Who Am I? What is My Name? – Part XII – Taking Stock

By |2022-07-06T01:22:19-07:00December 8th, 2016|

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 [...]

Who Am I – What Is My Name – Part X – Gertrude's Marriage and Divorce

By |2016-11-06T17:46:45-08:00November 6th, 2016|

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 [...]

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 [...]

Who Was Joseph Smith – Close Calls and Possible Candidates

By |2016-01-19T18:32:06-08:00January 19th, 2016|

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 [...]

Who Was Joseph Smith?

By |2016-01-14T16:23:54-08:00January 14th, 2016|

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 [...]

Who Am I? What is My Name? Part VI – Our Search for Gertrude Spiro

By |2015-01-02T23:14:52-08:00January 2nd, 2015|

Gertrude Spiro and Charlotte Rebhun, Warsaw, about 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 transport bound for Auschwitz on 24 August.  However, three of [...]

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

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