How Translating a Letter Solved a Mystery
by Barry Halpern, Boulder
I needed a translation for a letter that my dad drafted while on his ship from Lithuania to the U.S. in 1934 when he was 18 (he either never sent the letter, or this was simply the draft). I attended the annual meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Colroado in June to find someone to help translate Hebrew, and I met Shai Kowitt.
Thanks to Shai's translation of the letter, I learned about the Gordonia, a Zionist youth organization, that my dad belonged to and clearly was very passionate about. I learned that he had participated in a youth activity for the group within the previous year.
His home town was Aukstadvaris (Visokidvor), and his father's home town was the nearby Stoklishok (Stakliskes). At the Holocaust Museum's web site, there is one group photo of attendees at a summer camp in Stoklishok in July 1933. I obtained the high resolution digital image, and in it is my father! We're fairly certain that it's him even with the grainy image. This would be the earliest photo I have of him as everything else would have been destroyed when his family was murdered. Unfortunately, the museum has no other images of those towns at all.
How about that for a lucky coincidence, and this is thanks to a volunteer translation!