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26 January 2017

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Jewish Quarter, Amsterdam
Tomorrow, January 27, 2017, has been recognized as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The day was designated in 2005 by the United Nations General Assembly, in hopes that all member nations would honor the memory of the over 6,000,000 European Jews murdered by the Nazis. The 27th day of January, was chosen as it was the date in 1945 when the Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz- Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi death camps.
We all have different reactions and emotions when we discuss and remember those who were killed. For some, the thoughts of a loved one, perhaps a brother or sister, or parents who never returned home, fill their hearts and minds. Many remember their older neighbors and friends, taken from homes without warning. Yet others, who may not have been as closely affected pause to remember those who they never met, yet don't want to ever forget.
 In my own situation, I was just 11 years old when I first learned that I had Jewish ancestry.
Morris David Rosenbaum
It was the discovery of my Great Great Grandfather, Morris David Rosenbaum, a Polish Jew, which started my own personal journey to find my Jewish heritage. In the last 40 or so years, I have experienced the excitement of the search, and the joy of new discoveries. Over the years, I have been very blessed, I have found the names of family members who passed long before my birth. With the help of people all over the world, I have met living relatives, and have shared with them the memories of our family. I have stood on the land where my ancestors lived and I have placed stones upon their headstones. The writings they left behind, have at times helped guide my own life and they have touched my heart.
Morris David Rosenbaum came to the United States very early, in the  1850's. After being a successful merchant in San Francisco, he finally made his way to Salt Lake City. With that early arrival, I  felt relief in knowing that he and his children were save from the death camps. However, early on in my journey I started to find the records of his  6 sisters and their families, who never left Fordon, Poland and whose own children and grandchildren were murdered. It was very emotional for me and after sometime I took a pause from those families because I didn't know how to move forward.
Hall of Names
This all changed in the summer of 2015, when I visited Israel for the first time. One afternoon I was able to visit Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. From the moment I entered the grounds, I was overcome with feelings I didn't expect to have, feelings of emptiness for the members of the family I either had not documented completely or hadn't yet discovered. At the conclusion of my visit, I was able to visit The Hall of Names, an area where the records of those who were murdered, are collected and preserved. While standing there and looking up at the photos, I soon found myself thinking of each and every member of my family who I knew had died. I also at that moment rededicated myself to find the names and records of the other family members to make sure they were never forgotten.
Berlin Marriage of Phillip Meyer and Mabel Wittowski 7 Dec 1899
Upon returning home I returned again to the records of my family, making sure I had not missed anyone. I wasn't sure I would find anyone, but I was going to try. Up until this point every record I had involved my Polish families and I kept telling myself that Salt Lake City was a long way from Europe and that somehow helped families deal with the pain. I soon made a discovery that made me realize that it was impossible not to be personally touched by the Holocaust no matter where you lived. The Rosenbaum sisters all married and a few had husbands who were part of the extended Auerbach family, another Fordon family.
Members of the Auerbach family had also settled in Salt Lake City in  the 1800's and had become very successful merchants. One, Rosa, had married Gustave Meyer and had raised 7 children in Utah. Many never left and are buried in the B'nai Israel Cemetery, in Salt Lake City. One son however, Phillip, who was a very successful architect, left Salt Lake and moved back to Berlin, where he married an Australian girl and made it their home. The search for their records forever changed me. I knew they had been murdered about 15 Oct 1943 in the Theresienstadt Camp, but the finding of the marriage record from 1899 truly showed me that everyone was affected by the Holocaust.
On the marriage record, part of which is shown above, there are a few different pieces of information  that are very noticeable. First, the marriage takes place on 7 Dec 1899 in Berlin, yet on 12 Jun 1939, the Nazi's stamped the document with their emblems, the Iron Eagle and Swastika. Second, this document which had been tarnished in 1939, included the information on the parents of the bride and groom. It was there, just a few inches from a Nazi symbol that the mother of the groom was listed as Rosa, maiden name Auerbach, of Salt Lake City. To me the Holocaust had come home. Every feeling imaginable hit me at once. I was sick, mad and determined to make sure that all family members would be found, I was not going to let these murderers get away with it. I was going to make sure that my family was never forgotten.
I have continued my search for family members who perished and have found a few. I truly feel we need to do everything possible to keep their memories alive. At my desk in the Family History Library, I have always kept a quote that reminded me what was truly important, and now it is even more so. The quote by Arthur Kurweil says;

"When the Nazis rounded us up, they took away our names and gave us numbers. We genealogists are involved in taking away the numbers and giving back the names."

I would hope, that we all can rededicate ourselves to remembering those who lost their lives, and help the stories be told. I am very thankful to all of you who have helped me and continue to do so, for without each other we have nothing.


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