I still remember the day Uncle Max found out that 2 of his brothers and their families were murdered in the Holocaust. Everyone was screaming in the house and when I wanted to know what all the crying was about, my mother said Uncle Max tried so hard but could not get his family out of Latvia. At the time, I really did not understand what she was talking about as I was probably about 5 years old. It is one of my earliest memories.
A very kind person on Facebook’s Tracing the Tribe page, found this record for a Salman (Zalman) Abramowitz. Could he be one of the murdered brothers? Why I think he could be:
- He was born in Jelgava, Mitau, and I believe that is where his mother’s family, the Smarkovitch’s were from
- His date of birth fits within the timeframe of the other children of Hirsch and Jetta / Yetta
- His father’s name is listed as Leibas. I know my great-grandfather’s name was Hirsch Leib. I also know that in that timeframe, people went by their first names or their middle names, and either one of those names could be in Hebrew, Yiddish, and/ or secular nicknames. Leib was our Hirsch’ middle name . At different times and for different reasons, they used various versions of their names. By the time someone filled out the Yad VaSheem testimony, they may have only remembered one name.
- His facil features resemble Hirsch.
On the other side of the coin, it is always possible that Salman was a cousin to our Abramowitz family, as there was more than one Salman Abramowitz living in the same general area. I found one born in Bauske to a Leib.
In 1935, his sister, Sarah, and her husband, Charles Friedman, visited Riga and always talked about how well-off her brothers were. One brother had five children. One brother ran a grocery store and one was very wealthy and had an apartment house with 4 elevators. He even sent Sarah’s daughter, Dorothy Sekeley, a wedding gift of six very heavy sterling serving spoons. We do not know for sure which brother Salman was, but I would guess the grocery store owner.
Salman’s passport is a paper one which means it was a refugee passport given to people who fled to other parts of Latvia. It was still considered a valid document, however.
From the passport, we learn that he lived at Marijias Street which, before the Riga Ghetto was created, was in a wealthy neighborhood with lots of businesses. He then moved to Latgales Street which was in a poor neighborhood. Was he forced to move there? Was his source of income taken away from him? Latgales was also in the Riga Ghetto. Families were forced to live in smaller and smaller rooms sharing apartments with other families.
From his pages of remembrance at Yad VaShem we learn that even Marijias Street was no longer considered wealthy. It was also in the ghetto and Salman was given food coupons which rationed the amount and types of food you could receive. (1) There are similar pages for his wife, Sheina Grin.
The Yad VaShem records do not list his wife’s name. We learn that from University of Lativa’s Center for Judaic Studies (2). Her name was Scheine Grin. It does not say if they had children or what happened to them if they did..
Because the fates of Salman and Scheine are listed as unknown, it is my fear that they were marched to the outskirts of town and shot into one of the mass graves.
To read a horrifying description of what happened to people in the Riga Ghetto, get a copy of the historical fiction novel by Shelly Sanders, “Daughters of the Occupation”.
- (1) YadVaShem.org, Salman Abramowitz
- (2) University of Latvia, Center for Judaic Studies, page for Salman Abramowitz
- Tracing the Tribe, a Facebook genealogy group, helpers