Commemoration of 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 the events. 

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. 

After ceremonies 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 Łódź.  

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 moving. 

Afterwards, there 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 beautiful.  

The city of 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 university 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.  

The 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 Greater Boston.]


 Sequel to Łódź Visit

by Fay Bussgang

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. 

With this 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 Project’s database. 

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.


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