Thursday, April 29, 2010

Immigration at the Museum of Family History: A Review of Two Current Exhibitions

For those of you who haven't yet visited the Museum's exhibition titled "A Multitude of Immigrants," may I suggest you do so at your convenience.

The online exhibition contains eleven articles written between 1891 and 1910, and published in such New York City newspapers as the Daily Tribune, the World and the Sun. The articles are interesting in many ways, particularly if you're curious as to how these newspapers portrayed the "flood" of immigrants that passed through New York City ports around the turn of the twentieth century, as well as how they tried to regulate the inflow.

As a sort of "companion" piece to this exhibition, please visit "Castle Garden and Ellis Island: Ports of Immigration." Here you may read any or all of the dozen newspaper articles that talk about the history of Castle Garden and Ellis Island, all written and published between 1887 and 1909.

When read as a whole these articles give us a chance to "taste" the sentiment of the time toward immigration and the Jewish immigrant specifically.

You can find the exhibition "A Multitude of Immigrants" by clicking here.

You can find the exhibition "Castle Garden and Ellis Island" by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Review of the Searchable Cemetery Databases in the Metro New York Area

Now that I've announced the presence of a database for burials at New York's Knollwood Park Cemetery, I thought that this would be a good time to review the number (ten) of searchable, online burial databases that are currently available for Jewish cemeteries in the metro New York area (including New Jersey).

There are ten such databases online at present, though there are actually only eight, as the cemetery database for Mt. Carmel includes the burial data for both the nearby Hungarian Union Fields Cemetery and Knollwood Park Cemetery. Below, along with name and town location of each cemetery, I've also included the approximate number of burials in each. The sum total of burials included within all these databases mentioned below are more than 810,000. I know of no other cemetery in the New York metro area that is currently creating their own searchable cemetery database.

New York:

Mt. Hebron Cemetery, Flushing, Queens,, 217,000 burials.
Mt. Zion Cemetery, Maspeth, Queens,, 210,000 burials.
Mt. Lebanon Cemetery, Glendale, Queens,, 88,000 burials.
Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Glendale, Queens,, 69,000 burials.
Mt. Judah Cemetery, Ridgewood, Queens,, 54,000 burials.
Mt. Ararat Cemetery, Lindenhurst, Suffolk,, 45,000 burials.
Knollwood Park Cemetery, Ridgewood, Queens,, 17,000 burials.

New Jersey:

Riverside Cemetery, Saddle Brook,, 65,000 burials.
Mt. Moriah Cemetery, Fairview,, 29,000 burials.

Knollwood Park Cemetery Burial Data Now Online

I noticed today that Mt. Carmel Cemetery (Glendale, Queens, New York), which has taken over supervision of the nearby cemetery Knollwood Park Cemetery(in Ridgewood), has finally put online the information about the Knollwood Park burials.

There are currently over 17,000 burials listed now and I am assuming that this is the current number of burials at the cemetery. You should be forewarned, however, that most of the dates of death, especially the deaths pre-2000, are not included. These dates are simply listed as 1/1/1900, which is the default date for the database. I have no idea why this happened or if it will be fixed in the future.

The Knollwood Park burials are listed as Cemetery Section 5 within Mt. Carmel's website. Sections 1 and 2 are of the main "old" Carmel Cemetery; Section 3 is of the New Carmel Cemetery (down the road), and Section 4 is of the (former) Hungarian Union Fields Cemetery. You can find the burial data for these five sections combined as one on the Mt. Carmel Cemetery site at . I imagine if you find a burial for Knollwood Park and would like to know the actual date of death for someone, you can telephone either Knollwood Park or Mt. Carmel; I'm not sure if one or the other or both have that information.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Would You Like to Display Your Pre-War Family Photos from Europe in a Museum?

The Museum of Family History proudly displays more than a thousand pre-war family photos from Europe. Hundreds of followers of the Museum have e-mailed the Museum scans of their precious family photos, wishing to not only share images of their family members and ancestors with all of us, but to simply honor their memory. Once in a while someone even sees a connection between their family tree and the family tree of the person who posted their family photos and both parties are put in contact with each other.

Also, placing one's family photos within the Museum's "Postcards from Home" permanent exhibition allows one to share their photos with other family members living in different parts of the world, saving them the dilemma of how to send a cousin, for example, a family photo without having to make copies, etc.

So your family photos are always welcome. Within the "Postcards from Home" exhibition, the photos are organized not only by country and town name, but also by family surname, so someone with a particular interest in a country or town or surname can make a specific search.

How does one submit photos for inclusion within the Museum's website?

First, of course, you must scan each photo and document into a folder within your computer, preferably scanning them as jpegs. The Museum prefers that you not send it originals for obvious reasons. If you haven't a scanner, there are many drugstores that have them, and you may scan your photos there by their photo department onto a CD and you can subsequently mail the CD to the Museum.

Then, after you've scanned the photos into a designated folder, you can send them to the Museum in groups of ten or twelve or more depending on the size, at . You might want to send a second email at the time to the same e-mail address, letting the Museum know that the photos are on their way. In the subject heading of the e-mail that contains the photos, you may wish to type, for example, "Sam's family photos." I will let you know when I receive them.

If you can identify any/all of the people in each photo, please do. Assign a country and town name to each photo, so at least for the Museum's Postcards from Home exhibition, they can be placed correctly within the exhibition.

If you know the date the photo was taken, or can approximate it, please do. Surely you will not know the name of each person, and you may not have a clue as to the date, but do what you can. Perhaps you can label the photos to reflect their name, or family name. Preferably no spaces should be left between words witin the file name (if possible).

If a particular photo is from a photographic studio, e.g. it has the name of the studio/photographer imprinted at the bottom of the front of the photo mount, don't crop it; simply send the complete front photo, etc. If there is a lithographic design on the back of the photo that tells us the name of the studio, its address, etc., please send that too. There is also no need to touch up the photo as the Museum does that to its satisfaction.

If the photos are simply of life in a town and you don't know the names of the people in the photo, that's fine. Best to e-mail all the photos to the Museum and let me decide what I can and cannot use.

That should do it. If you have any questions, please write to me at and ask.

You can visit the Museum's "Postcards from Home" exhibition at .

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Museum's "Great Cantors" exhibition

The Museum of Family History now has filled its "Great Cantors" room with short bios, photos, sound and video clips of eight well-known cantors, i.e. Cantors Yossele Rosenblatt, Mordechai Hershman, Gershon Sirota, Moshe Koussevitzky, Zavel Kwartin, David Roitman, as well as Richard Tucker (pictured left in 1933, the famed tenor who was also a chazzan) and Moishe Oysher (a chazzan as well as star of a number of Yiddish films.)

You can visit the "Great Cantors" room at .
Webpages about other well-known cantors will be added to the room in the near future.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cantor Rosenblatt sings in "The Jazz Singer"

Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt appeared as himself in the 1927 talkie "The Jazz Singer" starring Al Jolson. As the first entry into the Museum's "Great Cantors" room (which may be found by visiting the Museum's plan for its Second Floor), a webpage has been created so you may enjoy a film clip of this performance.

You will see Al Jolson as the character Jakie Robin, attending the Rosenblatt concert while conflicted between his desire to become an entertainer and the wish of his father, a Cantor, who would like Jakie to follow in his footsteps. In this YouTube video, Cantor Rosenblatt sings a secular Yiddish song.

One can find the aforementioned page by clicking here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cemetery Project Q & A: Markers at Baby's Gravesites

Recently, someone wrote to me with a question about baby markers, and how to keep the gravestone from completely sinking into the ground over time.

The question was:
"I recently had a baby marker created but the monument dealer/installer never heard of adding cement around the bottom of the stone and doesn't see how it prevents the stone from sinking. My question to you is: Do you know where I can obtain proof to show to the dealer?"

I then wrote to Todd Ivler, the cemetery manager from Mt. Judah Cemetery in Ridgewood, Queens, New York, whom I've interviewed in the past.I know Mt. Judah has handled a good number of such burials, so he was the one to ask.

I thought his response might be of interest to some of you, as many any of us who have visited our Jewish cemeteries have noticed that these small markers often appear eroded, oriented on a slant, or are partially or completely sunken into the ground.

I don't doubt that decades ago baby markers were sometimes made of sandstone and probably not set in cement, etc., but Todd's response at least can be said to reflect the method commonly used today, at least at his cemetery. Here is his answer:

"We call a baby marker a piece of granite that is twelve inches from left to right, usually at least three feet high and about two inches thick. When placed in the ground we pour concrete in the hole first then on the sides which leaves about a inch or two around the whole stone. This helps the marker from not sinking."

You can well imagine how difficult it is to find a baby's burial site for the reasons I've mentioned above. It's one thing for a cemetery to have a searchable burial database; at least one can look up a name, even if the gravestone marker is nowhere to be found or is highly illegible. Without such a source of data, one can always of course, try contacting the cemetery office, though there is often less burial information about a baby than an adult.

You can read the complete interview the Museum had with Todd Ivler, Mt. Judah Cemetery manager at .

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Museum's Film Series: Two Short Films of the Nazi Death Camps

From Saturday, April 17 through Sunday, May 9 you can view two short films about the Nazi death camps. One is part of a documentary once presented on British television, the other a Universal newsreel.

Nazi Death Camps (5 mins, 03 secs):

In April 1945, U.S. and British troops entered the Nazi death camps and filmed the horrors they found there. For decades the film was stored at the Imperial War Museum in London. This documentary was unfinished and was missing soundtracks. The directors, including Alfred Hitchcock, had developed a script to go with the pictures. Frontline, a British television program, presented this documentary unedited. It was a film the British Government deemed too grisly for release after World War II. The film has received its public debut on British television. Fifteen minutes of the black-and- white film, which was shot by the armed forces after the war. From YouTube. You can see the short film by clicking here.

Nazi Murder Mills (8 mins, 16 secs):

First actual newsreel pictures of atrocities in Nazi murder camps. Helpless prisoners tortured to death by a bestial enemy...Here Is "The Truth" (Real-life horror pictures revealing the unbelievable atrocities committed by the Nazis in their murder camps.)

Grasleben: Wounded and emaciated Yanks, captured in von Runstedt's Bulge attack of last winter, are fed and given medical care by the Yank armies of liberation.

Hadamar: Protected by gas masks, grave diggers open reeking graves at this converted insane asylum. They discover that 35,000 political prisoners had been slain here, largely by poisoning.

Camp Ohrdruf : General Eisenhower, General Patton and General Bradley can hardly believe their eyes when they view torture-gallows, heaps of charred human bodies and lime pits filled with corpses. From You Tube.

You can view the newsreel by clicking here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Complete Memoir of Peter Kleinmann of Munkacs

There has been a good addition to the Museum's ongoing and evolving exhibition "Walk in my Shoes: Collected Memories of the Holocaust."

You can now read the complete memoirs of Holocaust survivor Peter (Dezider) Kleinmann, who was born in 1925 in the small village of Kustanovice, about a one hour walk from the city of Mukacevo (aka Munkacs, Hungary; Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia; Mukachevo, Soviet Union; today Mukacheve, Ukraine).

Peter writes about:

Jewish communal life in Munkacs
The rise of anti-Semitism during Hungarian occupation
The Munkacs ghetto
Existence in the concentration camps Auschwitz, Gross-Rosen and Flossenburg
The Death March

There are a good number of photos included, both of family, scenes around towns, a sanitorium in Switzerland, and also of the camps.

You can begin to read his memoirs at

More about Peter Kleinmann, including video testimony, will be made available to you sometime this year once the Museum's "World War II and the Holocaust" section has been augmented and made ready for viewing.

The submission of more such memoirs to the virtual Museum of Family History are also welcome and will be considered for inclusion within the Museum's "Walk in My Shoes" online exhibition.

Monday, April 5, 2010

MOFH Film Series: Now Playing until April 18th

Now showing within the Museum of Family History's Film Series, through April 18th:

Film no. 1:

Archival film from 1936 showing the Jewish district of Kazimierz in Krakow (3 mins, 26 secs). Most of these buildings can be visited today and are in a similar condition - only the people who walked those streets are long since gone.

The original [version] of this film is in the Polish film archives in ul. Chelmska in Warsaw. -- From YouTube.

Note that there is another version of this film on YouTube that states the film is of Kazimierz in 1938-9, not 1936.

This short film "The Jews of Krakow's Kazimierz District," can be found at .

Film no. 2:

From the exhibition "The Jewish Ghetto," coming to you at the Museum of Family History sometime in 2010:

"The Ghettos of Dąbrowa Górnicza and Będzin" (10 mins, 51 secs):

A film in two parts, shot in the ghettos of Dąbrowa Górnicza and Będzin, probably at the beginning of the ghettos.

Dabrowa Górnicza is part of the Katowice conurbation. Jews settled in Dąbrowa Górnicza in the middle of the 19th century. There were 4,304 Jews living in Dąbrowa Górnicza according to the 1921 census (11% of the total population).

The German army captured Dąbrowa Górnicza on 3 September 1939. In the fall of 1940 several hundred young Jewish men were deported to slave labor camps in Germany. Several hundred more were deported in the course of 1941. At the end of that year a ghetto was established. On 5 May 1942, the first deportation took place in which 630 Jews were taken to Auschwitz and exterminated. In the second deportation, conducted on 12 August 1942, another few hundred Jews were sent to their death in Auschwitz. On 26 June 1943, the ghetto in Dąbrowa Górnicza was liquidated and all its inmates were transferred to the ghetto in Srodula (a suburb of Sosnowiec), the only ghetto still existing in Upper Silesia. It too was liquidated and all its inhabitants, including the Jews from Dąbrowa Górnicza, deported to Auschwitz and killed.

According to the 1921 census, there were 17,298 Jews in Będzin or 62.1 percent of its total population. By 1938, the number of Jews had increased to about 22,500.

Situated close to the border, Będzin was quickly captured by the Wehrmacht. On 7 September, persecution of the Jews began, with the instituting of economic sanctions. On 8 September, the Będzin synagogue was burned, and the first massacre of local Jews took place.

The ghetto was founded in May 1942 but deportations had started as early as October 1940. Despite cooperation with the occupiers as is shown in this film, several large deportations took place in 1942. The last major deportations took place in 1943: 5,000 were deported on 22 June 1943 and 8,000 around 13 August 1943. About 1,000 remaining Jews were deported in the subsequent months. A rising took place in August 1943 which was put down and the ghetto was eliminated.

This film is held in the Polish film archive in ul. Chelmska, Warsaw. -- From YouTube.

The film can be found at .

Film no. 3:

Jolson sings in "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum!"

The film trailer.
"The picture, some persons may be glad to hear, has no 'Mammy' song. It is Mr. Jolson's best film and well it might be, for that clever director, Lewis Milestone, guided its destiny, and the supporting cast includes Frank Morgan, the beautiful Madge Evans, the pathetically comic Harry Langdon and that veteran of Keystone days, Chester Conklin. It is a combination of fun, melody and romance, with a dash of satire, all of which make for an ingratiating entertainment..."-- From the New York Times, Feb. 9, 1933.

Don't forget to visit the Museum's large Al Jolson exhibition titled "The Immortal Al Jolson" (and see and hear many more videos, not to mention more than forty sound clips) at .