Very little was known about my grandmother’s more immediate family from Kamarow. All I ever knew was her brother Charles changed his surname to Krauchstein when he moved to France in around 1918 and that she was the daughter of Noach Ber Krogsztengel and Faige Rachel Kolb. She had other siblings, yet from what I understand, the area of Kamarow in Lublin was overtaken by the Nazis early on in WWII. Jews there were either killed on the spot or transported to the infamous Belzec Death Camp where there were no survivors.
The name itself, let’s be honest, is a bizarre last name that most would not want to be stuck with. Actually, it sounds like a bad stomach ailment. In any case, I began researching this name via Jewishgen.org and sure enough there were about 50 odd people with this last name concentrated mostly in Kamarow and pockets here and there in neighbouring villages within the region of Lublin. However, I didn’t come across any names that were familiar to me. Next, I researched the digital collection of names on the Yad Vashem website. Again, names where there, some I recognised from the Jewishgen.org site, yet nothing else recognisable.
So, I came across 2 pages of testimony from Yad Vashem, written by a Sara Ben-David and an Eliezer Erlich, respectively, both of whom reside in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv. I looked up both numbers, trying to phone Sara Ben David with no success. I phoned Eliezer Erlich and spoke with him. A nearly 95 year old man whose mother was Tzipora Krogszlengel before she married a man named Erlich. Indeed these people were from the area of Kamarow in Lublin. Since there were too many coincidences in our stories (despite his age, this man is more or less ‘with it’) he invited me over for a chat. We agreed to meet this past Sunday morning at his place.
Eliezer Erlich is a feisty, short thin man who has pictures of himself as a soldier in the Polish army decorated with medals and a huge red iron cross, a highest honour in this army battling the Nazis after the invasion. He boasts that he killed a Nazi officer who was staring him straight in his face. Lovely. A true hero is he. As a Polish soldier he joined the partisans in the forests of Poland where he fought and hid during the entire war. All with the exception of his cousin Sara Ben David (who passed away about 10 years ago) perished in the holocaust, facing the same fate of the overwhelming majority of the residents of Kamarow.
I mentioned my grandmother’s name, Rosche and her mother’s name Faige Rachel several times, yet he had no memory of her.
Then…I mentioned my great grandfather’s name, Noach Ber Krogsztengel.
He was silent and he stared at me. Tears were falling from his face. “Of course I know that name. He was an uncle of mine”.
Turns out, it seems that Noach Ber Krogsztengel was the great uncle of Eliezer Erlich.
Aunt Sara swore up and down that her entire family was killed in the holocaust because “we never heard from them again”. Can’t argue with that logic, but you never know for sure until you research it yourself.
Long story short (and after sharing a nice shot of whiskey with my dear long lost cousin) , we’re getting together with the entire clan over the week of Pesach in Ramat Gan. I already met one of his daughters, Bracha Tzipora Hilman from Bnei Brak, her husband Leibel Asher, her daughter and her infant granddaughter. Eliezer boasts many grandchildren and great grandchildren. For identification purposes, I asked after his mother lineage, wondering if he knew if she was a bat Cohen, bat Levi or bat Yisrael. I know that Rosche Krogszlengel was born a bat Levi, because I’ve read her and our grandfather’s ketuba many times. It’s written on a klaf and her name was written, “Rosche bat Noach Ber HaLevi”. So, without any prompting, I asked him if he knew. He told me that not only was his father a Levi, his mother was a bat Levi as well.
Oh..and he likes to sing chazanut and davens regularly from the Omud on Shabbatot & Yom Tov! (smirks). Being a choirster since I was 12 years old and now singing in The Eitz Chaim Choir of Ra’anana for the past 18 years, that’s as sweet as a nice small glass of single malt. 😉