the 60th Anniversary of the
Liquidation of the Łódź Ghetto
by Fay Bussgang
At the end of
August, 2004, the 60th Anniversary of the liquidation of the Łódź ghetto was
commemorated by the entire city of Łódź, as well as by many visitors from all
over the world. More than fourteen hundred survivors and their families attended
During the war,
the Łódź ghetto contained over 200,000 Jews, including some 20,000 from other
countries of Europe. It was the last ghetto in Poland to be liquidated.
Since my father's
sister, her husband, and five of their six children either died while in the
Łódź ghetto or were killed during its liquidation, I wanted to be present for
the commemoration. My husband, Julian, born in Lwów, accompanied me and served
as translator. In addition, since he had been a combatant in the Free Polish
Army during the war (the Anders Army), he was classified as "Ocalony"
(survivor), which got us special privileges, such as reserved seats at the
events and tickets to the concerts.
Friday evening and
Saturday, August 27–28, were devoted to Shabbat services in the two surviving
synagogues. Saturday evening, a concert called “Children of the Łódź Ghetto” was
performed by school children.
On Sunday morning,
August 29, the actual anniversary of the final transport to the death camps,
there was a memorial service for the victims at a church located near the former
ghetto. Then. at 11:00, people gathered at the Jewish cemetery for prayer and
commemoration. The Łódź cemetery, with its 230,000 graves, is the largest Jewish
cemetery in Europe.
at the cemetery, some 5500 people participated in a memorial march to the
Radegast (Radogoszcz) train station, which has recently been restored as a
museum. The marchers followed the path of the last group of ghetto inmates, who,
after being forced to walk to this station sixty years ago, were sent to their
deaths in Auschwitz.
The mayor of Łódź,
Jerzy Kropiwnicki, who was the main force behind the commemoration, opened the
ceremonies at Radegast. The many distinguished speakers at the event expounded
on the role of Jewish citizens of Łódź in the history of the city, the tragedy
that befell them, and the importance of educating young people as to the
consequences of hatred and cruelty.
A reception was
held in the Poznański Palace (formerly owned by a wealthy Jewish industrialist)
at which three people were honored for their work to improve Polish-Jewish
relations. Tova Ben Zwi, born in Łódź, now living in Israel, spends weeks at a
time in Łódź. Daughter of a cantor, Ben Zwi has recorded Yiddish songs of the
ghetto and visits schools in Poland, using music to teach tolerance and
understanding. The second honoree was Eugene J.
Ribacoff, president of JOINT (American Jewish
Joint Distribution Committee). JOINT has been active in Poland for many
years, giving financial aid to Jews in need and sponsoring worthwhile projects.
The third honoree was Abraham Zelig, chairman of the Organization of Former Łódź
Residents in Israel.
On Sunday evening,
a gala concert was held in the Great Theater with Warsaw Symphony musicians, the
Kraków radio choir, a wonderful cantorial choir from Jerusalem, and three famous
cantors: Benzion Miller of Brooklyn, Alberto
Mizrachi of Chicago, and Yaacov Motzen
of Toronto. The symphonic orchestra played the
oratorio "Prophet Isaiah" by Alexander Tansman, a well-known composer born in
On Monday morning,
there was a ceremonial planting of memorial trees in a newly created “Park of
Survivors.” Each survivor was invited to dedicate a recently planted tree. I
found this ceremony of planting a living memorial to the victims particularly
was a meeting of survivors, followed by a delicious and bountiful reception at
the Poznański Palace.
Late in the
evening on Monday, an unusual concert took place in the Old Market Square (Stary
Rynek), once the center of the Jewish quarter of Łódź. It was entitled
Niewidzialni (those who can't be seen). A director conducted an invisible
orchestra. Only instruments could be seen resting on the chairs; the music
emanating from the stage came from a recording. The sole performer was the
magnificent American cantor from New York’s Fifth Avenue Synagogue, Joseph
Malovany, who sang traditional Jewish music––“Kaddish” (prayer for the dead),
“El Mole Rachamim” (Oh Merciful God), and “Sh’ma Yisrael” (Hear, Oh Israel). The
performance, well attended by townspeople as well as visitors, was hauntingly
Łódź rolled out an amazing welcome for the survivors,
making a multitude of arrangements, providing transportation to and from and
seating at the various events, as well as sponsoring several receptions. What
was particularly rewarding to see was that many young people
students, boy scouts, girl scouts, paramedics
participated as volunteers, assisting the visitors by passing out programs,
maps, and information, directing traffic, or providing free bottles of water.
organizers of the commemoration are to be commended for their efforts in making
this a meaningful event for the survivors and their families.
Fay Bussgang 2005
[The above article
originally was published in Gazeta, the Newsletter of the American
Association for Polish-Jewish Studies, Vol.12 No.3, Fall 2004. It is
reprinted here with the permission of the editors, Fay and Julian Bussgang. The
sequel, below, was written for Mass-pocha, the newletter of the JGS of
to Łódź Visit
We arrived in Łódź
a couple days before the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the ghetto
liquidation in order to do some genealogical research on my father’s family. We
have been to Łódź several times previously to do research in the Polish State
Archives at Plac Wolności. This time, I was hoping to get a few documents at the
Urząd Stanu Cywilnego (USC), the civil registry office, where records less than
a hundred years old are kept.
The Łódź database
from Yad Vashem had been available online only a short time before we went to
Poland––but long enough for me to find some very important information. I had
alreadyseen a hard copy of the database in 1992 in Tel Aviv at the office of the
Former Residents of Lodz in Israel. I had made copies then of family names,
especially those of my father's sister, Perla Bursztajn Jakubowicz, and her
family. We visited Łódź afterward and retraced her address in the city and then
in the ghetto. We tried to find out what happened to the family through the Red
Cross Project Search and Yad Vashem but had no luck.
My aunt’s oldest
daughter, Bina, had married, but I didn't know her married name, so I had no way
of finding out if anyone in her family had survived. I didn't know when or where
she was married, so it was hard to find out her married name.
Since the Łódź
database is searchable on any word, I did a search for "Bina" and got dozens of
them. Browsing through to look for someone about her age, I saw a Bina with her
exact birthdate (which I'd gotten previously from a Łódź Book of Residents), and
I knew I had found her. The name was Goldsztajn. The listing for Bina Goldsztajn
showed her address as Norman 10. By searching on Norman 10, I found her husband,
Rywen, and their two sons, Menachem and Abram Noech. Menachem, the eldest, was
born in 1935.
information in hand, we went to the USC in Łódź. Times have certainly changed.
In 1992 and 1994, when we tried to get some records at the Łódź USC, they wanted
proof of relationship and limited the number of records we could get at one
time. Also, they would only give us extracts of records, not copies of the
records themselves. In addition, each copy cost $8 to $10. Now, they are
extremely cordial and helpful, and photo copies can be gotten for 3 złoty a
piece (around $ .75).
Armed with the
information that my cousin Bina had her first child in 1935, I asked them to
search for her marriage record in 1933 and 1934. They found it––in 1934. They
also found the birth records of both sons––after all, I had their birth dates
from the Łódź Ghetto Database. In addition, they found several other family
records for me.
After our stay in
Łódź, we went to Warsaw, and as we always do, we went to visit Yale Reisner, who
heads the Lauder Foundation Genealogy Project at the Jewish Historical
Institute. I had had no luck in finding survivors from my father's immediate
family, but I now had a new name––Goldsztajn. I wanted to see if perhaps one of
the sons had survived. I was disappointed not to find their names in the
However, all of a
sudden, I saw on the screen a Rywen Goldsztajn who had registered in Łódź as a
survivor in 1946. Yale cautioned me that there were lots of Goldsztajns in Łódź
and probably several Rywens. But the birthdate was 1907, his birthdate! The
clincher was that he had listed his parents as Abraham and Gitla. Since I had
just gotten his marriage record, I knew that this was the right person.
I was very excited
to find that someone from the family had survived, but since Rywen Goldsztajn
was born in 1907, the chances of his being alive are, unfortunately, almost nil.
Yale checked the American Holocaust survivors' list and did not find him. I
later checked Pages of Testimony from Yad Vashem and found nothing. If he had
gone to Israel, surely he would have entered pages of testimony for his wife and
children. Even if he is no longer alive, perhaps he had a new family, and they
would know something about what happened to his first family. I am not sure
where to turn, but I am hoping to somehow trace his steps after the war.
While in Łódź, we
talked to some members of the Jewish community, hoping to find additional
information about the Jakubowicz and Goldsztajn families. One elderly man asked
me where they had lived before the war. I said Nowomiejska 10. He said he knew
somone in Canada who had lived at that very address. He pulled out a well-worn
notebook and gave me the address of the man who had lived there. I wrote to him.
The man had indeed lived in the same apartment building as my aunt and uncle and
had been friends with one of their sons. Unfortunately, he did not know what had
happened to them. However, he sent me his memoirs, and in them he mentions a
neighbor called Mrs. Jakubowicz––my aunt. It was an extraordinary experience
reading her name, and knowing of someone who had actually known her.
Fay Bussgang 2005
Click here for additional personal
accounts, by Roni Seibel Liebowitz
and Andrew Jakubowicz.