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How to Document Victims and Locate Survivors of the Holocaust

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How to Document Victims and Locate Survivors of the Holocaust
by Gary Mokotoff
Copyright ©1995 by Gary Mokotoff
ISBN Number 0–9626373-8-6

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Search Bureau for Missing Relatives
I sent a copy of the Page of Testimony written in 1955 by Abraham Dov Landau to the Search Bureau and some weeks later, I received a response that neither Sarah nor Abraham Landau were alive, but that their son, Moshe Landau, lived in Holon. This led to the breakthrough that allowed me to document the Mokotowskis of Otwock. In January 1985, Avi Landau, son of Moshe and grandson of Abraham Dov and Sarah, came to the United States on a business trip and brought with him the complete family tree of his branch of the Mokotow family.

Holocaust Survivors
Friends and neighbors of Holocaust victims can often provide valuable information. In 1985, more than 5,000 Holocaust survivors from throughout the United States gathered in Philadelphia to remember the Holocaust. The Jewish Genealogical Society of Philadelphia participated in assisting survivors who were still trying to determine the fate of their loved ones. At the event, I met a woman from New York who told me the tragic story of how she had to abandon her six-year-old son on a street in Warsaw during World War II and was looking for advice on how to locate him today. Each survivor wore a name tag showing their name and European town of origin. She was from Otwock. After discussing her plight, I commented that I had relatives named Mokotowski from Otwock. Her face lit up. "Do you mean Yitzhak Mokotowski?" she asked. "He and his family were neighbors of mine." This meeting was a chance encounter, but other exchanges have occurred on a more formal basis. The National Registry of Jewish Holocaust Survivors located at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum consists of computerized information about more than 35,000 Holocaust survivors living in the United States. While the Museum will not release addresses of persons in this database, they will forward letters.

German Records of Otwock
The archives at Yad Vashem has a number of documents relating to the fate of the Jews of Otwock. No documents in this collection offered information pertaining specifically to persons named Mokotowski; however, one interesting artifact they hold from Otwock is a broadside that was posted in Otwock shortly after the Germans occupied the town demanding the Jews raise 100,000 zlotys. The poster named 15 persons responsible for raising the money. One of the names was Tobias (Tuvia) Mokotowski.

Vital Statistics Records
Although most things Jewish were destroyed in the Holocaust, government records usually were not. It is a credit to the archivists of the world that, despite the attempts by the human race over the centuries to destroy each other, archivists have been conscientious in trying to preserve the original source material of our history. Vital statistics records for Poland, Hungary and Germany have been readily available to the public for many years. With the fall of the Iron Curtain, other countries have opened their doors to inquiries, most notably Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Other countries such as Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and Moldova are still in the process of establishing links with the West for purposes of record research. Inquiries to Romanian archives generally go unanswered.

People sometimes attribute successes to luck. In Holocaust research, what seems like luck is often the product of persistence. If you try many avenues of exploration, most will be unsuccessful; the few efforts that do succeed, you may attribute to luck. I will end this case study with two stories of luck that will describe how I linked the Mokotowskis of Otwock to the main tree of the Mokotow family. The veteran genealogist will see that, in truth, it was nothing more than taking all the resources available to the researcher and piecing them together to come to a successful conclusion.
The vast majority of information I amassed about the Mokotowskis of Otwock came from the Otwock yizkor book and the recollections of living persons who had secondary information. Response from the Polish State Archives in Warsaw to my inquiry indicated that there were no vital statistics records for Otwock from the 19th century; therefore, it was not possible to go back in time on that path.It was while attending a Jewish genealogical conference in Washington, D.C., that I located the Otwock yizkor book and had translated for me the article "My Father Eliezer Mokotowski." Toward the end of the seminar, while sitting in the Hebraic division of the Library of Congress and convincing myself that I had done everything possible at the library, I recalled that the article stated that Eliezer Mokotowski had been born in Karczew.
The Shtetl Finder, by Chester Cohen, lists about 1,200 towns in Eastern Europe where Jews had lived in the nineteenth century. To give the book more substance, the author included the names of individuals from the town who were prepublication subscribers to books written in Yiddish during that era. Under the description of Karczew was the entry: "In 1879, advanced subscribers to the book Da'at Moshe were. . .Yehosie Efraim Mankitow [sic]. . ." Monkitow is the Yiddish pronunciation of Mokotow. At that moment, I recalled that I had in my possession a marriage record from the town of Karczew of a Mokotow.
Some months earlier, I had devoted a full week at the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library in Salt Lake City searching the vital statistics records of the Mokotow ancestral town of Warka, located about 50 miles south of Otwock. After completing that task, in ever-widening concentric circles, I searched records of adjacent towns. This included Karczew, for which there was only one Mokotow record--a marriage record.

I had brought my LDS findings to the seminar and opened my file folder to the Karczew record. The name of the groom was Efraim, but the previous word was not Yehosie. Then I realized the registrar had gotten lazy. He had come to the end of the line when he wrote the groom's name and, not having enough room, arbitrarily hyphenated the name. The groom's name was "Szaja Efraim." According to the yizkor book article about Eliezer Mokotowski, his father's name was Yehoshua;
The Shtetl Finder noted a Yehosie Efraim Mankitow from Karczew; the marriage record found at the LDS library had the name Szaja Efraim. Yehoshua, Yehosie, Szaja: All these names are Yiddish and Hebrew variants of the name Joshua. All the documents referred to the same man! The marriage record had the name of the groom's parents. The father's name was Iczek (Isaac). The progenitor of the Mokotow family had a son Isaac. Through an incredible set of slender threads, I had linked the Mokotowskis of Otwock to the Mokotow family tree. Sarah Landau's father, Eliezer Mokotowski, was the son of Joshua Efraim Mokotow, son of Isaac Mokotow, son of Tuvia David Mokotow.

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