Extreme Genealogy – Arrival in Berlin and First Visit to the Berlin Bundesarchiv

By |2016-08-24T08:31:54-07:00August 24th, 2016|

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 [...]

Who Am I? What is My Name? – Part IX – Gertrude's Sisters!

By |2016-06-15T19:25:58-07:00June 15th, 2016|

Gertrude Spiro and Charlotte Rebhun, Warsaw 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 from the time she was born in Bladiau, East Prussia on 24 February 1899, until [...]

Who Am I? What is My Name? – Part VIII – Gertrud and Leo's Trial

By |2016-05-19T09:32:51-07:00May 19th, 2016|

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. Leo and Gertrud's Trial Records 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 to [...]

DNA Pilot Study on Missing Identity Holocaust Children – 2013 IAJGS Conference

By |2014-05-09T20:13:58-07:00May 9th, 2014|

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

Who Am I? What is My Name? Part V – Gertrude and Sonia’s Escape

By |2022-07-06T01:27:48-07:00March 7th, 2014|

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 [...]

Who Am I? What is My Name? Part IV – Wolfgang and Adele’s Eyewitness Account

By |2022-07-06T01:24:59-07:00October 26th, 2013|

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, [...]

Who Am I, What is My Name? Part III – Gertrude and Sonia Spyra

By |2022-07-06T09:23:41-07:00October 17th, 2013|

Gertrude Spiro and Charlotte Rebhun, Warsaw, c 1942 A mystery within the mystery of Pnina's identity is the fate of Gertrude Spyra and her daughter Sonia. As the parties responsible for smuggling Pnina from the Warsaw Ghetto, Gertrude and Sonia may have left behind clues about Pnina's parents. Perhaps the Spyras wrote letters to their family members, as did their friend Charlotte Rebhun. Perhaps a co-worker overheard something they said about how they saved a baby during the last days before the Ghetto Uprising. According to "the story", Pnina's parents approached a German soldier about smuggling their daughter out of the Warsaw Ghetto in late 1942-early 1943.  The soldier [...]

Who Am I? What is My Name? Part II – Pnina, Wolfgang, and the Warsaw Ghetto

By |2022-07-06T01:47:43-07:00December 12th, 2012|

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 [...]

Who Am I, What Is My Name? Part I – Pnina, Otwoc, and the Kazcmareks

By |2022-07-06T01:04:27-07:00December 10th, 2012|

My name is Pnina Gutman. I am 70 years old. I began the search for my biological identity in April 1996. I called this project "Who am I what's my name?" I came to Israel from Poland at the age of eight with a couple whom I thought to be my parents, Mania and Mendel Himel. As a child, I remembered living with the Himels in the town of Lodz, but it was a short time, about two years that I recall as a year in the kindergarten and a year in school. What I remembered before was an orphanage and the day the Himels were introduced to me as my [...]

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