German/Herman Family

The information about the German/Herman Family comes to us from a fascinating article written about the German Family by Dalia Kiukiene, Deputy Director of the Rokiškis Regional Museum Deputy Director
This article includes family photos of the Herman family.

We have this article thanks to the hard work of Ada Gamsu, whose grandmother was a Yalovetsky and who is a cousin to the German family. And we have the permission of both the Rokiškis Regional Museum and Sara Mei Herman, granddaughter of Mordechai German to use it.

The German/Herman family is a prominent Rokiskis family.  As far as can be determined from extant records, the family lived in Parokiškis originally. (Parokiškis is now part of greater Rokiskis.) The first records that can be located are for the 20th century and show that Dovydas (David) and Reistel (Raisa) German had six children, five sons Saliamonas (Solomon), Isakas (Itzchak), Jakovas (Yakov), Mordechajus (Mordechai), and Judelis (Yudel), and a daughter Bela (Bella).  Dovydas (David) and Reistel (Raisa) German were killed in Kaunas in 1941.

The German brothers: Front row, left to right: Yudel and Itzchak; Back row, left to right:  Mordechai, Solomon, and Yakov. 1934.

The eldest son, Solomon (1895-1945), worked in the Jewish Bank in Rokiškis.  He and his wife Raisa Matz, daughter of Izak and Muse Cerne Matz, had two children, a son Michael (who was born in 1928 in Rokiškis and died in 2004 in New York) and a daughter Tonia (who was born in 1925 in Rokiškis and passed away in Israel in 2019). Solomon German's family moved to Taurage in the 1930s and later settled in Kaunas. When World War II began in Lithuania in June 1941 he and his parents were forced to live in the Kovna Ghetto and later he was sent to perform forced labor at the Spilve camp (near Riga, Latvia).  

At the outbreak of the war in Lithuania his wife Raisa and their two children fled to Šiauliai, where they were forced to live in that city’s ghetto.  At the end of the summer of 1944 (as the Russian army approached the Baltic region), Solomon and the surviving captives were transferred back to Lithuania from Spilve.  A few days later the Šiauliai ghetto was “liquidated” and all people were sent to the Stuthoff concentration camp (Sztutowa, Poland).  Solomon and his son Mausa were sent to the Dachau concentration camp (Bavaria, Germany) while his wife Raisa and their daughter Tonia remained in Stutthof.  Solomon died in 1945, three months after the prisoners at Dachau were liberated.  Solomon’s daughter, Tonia Levin, lived in Israel until her death in 2019.  She provided a great deal of information about the lives of the members of the Germanas family.
Itzchak, the second son of the German family, may also have been a photographer.  According to family, Itzchak went to Durban, South Africa in 1926 or 1927.  After two years, his wife Raisel Levin, together with their daughters Zelda (born in 1924 in Lithuania) and Sonia (born in 1926 in Lithuania) joined Itzchak in Durban. (Raisel Levin was the daughter of Berel and Leah Levin.)  Their third daughter, Phyllis, was born in South Africa in 1931.  Itzchak worked as a watchmaker in South Africa.  

Mordechai (1901-1985) was one of Rokiškis’ most prominent photographers.  Around 1935, Mordechai went to South Africa, where his older brother Itzchak had been living.  Mordechai and Itzchak first settled in Durban and later in Pietermaritzburg.  Mordechai worked as a photographer, just as he had when he was in Rokiškis, and eventually opened a clothes-cleaning business. Around 1940 he married Bella.  In 1942 they had a daughter Estela; in 1944 their son Julian Herman was born; and in 1945 their son David Herman came into the world.  In 1974 Julian moved to Amsterdam.  His daughter, Sara Mei Herman, continues the family tradition - she is a Dutch photographic artist.
The younger son of German family, Yudel (1907?-1944), also worked as a photographer.  Yudel and his parents moved to Kaunas and opened a own photographic studio there in 1934, at  Savanorių prospect 134, Kaunas.
Yudel married Sheina (also known as Sheinele) Levin, a native of Kupiškis.  She had been orphaned at a young age and grew up in a children’s shelter in Rokiškis.  During the Second World War Yudel’s family lived in the Kovna ghetto.  Their eight-year-old daughter Merele was murdered in Kovna together with other Jewish children. Sheina was sent to the Stutthof concentration camp and survived while Yudel was killed in 1944.

Unfortunately we know little about Bella German.
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