INTRODUCTION As with all research projects, there have been so many zigzags in this story, it's only reasonable to take a break to take stock of where we are in solving the puzzle of Pnina's identity. We haven't solved all the mysteries yet, but we know so much more now than we started with a few years ago. Pnina Gutman is in her 70s and lives in Israel. She leads a normal life as a mother, a grandmother, and a great grandmother, but she has an unusual story. Pnina was smuggled from the Warsaw Ghetto in late 1942 when she was an infant and hidden on the Aryan side by Charlotte [...]
I recently traveled to Berlin and Warsaw to personally research in the various German and Polish archives. My hope was to find more information about Gertrude Priess-Spiro and her circle of acquaintance and friends, towards the goal of finding the birth identity of Pnina Gutman, whom she helped smuggle from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942. I feel that if we can identify the people and organizations that Gertrude was involved with during the War, we may be able to find clues that lead us to Pnina's family. Although my initial search of the German and Polish archives was not successful, I later discovered information that may lead to the identity of the German soldier, the most [...]
The Center for Professional Education at Boston University has been awarded a competitive grant from Jewish Cultural Endowment Fund of the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies to hold a one-day workshop "Holocaust Survival and Reunion Stories: Separating Fact from Fiction Using Genealogical Research Techniques". The workshop will be conducted by internationally recognized forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick, PhD, founder of Identifinders International. Dr. Fitzpatrick will focus on stories of child survivors and their efforts to connect with their birth families, covering five topics: Introduction to Holocaust Research Discerning the True from the False when the Impossible is the Norm The Mascot - A Holocaust Literary Fraud? Holocaust Archives and Repositories Who Am I? What [...]
By now, everyone who reads this should know Gertrude Priess-Spiro, the woman who arranged to have Pnina Gutman smuggled from the Warsaw Ghetto in August or September 1942. New information about her has recently been discovered that provides details about her marriage to Leo Spiro. It also explains why she was listed under her maiden name Gertrude Priess-Spiro on the Pawiak transport records to Auschwitz. Location of 176 Brunnenstrasse, Berlin During my recent trip to Berlin, I was able to visit the address at 176 Brunnenstrasse, where Gertrude grew up and lived for a while after she was married. The building is about three blocks south of what was once the Berlin [...]
The keynote at the 27th annual International Symposium on Human Identification (ISHI27) was given by internationally recognized video journalist David O'Shea. O'Shea addressed the conference on the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Asociación Civil Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo), a human rights organization formed in Argentina in 1977 in response to the disappearance of hundreds of children who were either kidnapped or born to mothers who were "disappeared" political dissidents during the country's "Dirty War" in 1974-1983.
Flight to Berlin and Arrival Thursday, August 11, 2016 Keflavik International Airport My trip from Los Angeles to Berlin went smoothly with a layover in Keflavik Interntional Airport. It is the cleanest airport in the world. It felt more like an igloo than an airport – snug from the elements. Yet it was a beehive of activity – with people snacking in one of several cozy cafes, or browsing the stores which naturally offer beautiful Icelandic sweaters and other products. The sandwiches are the most beautiful sandwiches I have ever seen. I was tempted to exchange $10 for Icelandic krona at the money exchange, but thriftiness got the better of me. The [...]
Das Bundesarchiv Trial Records According to Widerstand in Berlin gegen das NS-Regime 1933 bis 1945 (Resistance in Berlin against the Nazi Regime 1933-1945), Leo and Gertrud Spiro were put on trial in Berlin in 1938. Trying to locate their court records, I contacted the editor of the book Dr. Gunter Wehner, a scholar of the German resistance. Dr. Wehner is 83 years old, and a well-known researcher at the Bundesarchivs (National Archives) in Berlin-Lichterfelde where the records are archived. Dr. Wehner offered to help by locating trial records in the Bundesarchiv that mentioned Leo and Gertrud, including those included in his book. Although we would have to go through official channels [...]
The early life of Joseph Eugene Smith is a complete mystery. Joseph's son Morton and Morton's daughter Karen have researched Joseph for over 20 years, yet they still don't know who he was. Hopefully by reading his story, someone may come forward with new insight into Joseph's so far impenetrable history. Joseph Smith's Death Certificate, 25 December 1973 Over the years, Karen has gathered an impressive collection of information about Joseph starting with his enlistment in the US Army in November 1913, yet she has not been able to discover anything about him before that. Although Joseph Smith claimed he was born on 15 July 1896 in Philadelphia, his birth certificate has never been located. His life prior to WWI is unknown; nothing [...]
Last week we received surprising new information about a woman who may be Gertrude Priess-Spiro.
Barbara Rebhun? Convinced that my surname was Rebhun, I contacted Rebhuns around the world. Though the BBC, CNN, and the international press featured my quest, I initially received no responses. Finally in March 1997, the Munich Red Cross relayed a reply from a German named Wolfgang Rebhun, who was searching for his little sister, Baschka (Barbara in German). After receiving the Red Cross letter I began a correspondence with Wolfgang Rebhun. Then after a very short time we went to Germany, to meet Wolfgang and his (and my) sister Adela and some other members of the family. The meeting was very warm and exciting. To them it was a [...]