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 [...]
Gertrude Preiss and Charlotte Rebhun, c 1942 Since 2012 we have been trying to discover the birth identity of Pnina Gutman, who as an infant was smuggled from the Warsaw Ghetto with the assistance of a woman named Gertrud Spiro. We realized from the beginning that our best chance at solving the mystery was to find out as much as we could about Gertrude and her daughter Sonia, hoping they left some record behind of their activities. We have faced many challenges; when we started out, we did not even know the correct spelling of their last name. Thanks to our persistence, we can now account for most of Gertrud's whereabouts [...]
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 [...]
Joseph Smith We have just a few scraps of information to go on in searching for Joseph Smith's original identity, many of which are questionable. But we have to make the most of what we have, since that's all we have. Joseph always said his birth date was 15 July 1896. My experience has been that if someone changes his name, he usually keeps his original date of birth, but if he steals someone else's identity, he is forced to use the date of birth of his victim. In Joseph's case, we have to assume that he changed his name but not his date of birth; without a birth date, we lack a key search [...]
Last week we received surprising new information about a woman who may be Gertrude Priess-Spiro.
Gertrude Spiro and Charlotte Rebhun, circa 1942. Gertrude Spiro must have been well-connected. She was the proprietor of a liquor and cigarette shop at 2 Nowiniarksa St. in Warsaw in 1941-1942. The shop undoubtedly generated a lot of income for whoever owned it; liquor and cigarettes are two of the most in-demand commodities during wartime. Moreover, Gertrude's shop was the only cigarette shop in Warsaw, and it also sold liquor. In her position she must have had many friends and many enemies. Gertrude Piss-Spiro and her daughter Sonia were arrested in Warsaw and put into Pawiak Prison in 1943. They are listed among 141 women on a prison [...]
In August 2012, I was invited to give a lecture at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies in Boston, MA, on our pilot project to identify two missing-identity child survivors of the Holocaust. Please enjoy the video of my talk that describes our progress as of late 2013. We have come some ways since and continue to work towards solving the mystery of their identities. http://youtu.be/Tm9RMfsi864
Pawiak Prison Gertrude and Sonia Preiss-Spiro's names are listed on the transport to Auschwitz of 141 women from Pawiak prison in Warsaw on 24 August 1943. Pawiak prison was originally used by the Polish judicial to incarcerate criminals, but after the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, it was converted into a Berman Gestapo prison. Approximately 100,000 men and 200,000 women passed through the prison, mostly members of the Armia Krajowa, political prisoners and civilians taken as hostages in street round-ups. An estimate 37, 000 were executed and 60,000 sent to German death and concentration camps. There were few known escape attempts. Even if Gertrude survived Auschwitz, she would [...]
Margarete & Emil Schoessow Family (c 1922). Left to right: Erna, Herbert, Margarete (mother), Margarete (daughter), Charlotte. Emil was killed in 1917 during World War I. Charlotte Schössow Rebhun was the oldest of four children of Emil and Margarete Schössow from Berlin. Charlotte, like her friend Gertrude Spiro, was a Christian woman who had married a Jew. Charlotte's husband Max Rebhun had moved from Poland to Germany and settled in Berlin, probably right after WWI. Max was arrested on Kristalnacht in 1938, and sent to Poland. His wife Charlotte followed him in 1939 with their two children Wolfgang and Adele, where, after the outbreak of the War, the family lived in the Warsaw Ghetto. On August 20, 1942, [...]