Everyone Wasn't Killed in the Holocaust
by Ellen Shindelman Kowitt, Erie
When I married my husband, his mother told me not to waste any time researching her father’s family as they had all died in the Holocaust. As one of seven children, I thought there might be records, but I never made an effort to seek them out until January 27, 2008. I remember the exact date because it was U.N. Holocaust Remembrance Day and Yad Vashem had sent me an email as an area coordinator to collect Pages of Testimony to add to their tremendous database. Since I had not checked the Pages of Testimony section of the Yad Vashem website in a couple of years since I submitted Pages for my own family, I thought I would search to see if they had been correctly uploaded. As a general research methodology, there is a list of certain family surnames I always run through Holocaust era search databases; my mother-in-law’s maiden name was one of them. In America, they were SACKSER. In Warsaw, they had been ZEKSER. I had learned more about the ZEKSERs after marrying into the family by collecting American documents; marriage records for my husband’s grandfather, his death record and his naturalization records all provided more names for the family tree than my mother-in-law had known. One particular success was when a much older uncle told us the first name of a grandparent he was named for shortly before his death. So, on January 27, 2008, when I searched the Pages of Testimony database, I looked for ZEKSERS of Warsaw armed with the fragments of family history I had compiled. Although I didn’t know a single siblings name, I knew that their parents would have been Chaim and Chana ZEKSER and that Chaim was a tailor and a Cohen. It was surreal when I found a record with almost every one of those details; a male born three years before our Leib, in Warsaw, with the same parent names. The submitter’s name was French and there was a decade-old address in Paris. Within two days and three continents of relatives helping with calling and emailing in multiple languages, we connected to her – the granddaughter of my husband’s great uncle – his second cousin. She was alive and well with a brother, children and grandchildren all living in Paris. They knew the family in Warsaw had been tailors and Cohens. Their resemblance to my husband was noticeable. Everyone wasn’t killed in the Holocaust.