 1922 with his wife Edith (Fixman), whom he met in pharmacy school. In 1922, Simon and Edith made their way to Baltimore, as well.

Arriving in Baltimore, Pearl Malka was reunited with her three sisters, Bessie Hurwitz, Mollie Roskes, and Yetta Schwartz, who had all arrived there before the war. There her youngest daughter, Pepe Shulman, fell in love with and married her first cousin, Paul Schwartz , son of Yetta. Sara Shulman married Paul Settleman who had traveled with them and pretended to be a Shulman son on the passage to America. In the US, he retained the family name "Shulman" to remain consistent with his passenger manifest. Clara Shulman married Ben Fishman who had left for America the year before.

Two of the Shulman daughters, Nechama and Liza, remained behind when Tsodik and Pearl left Mlynov probably became they had already gotten married and had children. How hard it must have been for their parents to take leave and split the family across the ocean. The oldest daughter, Nechama (Shulman) had married Saul Meiler and they had their first daughter, Tamara, in about 1914. You can see the baby Tamara in the photo of the four generations of the Shulmans above. Mlynov descendants speculate that Saul Meiler may have been from the "Malar" family which is mentioned in the Mlynov-Muravica memorial book.[33]

Also staying behind in Mlynov was the second oldest Shulman daughter, Liza. Liza had married Shia Koszhushner and they had three children. In 1942 when the Nazis invaded, the Koszhushners headed east and made it to Kiev, where they survived the war. They had waited as long as they could for the Meilers to join them at a set rendevous point, but the Meilers had never showed up and the Koszhushners could wait no longer and had to go on East without them. The Meilers did not survive. The Koszhushners, for their part, remained in Russia under Communist rule. The Shulmans in Baltimore eventually learned they were alive after WWII and first cousins eventually got to visit them in Russia in the 1990s.

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Asher Anshel Steinberg (1881–1921) from Mervits married Chaya Malka Lerner (1881–1942) sometime before 1907 when Getzel, their eldest of seven children, was born. What we know of this family comes from three of the seven children who survived the Shoah and whose story is documented in a powerful and moving
book length narrative by one of the survivors' children.

The three siblings who survived were: Getzel Steinberg (1907–2003), who later became George Steinberg in America, Menachem Mendel Steinberg (1909–1998), and Bunia Steinberg (1913–1995). She became Bunia Upstein after marrying a young Mlynov man who had been conscripted into the Red Army and survived the War in Siberia and who returned to Mlynov after the war. His name was Yitzhak Upstein and, according to family memories, he was a cousin of Bunia's. The other Steinberg siblings who did not survive were: Faiga Shtivel (1910–1942) and her husband and two children, Tzvi Herschel Steinberg (1913–1942), Eliaykim (Yukal) Steinberg (1915–1942) and Chuna Steinberg (?–1942).

Life Before WWI

We don’t know much about the family of Asher Anshel Steinberg before the 1920s when a tragedy struck the family. We know only that Asher Anshel had a sister named Golda who married a man named Gedaliah (George) Preluck in Mervits in 1906. They had five children before 1913, when Gedaliah left and made his way to Providence, Rhode Island. He headed there to join family who was already there. It seems likely Golda knew that by 1911 Clara (Hirsch) Newman from Mlynov had also settled in Providence with her husband Jacob and perhaps the two husbands, who were both peddlers for a time, knew each other. Golda finally joined Gedaliah in Providence in July 1922 when she and two of her children arrived after WWI had ended. She managed to get an emergency US passport from the consulate in Warsaw.


A Family Tragedy Strikes

Family life for the Steinberg family in Mervits comes into focus in the 1920s with the recorded memories of Asher Anshel’s daughter, Bunia, whose story is told by her daughter, Shoshana (Upstein) Baruch. After WWI, when the family came back to Mervits after their evacuation, Asher Anshel took council with the rabbi about whether to open a butcher shop. The rabbi counseled against it. Ignoring the rabbi’s advice, he opened the butcher shop anyway and things were going well until a disaster struck.

Asher Anshel cut his hand and was taken to the hospital in Dubno. His wound got infected and since penicillin had not yet been discovered he passed away in his forties. Bunia later recalled that she and her siblings were not told about their father’s passing; she only realized what had happened when they came to take his tallit away for the burial ceremony. She began to sob and wouldn’t let go of his tallit.

Asher Anshel’s passing left his widow, Chaya Malka, with seven children and no means of support. We don’t know much about Chaya Malka (Lerner). It seems plausible that she was the sibling of Joseph Abraham Lerner (1866–1954) from Mlynov who migrated to Baltimore in 1913. With their father gone, the Steinberg children had to help with the burden of the family income. Getzel, the oldest son, who was just a teenager at the time, began to work in the grain business, and Bunia, a younger teen at this point, helped with the geese and housework.

Getzel had a knack for business and improved the family’s economic situation with a farm where he raised wheat and hay, cattle and horses. Bunia took over management of the household and brought in a number of innovations: she replaced straw mattresses with modern ones, changed the bedding to white, acquired a radio, an uncommon item at the time, and set up a room for plants. Bunia also regularly traveled to Varkovychi to help her sister, Faiga, who had gotten married by this time to a man named Shoyleh Shtival, had two children, and moved to that town, which was about 33 km (20 mi) from Mlynov.

Like many youth living in Mervits and Mlynov under Polish rule in the 1920s and 1930s, Bunia was influenced by the Zionist impulses of the time. She appears in this photo below with other members of the Zionist youth group, Betar, the youth group for Revisionist Zionism started by Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky Her mother’s home became a center for Zionist social activities and meetings in Mervits. Bunia even went to Dubno and Rovno to hear Jabotinsky’s speeches and she hoped to make aliyah one day.

After her father’s death, Bunia’s grandfather, Eliezer, was guardian of the family, and like some of the other men of that generation in town, he had no sympathy for Zionism and he wanted to get Bunia married. Ignoring the advice of matchmakers, however, Bunia had a secret relationship with a boy named Shmuel, a friend of hers in the youth movement. Bunia never managed to get a British certificate authorizing her aliyah due to her grandfather’s resistance and the need to help her sister’s household, not to mention the increasing difficulty of securing the desired documents. Bunia and her siblings were thus still in Mlynov as WWII began.


World War II and Shoah

There is not much information remembered by the Steinberg family about the period starting in September 1939 when the Communists occupied Mlynov and Mervits as part of the agreement with the Germans to split Poland in half. As Bunia’s daughter, Shoshana, explains, the family “did not speak about the Soviet period, because the hardship of that period was minor compared to the Nazi occupation that came afterwards.”

More is known of family’s fate after June 22, 1942 when the Nazis reneged on the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact Hitler had brokered with Stalin and attacked the half of Poland held by the Russians. Bunia herself was beaten the first day the Gestapo appeared in Mervits while trying to protect her mother. Her boyfriend Shmuel was among the first ten victims killed on November 7, 1941, when Jewish sabotage was blamed for downed telephone wires, which had been caused accidentally by a Gestapo motorcyclist who never reported the incident. Because of her German skills, Bunia was able to work for a time in a military hospital where she had to do menial work such as polishing the boots of officers and where she sustained regular beatings. But work later gave her authorization to leave the ghetto that would be constructed later, and eventually saved her life.

By the beginning of WWII, Bunia’s brother, Getzel, had already married Pesie Wurtzel and they already had a son, Zelig (later Gerry), who was born in 1937 (despite records saying 1939). Pesia's parents were Zelig Wurtzel and Sooreh (Gruber). During the 1930s, Bunia’s brother, Mendel, had fallen in love with a young woman named Sheindel Grenspun, who was from a poor and lower-class family from Trochenbrod. Because Mendel's older sister Faiga had not yet married, Mendel’s mother frowned on the arrangement and so the couple ran off and got married in secret. In 1936 they had a young son, Anshel (later Albert Steinberg), named for Asher Anshel. During the 1930s, Getzel and Mendel continued to build business relationships in the grain business, which ultimately helped saved their lives.

Read more about the Steinberg survival story.

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What we know of the very large Teitelman family comes from members of two families who lived through and survived the Shoah. The first was the family of Nahum Meir and Rachel Teitelman who lived in Mlynov and the second couple, was their cousins, Menachem Mendel and Sonia Teitelman, who lived in Mervits. They and a number of their children and siblings managed to escape the Mlynov ghetto, in a story told partially by Nahum in the Memorial book and in a first hand account by Nahum and Rachel’s son, Asher Teitelman.

The two Teitelman couples were all related to one another. The two wives, Rachel and Sonia, were themselves sisters, daughters of Shifra (Teitelman). Shifra married a man named Yosef Gruber who was son of Mordechai Gruber. Both of the sisters married Teitelman first cousins, sons of their mother Shifra’s brothers. Rachel’s husband, Nahum, was son of Shifra’s brother, Ephraim, and Sonia’s husband, Mendel, was son of Shifra’s brother, Abraham. The two husbands were not only first cousins to their wives but to each other as well.

To visualize the relationships, you can click on the images below to see a video illustrating these first cousin relationships.


The Teitelmans all had a common ancestor named Mordechai Teitelman who is believed to have come to the area before it even became part of Russia. The 1850 and 1858 revision lists for Mlynov shows there was already a sizeable “Teitelboim” family living in Mlynov at the time but the connection to the ancestors remembered in the Teitelman family cannot be firmly established.

The patriarch Mordechai Teitelman had a son, Asher Teitelman, who married a woman named Sura Alta and had six children, each of whom had large families. The six children were: Abraham Leib, Chaim Meir, Doba, Mordechai, Shifra and Efraim-Fishel. The names of 31 grandchildren are known from the next generation and you can do some multiplication to estimate the number of great grandchildren, the majority of whom did not survive. The Teitelman family may have been as large or larger than the Goldseker family remembered as one of Mlynov’s biggest families.

In addition to the Teitelman couples mentioned above and some of their children and siblings, there were also several Teitelman descendants from other lines who made aliyah in the 1930s and whose descendants live in Israel and the United States. Among others, Moshe (Teitelman) Tamari (1910– 2007), grandson of Efraim Fishel Teitelman, was born in Varkovitchi but grew up in Mlynov and made aliyah in 1933. He contributed two marvelous essays to the Memorial volume, including his memories of a special hill in Mlynov which the children called "Mount Sinai" and a evocative story about the visit of Yitzhak Lamdan to Mlynov in 1932.


Sonia (1900–1980) and Mendel (1893–1991) had a general store in Mervits. Their business relationships later saved their lives during the Shoah as one of their customers later helped hide them. The man's surname was Bogdan. While hiding in the forest, they ran into his 12 year old son who realized they were Jews. He told them to wait there until after a Ukraianian guest had left their house and then he brought them to their home. Mendel and Sonia write with moving gratitude about Bogdan in one of the essays they contributed to the Memorial book:

I have here the privilege of talking about our dear Bogdan, who kept us together. All Jews, without exception, who wandered in that part of the woods, meaning Novyna-Dobryatyns’ka at the Pańska Dolina, had only one address: Bogdan. A secure trustworthy man. When we needed to dig shelters, and for everyone separately so that not all would be discovered together, I was the digger. Where to get a shovel, a saw, a spade? At Bogdan’s. And to know exactly where to make the shelter, so that it would not, heaven forbid, be close to a Ukrainian community, whom do we ask? Bogdan. And for provisions, if we wanted to go to a secure farmer in the area at night to get food, and we don’t know our way through the forest paths, we took Bogdan with us. He never refused. He did all that not for riches, but because of his kind character and his goodness. I want to add, that in the course of that time many unfortunate events occurred, and always, Bogdan’s help was the first and the most useful.

They later became the most prolific contributors to the Mlynov Memorial Book writing essays about the religious, political and daily life in the towns which they sometimes referred to as as one entity called "Mlynov-Mervits." The couple who never had children made their way to Palestine and lived out their lives in Israel. They are seated in the back right corner of the celebration photo below.

We know quite a bit more about the lives of Nahum (1890–1976) and Rachel (1894–1980) from the book-length memoire of their son, Asher, who was born in 1922. Nahum Teitelman was a middleman in a grain business in Mlynov. He would buy from the farmers from the nearby farms who would come to Mlynov to sell their grain and he would resell the grain to buyers in other towns.

In 1924, Nahum was able to purchase a plot of land from a Polish nobleman in Mlynov and built a sizeable house on it, which had two sections. The first was large enough to include a living area for the family and a space for a shop in the front which sold necessities, including grocery products, sacks of flour, different kinds of ointments, and also barrels of kerosene. The second area was for storing grain which Nahum bought from local farmers. To the side of the storage area was a stable for horses and a stall for cows.

In his memoire, Nahum and Rachel’s son, Asher, recalls a number of idyllic childhood memories growing up in that house, such as working in the store with his mother and going to cheder in Mlynov. One of the more memorable incidents that he recounts involves an annual visit to Mlynov by the Trisk rebbe. On one of those occasions, his brother Shlomo-Bentzion fainted and lost consciousness, which was apparently a recurring problem. The family called the rebbe who came to the house and “circled the room seven times, stood in the middle of the room, raised his hands and called out loud, ‘I have seen that all things have a limit’ (Ps. 119:96).” Asher reports that this was the last time his brother Shlomo lost consciousness.

Asher also vividly recalls when he was about ten (circa 1932) that rumors were circulating in Mlynov that “Holy Mary” had appeared in the church. People from the surrounding areas started streaming to the church in town. The kids in cheder were curious and during the break between classes the kids escaped and ran to the church to see Holy Mary. When they returned, their teacher, Moshe Melamed, was angry with them and told his parents and for a few weeks he was forbidden to leave the house and play with friends.


The German Invasion

On June 22, 1942, Asher was working at the airfield outside of Mlynov when it bombed by the Germans during Operation Barbarosa, as Hitler reneged on the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact to leave the Eastern part of Poland under the control of the Russians. Within a day, the German soldiers had occupied the town. The early days of the German occupation were chaotic, but Asher and his father eventually adjusted to the slave labor, as Nahum writes about in the essay he contributed to the memorial book. Asher was taken out of Mlynov to work slave labor in other towns. His mother helped secure his rescue from the Rowno ghetto where he was laboring, the day before that ghetto was liquidated. Asher returned with her to Mlynov.

At that point, the Teitelmans were living in the Mlynov ghetto when rumors reached town that ditches were being dug for their own liquidation. Using passes that allowed him out of the ghetto for work, Nahum managed to get his children out of the ghetto and send them to a Polish family with whom he had done business. He arranged so that his wife Rachel pretending to be a Christian woman could leave the ghetto on the wagon of a man he did business with and whom he paid. Nahum's two sons, Efraim-Fischel and Shlomo, who were sent on ahead of the other siblings, were shot by the Ukrainian collaborators and among the first Mlynov residents to be killed as part of the liquidation.

Asher and his family made their way to Pańska Dolina, to the home of a Polish family by the name of Zarembah with whom Nahum had previously done business. Pańska Dolina, which no longer exists, was a town not far from Mlynov known during the War for the Polish resistance to the Ukrainian military, which was responsible for Polish ethnic cleansing. The Teitelmans were still with the Zaremba family when the Mlynov ghetto was liquidated.

Out of fear for their own lives, the Zaremba family asked the Teitelmans to leave and they headed to the nearby forest where they were ran into other relatives. The group of seventeen would spend the day in the forest and, at night, hide in the barn of a local farmer whom they knew and who provided food for them. One night the family was discovered. Asher's family was separated from his brother Yosef, who ended up hiding with another forester in the area known to the family, who was also hiding Sonia and Mendel. The family of Asher’s maternal aunt, Chaika (Gruber) Schichman and maternal Uncle Nuta Gruber took refuge in another town with a farmer they knew. One evening, they were betrayed and were shot. Only Chaikah’s daughter (Asher's first cousin), Sarah (Schichman) Vinokur, managed to escape detection and go on to survive.

Fearing for their lives, Nahum, Rachel, and their children, Asher and Shifra, left the area at night and managed to make their way to the forest of Smordva where they had heard that partisans and other Jews were hiding and were armed. In the Smordva forest, they lived in bunkers with some of the local partisans. Other Mlynov families were hiding in bunkers in the same forest including the Nudler family from Mlynov. During this period, Asher joined the partisans and carried out operations with them against the Germans. Later, when rumors reach them that the bunkers were going to be attacked, they managed to leave the forest in time. The Nudler family was not so fortunate. Etka Nudler (later Helen Fixler) lost her mother and siblings during the operation, though Helen and her father, Arke, managed to survive.

With their resources and will depleted, and no place left to hide, the Teitelmans sought a hiding place from a family they knew named the "Holatkos" who overcame their fear and hid them until the end of the war. The details of their survival story are dramatic, moving and worth reading in detail in the full length story of Asher’s life. The Holatkos were later recognized by Yad Vashem as "righteous gentiles" for their role in saving the Teitelmans' lives.


The End of the War

At the end of January 1944, after the Russians liberated the area, Asher and his family headed to Rovno. There Asher voluntarily enlisted in the Red Army against the Germans, where he was wounded three times in strategic battles including the battle of Smolensk. Two of the Nudler brothers were also fighting in the Red Army at the battle of Smolensk managed to escape with their lives. In the hospital during one of his convalencences, Asher ran into Moishe Goldseker, a fellow Mlynov young man, who was also fighting in the Red Army. This was the last time that Moshe was seen alive.

After his third wound, which was serious, Asher convalesced in the city of Astrakhan on the Crimea, before finally returning to Mlynov to join his family in Arpil 1945. At some point during this period, his parents and sister participated in the memorial commemoration in Mlynov for all those who were killed in the ghetto liquidation. They were among those who were present in the haunting photo of that memorial event.


Leaving Mlynov

Realizing there was not much left for them in Mlynov, the family eventually made their way to Bytom. During this period, Asher deserted the Russian army and got involved with an organization smuggling Jewish refugees from Austria to to the displaced persons camp of Föhrenwald, in Germany, which was under the supervision of the Americans.

While in Föhrenwald, Asher participated in a committee of Jewish refugees who called for a hunger strike protesting the treatment of Jewish refugees. Asher was present when the committee was called into a meeting to explain their actions with General Eisenhauser, the commander of the American army. While in Föhrenwald, Asher met with some other Mlynov survivors who made their way there. They included the Kozak family – the parents, Ruben, Moshe and Gendel [Genya] with their three kids, and Mamtzi, the sister of his uncle Mendel, with her friend – Israel Genut – whom she got to know in Salzburg.

After six months, Asher rejoined his parents who had made their way to Austria, to the displaced person camp in Bad Gastein. There Asher would meet his future wife Tova Genut, the mother of his children. Over time the family managed to make their way to Paris where they waited for an opportunity to make their way to Palestine. After attempting to migrate illegally on the infamous ship “Ben Hecht,” and actually sailing within sight of Tel Aviv, Asher and his family were turned back and held at the British internment camps in Cyprus. There Asher and Tovah got married. Finally, on April 15, 1948, the family received certificates (permission for aliyah) and on April 20th, arrived at the harbor of Haifa, shortly before the UN declared Israel a state.

Additional Reading

You can read Asher Teitelman's book length life story, or some of the many essays written by Sonia and Mendel in the Memorial volume, or read Moishe (Teitelman) Tamari's essays about childhood in Mlynov.

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The Wurtzels were a large family from the small town of Mervits (also known as Muravica and Muravitz) which was about a mile north of Mlynov (today Mlyniv in Western Ukraine).

The patriarch and matriarch of the Wurtzel family were the couple remembered as “Doovid and Meerel Wurtzel.” Much of what we know about this couple and the descendants of their daughter, Ronya Leah, comes principally from a short narrative called “A Very Brief History of the Wurtzel Dynasty” written by a granddaughter, Merle (Katz) Gould based on what she learned from her cousin, another granddaughter, Mary “Meril” Gordon. This narrative is referred to in what follows as the “Very Brief History." Merle and Mary are just two of several women in this family tree named “Meril” after the matriarch of the family. As Merle wrote:

Meerel Wurtzel was the matriarch of the clan and decreed that all her grandsons or perhaps it was all of her grandchildren, should name their first-born daughter after her. That explains why there are so many "Meerels" in the family; there is Meerel (Mary Gordon), Meerel (Minnie Katz Schell), Meerel (Merle Katz Gould), Meerel (Myra Snider Bass) of blessed memory, and Meerel Flaisher.
We shall learn a bit about each of these Meerels and others in the Wurtzel family as we proceed.


According to the “Very Brief History,” the Wurtzel family owned and operated a linseed mill in Mervits and were considered well-to-do, relatively speaking. Doovid and Meerel had three children: Ronya Leah Wurtzel (1857–?), Zailek (or Zelig) Wurtzel (?-?) and Soorkeh (or “Sura”) Wurtzel (~1882–1947). The spread of 25 years between the birthdates of Ronya Leah and Soorkeh is not unheard of in this period when women started having children in their late teens and continued into their 40s. The fact that there were only three children born in this twenty-five-year period suggests that Doovid and Meerel either were unable to have children during this time and/or that there were other children whose names and fates are not remembered.

There are three major themes in the Wurtzel family story. One theme involves the migration to the Canadian Prairies and involves descendants (from Ronya Leah’s line). They and their families ran general stores in small rural farming hamlets and villages in Canada along the Canadian Pacific Railway (the “CPR”) between larger cities. As one of their grandsons (Jack Kates) explains in a book he wrote about his life in a Jewish family on the prairie, most of the Eastern European Jewish immigrants settled in the larger cities. “But for many of them who were unable to earn a livelihood in the city, there was one possible solution: Move to the ‘country’ and open up a general store. With a few hundred dollars and with the help of wholesalers who extended them credit, they were in business…and nobody was more crucial to the development of the community than was the storekeeper.” (see Jack Kates, Don’t You Know It’s 40 Below? 2002).

If the Canadian prairie life constitutes one theme of the Wurtzel story, another is the migration to the large US cities of Philadelphia (Soorkeh [Wurtzel] and her husband Isaac Fleischer and family) and Boston (Bella [Wurtzel] Cohen, one of Ronya Leah’s daughters, with her husband and family).

The third theme involves the fate of those who stayed behind. Nearly all of those who stayed in Russia perished in the Shoah, impacting Zailek’s line most heavily, but also touching Ronya Leah’s. Only one of Zailek’s seven children (Pessia [Wurtzel] Steinberg) survived the Nazi occupation with her husband and child.

The following more detailed account draws on the “Very Brief History” of Merle (Katz) Gould supplemented by a family tree (developed by Merle’s daughter Anita Shaw), US and Russian records where available, relevant oral traditions and records shared by descendants in these three Wurtzel lines as well as the Mlynov-Muravica [=Mervits] Memorial Book (hereafter “Memorial Book”) which is now translated.


1850 and 1858 Census Records (Russian Revision Lists)

We don’t know much about the Wurtzel family from the period before migration began. It appears that the Wurtzels may be one of the families listed in the 1850 and 1858 census for Mervits which has now been located and translated. In Russia, these censuses were called “Revision Lists” and captured details about families for the purposes of taxes and military conscription. The details for the 1858 “Vortsel” family do not exactly match memories recorded in Wurtzel family but they are so close that it seems highly probable this is the same Wurtzel family.

In 1858, this family is called “Vortsel” and includes a one-year-old child named a “Rotya-Leya” (very similar to Ronya Leah). Her mother’s name is Mirlya (similar to Meerel). She is age 23 with an implied birth year of 1835. The husband’s name, however, does not match the family oral tradition. He is listed here as Sakhar-Moishe (Yissachar? Moshe), age 24, born in 1834. He is head of the family in 1858. Although his name is not the “Doovid” of the family memory, it seems significant that his father’s name was “Duvid-Ovediye.” Furthermore, in keeping with the traditions of the time to use patronyms, Sakhar is also known as “Sakhar-Moishe Duvid Ovediyev” in this record. In other words, Sakhar was “Duvid’s son” and “Duvid” was used as part of his name. This could explain why the descendants remember him as “Duvid.”

When we turn from the 1858 to the earlier 1850 census eight years earlier, we see that this same family surname is transliterated “Vertsel” and is clearly the same family. In that year, “Duvid-Ovediye Vertsel” is listed as head of the family. He was the son of a man named Gersh-Leib. In a story told below, “Leib” was added to the name of Ronya Leah and Yankel Volf’s son Louis (Shmuel “Leib”) Katz, lending further grounds for assuming this may be the same family line.

“Duvid-Ovediye” died in 1848 at the age of 40, implying his year of birth was 1808. His wife’s name was Shendlya and she was born in 1814. Her birth surname is not given. Their son, called here Sukhar-Moishe (a variation of Sakhar-Moisha), was born in 1834 when his parents Duvid was 26 and Shendlya was 20. The record suggests they were already in Mervits by this time. When Duvid died in 1848, their son Sukhar-Moishe was 14 years old.


A Brief Look at the Three Wurtzel Lines

As noted above, Doovid and Meerel Wurtzel had three children. Ronya Leah, Soorkeh (Sura), and Zailek. What follows is a brief summary of each of the three children’s lines. More detail is provided in the longer version of Wurtzel Family Story, which can be dowloaded below.

Ronya Leah Wurtzel and Yankel Volf Katz

Ronya Leah married a man named Yankel Volf Katz (HaCohen) sometime before 1881. Descendants pronounce the surname “Katz” with a long “a” as if it rhymes with “Dates” as grandson Jack Kates explained in a book he wrote about growing up on the Canadian Prairie. It is not known why the family pronounced Katz this way–whether it reflects the original Hebrew/Yiddish pronunciation (e.g. כץ) or was an effort at anglicization.

It is uncertain where Yankel Volf Katz was born since a family named Katz does not appear in the 1850 or 1858 censuses for either Mlynov or Mervits and very little about his family or background is recorded in family memories. However, there were a number of Katz (e.g. כץ) individuals in Mlynov who were martyred during the Holocaust and could be related to Yankel Volf. Only one shared memory of Yankel Volf Katz seems to have been remembered by grandchildren Merle (Katz) Gould and Jack Kates. Both were told or recall that he was scholar. Merle gives a bit more detail:

Ronya Leah, who married Yankel Volf Katz, also owned a linseed mill, and lived in Maervitz, Russia, which was close to the Polish border. Her husband, [Yankel Volf] HaCohen, was a descendant of the priestly tribe of Aaron and a dedicated biblical scholar. He spent more time in studying than in trying to make a living for his large family. It was eventually left to his sons to support the family.
Merle and Jack ascribe a different number of children to their grandparents, Ronya Leah and Yankel Volf. Merle writes that "Of their nine children, five emigrated to the United States and Canada, and four remained in Russia." In his book, Jack Kates says they produced twelve children. The Wurtzel family tree (done by Merle’s daughter Anita) and the “Very Brief History” list nine Katz children in presumed birth order: Chaieh (married name Cooperstein), Bayla (married anglicized name Bella Cohen), David, Maurice (“Moishe”),Louis (“Shmeil Lieb”), Bessie (“Pessie”–married name Shnider), Dvorah [married name unknown], Shlomieh, and Meyer. A photo of the family also includes another woman who is remembered as "Haika,” who could conceivably be one of the other 12 children whose names are no longer remembered.

Since Ronya Leah was born in 1857 according to the Russian census, it is likely she married Yankel Volf by about 1877, which is consistent with the birth dates of four of their children in the 1880s. Four of those children migrated to the Canadian prairie in Saskatchewan, Canada: David Katz (1883–1926), Maurice (Morris) Katz (~1885–1918), Louis (“Shmeil Lieb”) Katz (1887–1954), and Bessie (Pessie Katz) Shnider (~1891–?). They settled in small villages of Sheho and Guernsey along a train route between larger cities of Winnipeg and Saskatoon, a route that had only recently begun to develop in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Whether they migrated with the intention of settling there or only learned about the developing opportunities along the Canadian Pacific Railway after they arrived is not known. But here, in these small villages where there was only one other Jewish family if they were lucky, they set down roots and made their life. Were they aware of the irony that these tiny villages were as small as if not smaller than the shtetl they left?

David Katz the eldest son (and third child) of Ronya Leah and Yankel Volf, was the first to migrate to Canada in about 1907. He followed Freida Cramer, his future wife, and one of her brothers to Canada. David was born in ~1883 in Russia, probably in Mervits, and died on April 3, 1926 in Guernsey, not far from Saskatoon, in the Province of Saskatchewan, Canada. Three of David’s siblings, Louis [Shmeil Lieb], Maurice [Morris/Moshe], and Bessie [Pessie] (married name Shnider,) followed David to this area of the Canada prairie and the rural life in Canada shaped their lives and the lives of their children.

It is not entirely clear when David Katz’s siblings arrived in Canada. According to the “Very Brief History,” David’s brother, Louis Katz (Shmul Leib) came to Winnipeg, Canada between 1912–1916. Not long after arriving, he found employment as a salesman working for Mr. Dashevsky in his store in Theodore, Saskatchewan. He soon managed to save and borrow enough money to start his own business as a general store proprietor in Sheho, Saskatchewan, Canada. His brother Maurice (Morris/Moshe) Katz, worked with him and their sister, Bessie, kept house for them.

A somewhat different account that offers more details was written by Louis’s son (and Merle’s brother), Jack Kates, who was born in a hospital in Winnipeg in 1928 and grew up in Sheho. Jack was named for his grandfather Yankel Volf Katz. In addition to a short family narrative, Jack wrote about his experiences growing up on the Canadian prairie, in his book Don’t You Know It’s 40 Below. The book provides a charming window into life in a small village for a Jewish family who is still speaking Yiddish, trying to keep kosher but is miles from most other Jews.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, Yankel Volf Katz, a rabbinical scholar in the tiny hamlet of Mervits, in the Ukraine, and his wife Ronya Leah, produced twelve children, one of whom, named Schmeel, was born in 1886 or 1887. While the infant lay deathly ill, special prayers were held for him, pleading with God to let him live. In exchange, he was given another name “Leib,” meaning “to live.” He survived, and in 1912, along with his younger sister Bessie, he followed in the footsteps of his older brothers David and Moishe, and emigrated to Canada where Anglo immigration officers, who frequently had difficulty with non-English names, gave him the name of “Louis,” pronounced “Louie.” (p. 4).
Sheho, like Guernsey, was a tiny village, not so different in fact from Mervits back in Russia with one big exception. The Katzes were one of only two Jewish families in town. Jack describes Sheho as a farming village of about seventy families totaling approximately 350 people. The big claim to fame according to Jack’s narrative was that it had four and not three grain elevators which were a status symbol on the Canadian prairie. Jack has a number of other quaint memories about the layout of the small town and memories of incidents that occurred during his childhood growing up there, including memories of his parents speaking Yiddish, trips on the train to visit family in Manitoba, getting their first radio, and the time he was allowed to have non-kosher chicken soup because he was anemic and his family couldn’t get a daily kosher chicken for fresh soup (p. 37). In a separate family narrative shared with me by descendants, Jack adds some other details.
My father, Louis Katz (pronounced Kates as in Dates), was a Saskatchewan pioneer, who owned one of Sheho's earliest general stores--from 1914 until 1947--when he moved away to Winnipeg. He was born in a tiny village in the Ukraine around 1887, one of twelve siblings, two of whom--David and Maurice--had already settled in Saskachewan. In 1912, he and his younger sister Bessie also migrated to Saskatchewan.

Louis Katz first went to Theodore [Saskatchewan] where he worked in Dashefsky's Store for two years. In 1914 he and his older brother Maurice pooled their savings of $600.[00] to open their own business in Sheho. The store, a large two-story structure flanked by two smaller building, had been built by Rufus Darling, one of Sheho's earliest pioneers, […] He had earlier built his own home at the western end of the village, where the sidewalk began, next to the town well. The store was directly across the tracks from the new Canadian Pacific railroad station.


Beila (Katz) Cohen Comes To Boston

While four of the Ronya Leah and Yankel Volf's children headed to Canada, one of their daughters, “Beila or Bayla” (~1883–1955) married Moshe Ber Mashuris and moved to his hometown of Olik, Russia (today Olyka, Ukraine) which was 24 miles northwest of Mervits and Mlynov. In America, Moshe Mashuris became Morris Cohen (1878–1941) and Beila became Bella Cohen (~1883–1955).

Beila and Moshe were married by 1900 when their eldest daughter Merle (named for her grandmother Meerel) was born. Her married name in America became Mary Gordon and she was the primary source for information in the “Very Brief History.” Two of Mary/Merle’s siblings were also born before the family migrated to Boston. They were Rose (married name Fink) (1908–1955) and Harry Cohen (anglicized surname Harry Colton) (1909–1980). Another son, Israel Cohen (1915–1918), apparently was born in Boston after the family migrated, but he died at the age of 3.

The family’s migration took place in two steps. Beila’s husband Moshe, called “Moses Kohan” on his manifest, traveled to the US on the SS Martha Washington from Trieste, Austria (now Trieste, Italy) and arrived in New York on March 17, 1909. Beile must have been pregnant when her husband left for Boston, since their son Harry was born in August of that year back in Russia, several months after Morris landed in the US. The rest of the family migrated in 1914. Beila and children left Libau, Russia on Feb. 20, 1914 on the SS Russia and arrived in New York on March 9, 1914.

Behind in Russia

At least four of the Katz children stayed behind in Russia. The eldest, Chaieh, married a man named David Cooperstein. According to the Wurtzel family, Chaieh and David had five children: Shmeelik (“Sam), Lifsha, Twin girls who died at 5 years of age and Avrum. Shmeelik and Avrum died in WWII.

For unknown reasons, David Cooperstein came to the US while the rest of his family remained behind. Perhaps his wife Chaieh was reluctant to leave because she was raising the child of her sister Dvoorah (married name unknown) who died in childbirth according to the “Very Brief History.” The two younger brothers, Shlomieh and Meyer, also stayed in Russia. According to the “Very Brief History,” their older brother Louis Katz saved up money to bring them to Canada. But their mother Ronya Leah “begged them not to leave, so they did not. Sadly, they were killed, along with their families in World War II.”

The family photo of the Wurtzels from back in Russia must have been taken when four children were already in Canada. The photo shows Ronya Leah and Yankel Volf in the center surrounded by children and grandchildren. Perhaps the woman who is remembered as Haika in the photo is one of their other children who is unnamed in the family narrative or tree.


Soorkeh (Sura) Wurtzel and Isaac Fleischer Line

Soorkeh (hereafter Sura) Wurtzel was the youngest child of Doovid and Meerel Wurtzel. She married a man named Isaac Fleischer (also called Eisig Flaisher) by 1896 when their eldest daughter Chane (married name Anna Schwartz) was born. They had 5 children in addition to Anna: Mirellen Mira (1901–1945) named for her grandmother Mereel, Ester/Malka (“Mary”) Flaisher (1904–1986), Serel (Sarah) Flaisher (1908–1983), Alter (“Morris”) Fleisher (1908–1963), and Motel (“Martin”) Fleisher (1911–1990). Records inconsistently list the children’s birthplace as Dubno or Rowno.

Sura’s husband, Isaac Fleischer, and their eldest daughter Anna migrated together to Philadelphia in 1912 and hoped to save enough to soon bring the rest of the family to join them. WWI intervened preventing the rest of the family from joining them until 1922. In the meantime, Anna married a man named Max Schwartz in 1915 and settled in Philadelphia. Isaac’s wife, Sura and four of their other children finally arrived in Philadelphia in 1922. Only Sura’s and Isaac’s second eldest daughter “Mirellen” or “Mira” (named for Meerel) stayed behind and died in Warsaw in 1945. In 1915, Isaac’s daughter Anna married Max (“Moische”) Schwartz. According to Max’s Declaration of Intention from July 30, 1919, he arrived in New York as “Moische Schwarz on the SS New Amsterdam on Sept. 25, 1911. His Petition for Naturalization signed Dec. 20, 1923 includes more information. His birthdate is given as Nov. 15, 1895. By this point, Anna and Max are living at 2231 South Reese St. in Philadelphia. He lists the birthdate of his wife Anna as Mar. 18, 1895. They have four children: Joseph, born Dec. 12, 1917, Ruth born Dec. 15, 1918, and Mary born Sept .19, 1921.

“Annie” and Max appear in the 1920 census with their three children. In addition, Anna’s father, Isaac Fleisher, is living with them. They are still living at 2231 South Reese St. in Philadelphia.

1922 Arrival of Sura and Children

We don’t know how Sura and the children fared during WWI, though the Memorial book makes clear that Mlynov and Mervits were evacuated and many of the residents were refugees during the fighting on the Eastern Front. After the War ended, migration began again and families that had been separated during the War made plans to reunite.

Isaac’s wife Sura (Wurtzel) and three of their children traveled from Danzig (now Gdansk) to New York on the SS Estonia, leaving Oct. 27, 1922, arriving on Nov. 22nd. They are listed as Polish citizens because the entire area of Volhynia was part of the newly recreated Poland that was created at the end of WWII on Nov. 3, 1918. The manifest lists “Rowno” Poland as their last residence. Sura is listed as age 42, with an implied birth year of 1880, making her about 5 years younger than her husband Isaac. Ester is listed as 18, Serel (“Sarah/Saraellen”) is 16; the age of Alter (“Morris”) was initially written as 19 but was corrected to 16, and Motel (“Martin”) is 10. On the right-hand columns of page 1, the manifest indicates their closest relative was daughter Mira Fleischer who stayed behind in Rowno.

Isaac and Sarah’s daughter, Ester / Malka Fleisher (1904–1986) appears to have become Mary Fleischer and married Morris (Moshe) Padow (1905–1958) on Jan 4, 1950. It does not appear that they had any children.

Isaac and Sarah’s son, Morris (Alter) Fleisher (1905–1962) married Charma Palat (1908–1978). They had five children: Miriam Esther (married name Crespy) (1928–2012), Jerome W. (George) Fleisher (1929–2014), Ruth Fleisher (married name Eisenberg) (1933-2014), Louise Fleisher (married name Stein) (1947–2017), and another still living son and daughter.

Isaac and Sarah’s youngest daughter, Serel (Sarah /Saraellen) (1907–1983) is still living with her mother in the 1940 census. Later that same year, she appears to have married a man named Hyman Bronstein and to have had one child.

Isaac and Sarah’s son, Martin (Motel) Fleisher (1911–1990) married Mildred Ozernicki (1916–1997). They had three children: Joel Barry Fleisher (1940–2013) and two other sons who are still living.

You can read more about this family in the long version posted below.


Zailek Wurtzel and Sooreh (Gruber) Line

Doovid and Meerel’s second child (and first son), Zailek Wurtzel (also spelled “Zaileg” or “Zalig”) and sometimes called “Zaileg Ulinik” in the Memorial book, married Sooreh (or Sura) Gruber, from the large Gruber family from Mlynov. Zailek and Sura’s family stayed in Russia and did not migrate.

In the Mlynov-Mervits memorial book there are several memories of Zailek by survivor and former Mervits residents and survivors Mendel Teitelman and his wife Sonia (Gruber)(who was a niece of Zailek’s wife, Sura). In one of their essays in the Memorial Book ("People of a Shtetl, pp. 92-93), they mention the industry that was found in the shtetl at that time: especially, “the so-called oil presses, driven by horses. The largest oil press was Zeylig Wurtzel’s, of blessed memory.” They also recall that when Mervits was under Polish rule (1921–1939) Zailek built a mill with partners when antisemitic restrictions made it increasingly difficult for Jewish merchants.

Zailek and Sooreh had seven children, six of whom were killed by the Nazis with their families, totaling at least twenty individuals based on the fragmentary information that is available and summarized below. Only their youngest daughter Pessia Wurtzel (1905–1994) and her husband Getzel Steinberg (1902–2003) from Mlynov miraculously survived the Nazi occupation with their young son Zelig (Gerald or “Gerry” Steinberg) and with Getzel’s sister, Bunia Steinberg. Pessia’s husband, Getzel, managed to get his wife and son Zelig out of the ghetto by bribing guards. They lived in crawl spaces under piles of hay, in lofts of granaries, in pits under pigsties, and in fields among other impossible places. The Steinberg’s incredible survival story has been documented in a book length account which is now translated to English and summarized online.

Photos of three of Zailek and Sooreh’s martyred sons appear in the Memorial book.

The exact birth order of the other children is not certain since we don’t have reliable birth years for all of them. A brief overview follows with more details in the longer Wurtzel family story which can be downloaded below:

Ester Rachel Wurtzel (also remembered as Leah Ester) (b. 1890/1893–Oct. 13, 1942) married Rabbi Yosel David Milhalter who was from Miscocz (today Mizoch, Ukraine). She went to live in Miscocz with him. According to Yad Vashem records, this family perished in the Misocz ghetto liquidation. Their sons Yaakov (Yankel) and Yeshayahu were in the Russian army at the time. Yaakov survived and later submitted the Yad Vashem records from Israel. It is believed that descendants of this Wurtzel line are still living in Israel. (3 murdered)

Gitel Wurtzel married Fishel Kleinberg who was born in Beresteczko in 1895 to Azriel and Lea Kleinberg. He was a flourmill owner. During the war he was in Mlynov, Poland. They had three daughters 10, 8 and 6, whose names are not recorded. (5 murdered)

Shrulick Wurtzel (also called Israel or Yisrael)(b. ~1895/1898–1942) is listed among the Mervits martyrs with his wife Eta, his daughters Perel and Leah, and son Azriel. (5 murdered)

Yosef Wurtzel (born ~1895/1898–1942) is listed among the Mlynov martyrs with his wife Rachel (1907–1942) (daughter of R. Chaim Berger), and their sons Mordechai, Zelig (~1930 /1939–1942), Gedaliah, and Yaakov (~1937–1942). (6 murdered)

Meyer (or Meir) Wurtzel (born ~1910–1942) was born in Mervits in 1910 according to a page of testimony submitted by survivor Mendel Teitelman. He married Rachel Lakritz. They had two daughters ages 8 and 6 – their names are not recorded. (4 murdered)

Moshe Wurtzel married a woman named Mariam and had 1 child according to Pessia’s son, Gerry Steinberg. (3 murdered)

Pessia (Paula) Wurtzel (survivor, married Getzel (George) Steinberg) (1905–1994). See the story of the Steinberg family.


Read more about the Wurtzel family.

You can download a more detailed account of Wurtzel Family Story here.

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[1] The Family of Shimon and Anna (Fishman) Goldseker, 1906. Back row ( left to right): Eta, Ida, mother Anna, Cousin Gittel, Pearl. Front row (left to right): Bayla, Charna, Sonny (David). The youngest son, Chuna, is not yet born.

[2] Four Generations of the Shulman family: Middle row (left to right): Pearl Malka Shulman, her mother, Rivka (Gruber) Demb, her father Israel Jacob Demb, her husband Tsodik Shulman, her son-in-law, Saul Meiler. Back row (left to right) Pearl's son, Simon Shulman, son-in-law Shia Koszhushner, daughter Liza Koszhushner, son Ertz Shulman and daughter Nachuma Meiler. Front row (left to right), daughter Clara Shulman, granddaughter Tamara Meiler, daughter Pauline Shulman, daughter Sarah Shulman.

[3] Quoted in essay "The Town of Mlynov," by Joseph Litvak of Jerusalmen. In Mlynov-Muravica Memorial Book, 52-53; Sokolsky, Mlynov-Muravica, p. 15.

[4] On the coachmen, see Sonia and Mendel Teitleman, "People in a Shetl," Mlynov-Muravica Memorial Book, 90-93. Sokolsky's translation, 31, however, skips this part of the narrative which I found in the translation by Irene Siegel. The coachmen are again mentioned by name in "Poor Lives," by Sonia and Mendl Teitleman, Memorial Book, 229-240, translation from Irene Siegel (section skipped in Sokolsky's translation). The presence of the Gruber men in 1912 and 1913 is captured in the passenger manifests of Simha's sons, Nathan and Samule Gruber, in their immigration to Baltimore. On the size and history of Berdichev, see Wikipedia.

[5] From Sonia and Mendl Teitelman, "People in Town," in Mlynov-Muravica Memorial Book 90-102, found in translation by Irene Siegel. Not quoted in Sokolsky's translation.

[6] See Benjamin Nathans, Beyond the Pale, for the term "selective integration" and an account of the various ways that Jews sought integration (not assimilation) in the Tsarist empire with a focus on St. Petersburg. Nathans contests the views that tend to overemphasize the pogroms as the key events shaping Jewish efforts and identity in the period.

[7] Clara Fram was the youngest daughter of Pesse Demb (later Bessie Hurwitz), Israel Jacob and Rivkah's, oldest daughter. Clara immigrated to Baltimore with her mother and two sisters in 1909 to rejoin her father. In 1982, as part of a continuing education seminar, she wrote her memoire. "This is My Story: I Write and Speak of Myself." I am quoting from the memoire with permission of her descendant Mia (Fram) Davidson.

[8] See article on Mlyniv in Wikipedia citing a Ukrainian source Bukhalo, H., Vovk, A. Mlyniv, Mlyniv Raion, Rivne Oblast. "The History of Cities and Villages of the Ukrainian SSR."

[9] Clara Fram, "This is My Story," p. 3.

[10] Clara Fram, "This is My Story," p. 3.

[11] Clara Fram, "This is My Story," p. 3.

[12] This is based on the 1900 Federal census record.

[13] This story comes from Clara Fram, "This is My Story," Part I, p. 2, and Part II, p. 5. See note 7.

[14]We don't know why Bessie Hurwitz and family made the trek across Europe to Trieste instead of Bremen, where others had previously left, for the trip to the US. But we do now that between the time that Bessie's husband David made the trip in 1901 and Bessie made the trip in 1909 that a major shipping company had opened a route to the US from Trieste. In 1904, Trieste saw the founding of Unione Austriaca di Navigazione (Austrian Shipping Association), also known as Austro Americana & Fratelli Cosulich....A May 5, 1904 article from the Baltimore Sun announces the new shipping line. Perhaps this ad or one like it that what David Hurwitz saw and became the basis for his family coming via Trieste. In only a few months, the new shipper doubled its capital stock, thanks to investments by large north German shippers and Austrian banks that wanted to squeeze a competitor out of the domestic market. Other Mlynov immigrants such as Meyer Fishman would follow the same route later that year.

[15] See Balfouria. According to a census conducted in 1922 by the British Mandate authorities, Balfouria had a population of 18 Jews. According to a Jewish National Fund publication of 1949, Balfouria was the first village to be founded in Palestine after the Balfour Declaration.

[16] I want to thank the Schuchman family for hosting me and especially Schuchman descendant, Joyce Jandorf, who has spent quite a bit of time educating me about the Goldbergs.

[17] I learned this fact from a family narrative written by Edith (Spector) Geller. I want to thank Edith and her nephew Harold for all their insights on the Goldberg clan from Mlynov.

[17b] Since Mlynov was a small town, residents often did not use formal surnames. There are many examples in the Mlynov Memorial book where an individual is referred to instead in Yiddish with a possessive form of the father, mother, or father-in-law. Yiddish creates the possessive by adding an "s" sound, like the English "apostrophe s." For example, the children of Aaron Hirsch are referred to as belonging to the "Ahrelas" family, meaning son or daughter of Aharon. Similarly "Gitlas" is used to mean "daughter of Gitla," and "Tobishe" is used use to designate "son of Toba." It seems possible that Leib's orphan son became known as "Leibishe."

This Gelbarg household went through a major transformation from 1850 to 1858. In 1850, Haim-Leib is 42 and head of the family. He is married to a woman named Khina and they have three daughters (Etya, age 15, Eidlya, age 12, and Tsivya age 7). The 1850 census also indicates that Haim-Leib's brother recently died and that his brother's son, Mordko, age 10, is living in the household.

Everything changed by 1858. As that census makes evident, Haim-Leib passed away in 1855 at the age of 49. When he died, he left behind a young son named Freidel who was born in 1850 and was 5-years old when his father died. Haim-Leib's wife, Khina, and his three daughters, who were in the household in the 1850 census are no longer listed. We don't know what became of them. Perhaps after Haim-Leib's death, Khina returned to her family with her daughters or married someone else. In any case, in 1858 the son Freidel is living in the household as an orphan along with his first cousin, Mordko, who is now 25 years old. It is this orphan son, Freidel, who perhaps was known as "Leibishe" son of Leib.

[18] Here is the third cousin relationship between the Shermans and Goldbergs: Ezra Sherman->Etel (Golisuk) Sherman, his mother-> Hannah (Schuchman) Golisuk, her mother->Eta Leah (Schuchman) Gelberg, her sister-> descendants of Labish and Eta (Schuchman) Gelberg.

[19] I want to thank Joyce Jandorf, a Schuchman descendant, who located the proper pronunciation of Yankel's last name. The name was incorrectly transcribed as "Frumiut" in Sokolsky version of the Mlynov Memorial Book translation(p. 108).

[20] The conclusion that Ruchel is Nathan's step-daughter, and not his daughter, is based on his 1927 Naturalization Petition which lists all his children, but leaves Ruchel out, even though she was living with Nathan and Reisel in the 1930 census. A longer discussion of sources in provided in the full length summary of Gelberg story published in PDF at the end of this section.

[20b] Aisik's wife Perel is called the daughter of Itzi Shochet and is taken by descendants as a surname. But there is indication that it was in fact a description (Itzi the kosher slaughterer), not the surname. In the list of martyrs, Pesach Gelman is listed as a shohet and scribe and as son of R. Itzi the shohet. I conclude that Itzi the shohet had the last name Gelman and that Perel was his daughter and had the surname Gelman.

[20c] The name "Moishe Nahmanis" appears to be a possessive construction that in Yiddish means "Nachman's Moishe." Normally this construction in the Mlynov Memorial book is used to describe a child by his or her father's name, as in Henye Ahrelas, which means Henye daughter of Aharon. At times, it is also used to describe a person based on his mother's name (if his father has passed) as in "Moishe Toybes," meaning Moishe [Fishman] son of Toba. In this case, neither his father or mother are named Nahman and thus it is uncertain where the name originates. There is a grandson named Nachman (son of Yankel) which seems to confirm that the name Nahman was important in this family line. It is also interesting that a Nachman Gelberg is a father-in-law living in the household of Moishe's son, Yeshea/Yehoshua who married Sima Gelberg. While it remains unclear why he is called Moishe Nahmanis, it seems highly probable that this Moishe Holtzeker is the man with that nickname since the children called sons and daughters of Moishe Nahmanis in the Mlynov martyr list correspond to the names of children remembered for this Moshe Holtzeker.

[21] According to Herman family traditions, Moshe was born in 1850. However, according to his passenger manifest to the US, he was born in 1865 which seems more likely given the birth of his oldest son Israel in 1881. I want to acknowledge the help of descendants from the Herman family: Lynne Sandler, Miriam Berkowitz, and Debra Weinberg in understanding the Herman family history.

[22] Clockwise from the bottom right: Sonia (or Sophie) Herman, Moshe and Chava Golda Herman, Bessie Herman (seated left), Hershon (Isaac?) Herman (standing left), Israel Herman (standing center), Shmuel [(Herman?) or husband of Sonia]. Notes from the family are not clear on identity of each person in the photo.

[23] I'd like to thank Marla Nudler, Olivia and Emily Gampel, for their research and narrative on Morris's story, and to Barry Stadd who helped me understand the Polishuk story. Finally to Helen (Nudler) Fixler, who was willing to speak with me and allow me to interview her.

[24] Sarah's passenger manifest shows she is going to this address in 1913. Israel Schwartz's Petittion from 1920 shows he is still at this same address.

[25] An essay on Solomon Mandelkern by his great, great nephew, Col. Bernard Feingold, "Solomon Mandelkern" In Generations. Jewish Historical Society of Maryland. Vol. II:2. 1981, 10-19.

[26] Shulman signed his Petition For Naturalization on July 6th 1928.

[27] On Kalman Schulman (aslo Shulman), see "Kalman Schulman" in the YIVO Encyclopedia. An excellent essay on Schulman, "Kalman Schulman: The First Professional Populizer," appears in a chapter called "Reaching the Masses" in Shmuel Feiner, Haskalah and History: The Emergence of a Modern Jewish Historical Consciousness, 247-273. Trans. Chaya Naor and Sondra Silverton. Oxford and Portland, Oregon, 2002.

[28] Four generations in Mlynov of Demb/Shulmans. Second row seated (right to left): Pearl (Demb) Shulman, Pearl's parents, Israel Jacob and Rivkah (Gruber) Demb, Pearl's husband, Tsodik Shulman, their son-in-law, Saul Meiler.
Back row (left to right): Tsodik and Pearl's daughter, Nachuma (Shulman) Meiler, son "Ertz" (Harry) Shulman, daughter Liza (Shulman) Koszhusner, Liza's husband Shia Koszhusner, Tsodik and Pearl's son Simon Shulman. Front row (left to right): daughters Sarah Shulman, Pepe Shulman, Clara Shulman and baby, granddaughter, Tamara Meiler.

[29] On Nafatli Herz Schulman, see "Ideological and Literary Ferment," in David E. Fishman, Russia's First Modern Jews: the Jews of Shklov. New York: New York University, 1995.

[30] There are a number of references to the Count in the Memorial book. Joseph Litvak from Jerusalem ("The Town of Mlynov," Mlynov-Muravica Memorial Book, 53-59; Sokolsky translation, p. 15) recalls that:

Across the river in a vary large park, surrounded by a fence, was the Count's palace. Only very few Jews ever were able to enter the palace because the Count's family was extremely anti-Semitic.Whenever the Count had business dealings with Jews, he never dealt with them directly, using intermediaries instead. Also Jews were afraid to walk around the park because the Polish workers and servants employed by the Count would often release their dogs upon the Jews, or they would throw rocks at the Jews. Finally, in September 1939, after the Soviets took over the area, neighboring farmers ransacked and robbed the palace. For a few days afterwards, the Soviet government opened the palace to crowds of people who wished to see how the Count once lived.
And Baruch Meren from Baltimore recalls ("An Adventure in the Shtetel," Mlynov-Muravica Memorial Book, p. 188-194, Sokolsky translation, p. 43) recalls that
The main attraction of the town was the Count's mansion. No one was allowed to enter the estate except for my grandfather, Hersh (also Hirsch) Goldseker. He was a 'useful Jew' and worked for the Count. When a Jew needed a favor from the Count, Hersh Goldseker was the intermediary. He was the one in town who had favor in the eyes of the Count. My grandfather used to tell us wonderful stories about the lives of the Count and his family.

[31] This digital image is in the public domain.

[32] Quoting from Clara Fram, "This Is My Life," Part I, p. 6.

[33] The interesting possibility that what the Shulmans remember as "Meiler" may have been also Malar was suggested to me by Joyce Jandorf, a descendant of the Schuchman family from Mlynov.


Compiled by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD
Updated:July 2021
Copyright © 2019 Howard I. Schwartz

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