top of page

This interview is SOUND ONLY

transcribed from Interview with  Estelle Rozinski 2017 http://www.missingmezzuzot.com/1/1
The family

The Family

My father, Natan ( also known as Nathan and born as Nachman), was born on the 16th May 1920 into a family of six boys, he was the youngest. His father was called Shimon, and mother Shprintze (Cyprys). My father was named after an aunt named Nacha (who had passed away). It was only later, when his name was recorded by the Germans in 1939, that he became known as Natan, and in Australia, Nathan (the anglicised version) but was called Nachman at home.

 

.

It was quite a done thing to have a formal family portrait. All the family are shown sitting in a photographer’s studio sometime in 1928. Natan is the little boy in front with a white shirt.  He is surrounded by his brothers and parents. My father showed me this photograph and as he  pointed out all the members of his family I could see tears swelling up in his eyes.  None of them survived the horrors of the second world war.

 

Natan had five brothers, Itzik, Laib Hersz-Yankev, Daneal and Yehuda (Figure 1). There was also a sister, Sura-Rywka, who died under the age of one, but she was not in the photograph. Before my father died he told me who all the people in the photograph were.

blicblau family zw.jpg
Figure 1. Natan (aged 8 in white shirt)  , his parents and five brothers, Itzik, Laib Hersz-Yankev, Daneal and Yehuda .

My father’s family family lived in Zdunska Wola (ZW)[2] a small town about 50km west of Lodz, Poland, Figure 2.  

The house Address

Sieradzka 9/1

 

According to my father, the town was made up of about a third Jews, a third Poles and a third Volksdeutch[3]- because ZW was close to the German border.

Natan’s immediate family (one sister, five brothers and and parents) were all born in Zdunska Wola. Their names and relationships are shown in Figure 3

Figure 2. Map of Zdunska Wola and Surrounds

natan tree 1.png

Figure 3. Natan , parents, grandparents, siblings,  brothers, and wives and children

The House

Szymon Blicblau and family lived in a double story house on Sieradzka 9-1. When I went to Poland in 2003 I visited the street and photographed their house which is shown, Figure 4. 

 

My grandfather, father and all the brothers were shoemakers. Upstairs, was the little shoe factory and the family lived downstairs. Today it is a residence upstairs and shops downstairs.

CCF12502021_0001.jpg
CCF12502021.jpg
Figure 4. House at 9 Sieradzka Street Zdusnka Wola ( front and rear) and surrounds.
Reminisces
Reminisces

Growing up, my father spoke very little about his early life, little snippets of stories, happy memories of visiting his uncle in Lodz or his cousins coming to stay with them in ZW.  But one thing I recall is that my father liked sport and played a lot of soccer. 

When I was about 15 years old(1966), my father received a copy of the Yizkor book  about Zdunska Wola (5). In this book  he  found a photo of a group of boys marching in ZW on sports day, and there he was, third person from the left in the photograph (Figure 5).

 

The photograph gave him a shock and he just sat there in his chair in total silence, stunned that a photo had survived. After sitting quietly for a few minutes he got up, closed the Yizkor book, and put it away.  It wasn’t until a few years later that he  tried to find out who put in the photograph by writing to the Yizkor book editor, who lived in Israel. Unfortunately, the editor had passed away by then and no-one knew the source of the photograph.

Sports march.png
Figure 5. Natan Blicblau marching in ZW on sports day, third from left (taken from an image in the Zdusnka Wola remembrance /Yizkor book [5] (page 521).
Army brothers.png

On another occasion, my father was  looking through a shoebox of photos  and he found an old photograph with his brother who had joined the Polish army (Figure 6).

 

Figure 6. Natan is in the middle of back row. His brother (whose name I do not know) is in the front row, on the left, in army uniform.

Family Photo
1928- Family Photo

In 1995 my father received a letter from a childhood friend who was living in Frankfurt, Germany, Aron Szwarcbart. Aron said that he found a photograph of my father’s family from before the war.  My father thought that this was a ‘scam” for money, so did not reply.  About two months later a parcel arrived from Germany.  He opened the parcel and almost fainted- in his hands he was holding a photograph of his family taken in 1928.  My father had no photos of his parents or brothers (Figure 7).

 

 

 

Apparently Aron continued living in Germany after the Second world war and periodically went to ZW to look after the cemetery. One day in 1987 the mayor of ZW asked Aron if he could look through some photographs he had found, originally on glass plates in an attic in Zdunska Wola and identify them. Aron found a photograph of Natan’s family. That is how my father was able to receive the photograph.   There were many other photographs with unidentified people. An exhibition of these photographs, as well as others, were mounted in the Simon Wiesental Museum Los Angeles, under the title “ I Can Still See Their Faces.”.  These photos as well as many others were posted on the internet in an attempt to have them identified. [6]. Natan’s family was photograph number 100[7].

blicblau%20family%20zw_edited.jpg

Figure 7. Natan’s family photograph number 100 [7].

Aaron and Pola  travel to Poland, May 2003
Aaron Travels to Poland

In 2003, I travelled to Poland with my wife Pola, and retraced my parents' life from Zdunska Wola to finally Australia. Whilst in Zdunska Wola, I researched two important matters:  the first being birth certificates of all the Blicblau family (Natan, his brothers and his parents) as well as my mother’s family.  This is where I found out that may father had a baby sister who died at about the age of one.  My father was born after his sister died.

 

At that time in ZW there was a town Museum, which had a Jewish room, as well as documents. One of these set of documents was a “resident card” which had details of all the people who lived at a certain address at a specific time- almost a census. The details on the card included the name of Natan’s parents, their respective parents, Natan’s brothers, their dates of birth, their address, their religion and their profession.

 

 All of this information is shown in the resident cards reproduced  in Figure 8 and Figure 9 . Interestingly, the oldest brother, Laib, born in 1904, was not listed, nor was the Rywka, the sister who passed away I tracked down genealogical data and found only records of one brother’s marriage, Icek married to Cypra Habalek. I do not know if he is in the photograph. From records I located when I was in Zdunska Wola, Icek and Cypra, had one child, a girl, Rywka, born in 1934.

dadpolishres.tif
dadpolishres2_edited.png
Figure 8. Front of  resident card
Figure 9. Reverse of resident card

New York- Shimon and Henich Blicblau

New York

When I was a child, sitting around the Seder/Pesach table or after breaking the fast from Yom Kippur, my father would tell stories of when he was growing up in ZW. As he told stories, his facial expression changed and he seemed to be happy .A smile would form on his lips as he reminisced about his family- “I remember my father told me he went to America to visit Heinich brother and see if he could make a living, and the bring over the family to settle. But, he found that the he had to work seven days a week and had no life for himself. It was not a place for Jews to live.” So, my grandfather, decided to return to Poland.

ship manifesto.png
Figure 10. Compilation of Details of the Ship manifest, passenger record and image of the Cassel [8]

It was not until a few years ago when I heard about Ellis Island[1] going online that I decided on the off chance that there might be a record, to try an access their records.  But first I had to join and become a member, which was now easy because everything was online. I joined and started my search, typing just Blicblau, and of course nothing came up.  Then I realised that some of my family in Israel spelled their name Blitzblau, so I typed it in. And suddenly his name came up! I found out many details about my grandfather’s trip to USA (Figure 10).

 

He caught the ship SS Casssel from Bremen in Germany and arrived in Ellis Island, January 5th 1905. He was married, and was visiting his brother Henich who lived in East 79th Street, NY.  His religion was  Hebrew and his place of birth being recorded as  Zdunska Wola.  And lastly he also had on him five dollars. 

 

All of this information was on the ship’s manifest. I have put together these extracts in one document shown in Figure 10 . I asked my father why my grandfather had not stayed in NY. And said that his father told him that it was no a place for Jew.  When he said that, a curious look came over my father’s face!

And also listed on the Ellis Island data base was another passenger named Blitzblau (Abe) who entered New York in 1945 ( it turned out to be his first cousin migrating to the USA after WWII as a refugee).

Stories of Zdunska Wola and related Stories
Stofries of ZW

Many years ago, on Pesach , towards the end of reading the Seder story, when we open the door for Elihau to come in, my father said that in ZW strange things happened.  Standing in the open doorway was a person with a white sheet all over himself, he came into the house, sat down and started eating whatever was left of the meal. He the finished the win the Eliyahu cup, stood up and went outside. This event happened in a few houses for a number of years.  Apparently, some extremely poor people did these dress-ups and visits to be able to get a meal.

Another time, when we were sitting down at a Shabat meal and my mother brought out the Cholent, dad remembered how the Cholent was made in ZW.  On Friday night he, being the youngest, would take the pot of Cholent to the baker to put in the oven. If the baker liked you he put the pot in the middle of the oven so that it would cook well, and if he had a grudge against you that Friday he would put the pot on one side of the oven so it would get burnt, or put it way up the back so that it would get overdone.  Or if dad was late, the baker would put the oven in front so that it was not completely cooked for Shabat lunch.  And if he was late coming to pick it up, someone else would take the better looking pot of Cholent and he was left with the poor man’s pot.

In the house my father lived in there was a cellar, and the family would make wine from sultanas and grapes. The bottles would be left in the dark for six months before the wine matured and could be used. Sometimes at night he would hear explosions coming from the cellar, and that was if the wine had “popped” overripe grapes and gas in the bottles.

 

During summer, the family would go to a farm and pick fruit, and collect vegetables. They brought the fruit home and stored them in the dark cellar. And the potatoes were kept in cold storage to be used all of winter.

Because it was cold during September/October, dad’s family had an inside Sukkah. What that meant was that part of the ceiling was removed, palm leaves put on the roof, and the walls decorated.

I once asked my dad what was his Bar Mitzvah like. Was it as fancy as we had today, did they make a big deal about it?. He smiled, and said that they just had a Shtibel (a small room form prayer), he was called up to the Torah, did not read the portion of the week, nor the Hatorah. And that was the end of it.  There was a kiddush afterwords with just herring and biscuits and of course some wine. “Not really a big deal“.

Relatives in USA
Relatives in USA

My father had uncles, cousins  and other close family in Lodz. One of these cousins, Pinchus, migrated to the USA in 1924, and his two brothers, Daniel and Abe were caught up in the war and were in concentration camps. (it was the Ellis Island record of Abe that I found when I searched the Ellis Island data bases).

 

The last time that dad saw Daniel was just after liberation, when they met up at a displaced person camp in Bergen Belsen. Daniel went to be with his brother, Paul (by now) and later brought over Abe, so all three brothers were in Chicago.

I would sometimes ask my dad about relatives from before the war or after the war.

 

He told me that he had a cousin who migrated to the USA in 1928, who was also called Natan Lajzerowitz. Apparently, Nathan’s mother was a sister of dad’s mother. And he had a photograph of the two of them just before he left for America (see them shaking hands in Figure 11). And dad was in touch with him until dad passed away in 1999 although he had changed his name to Nathan Lane ( no, not the actor), and lived in New Jersey. I visited Nathan Lane in New Jersey during 2002.

 

Sadly dad and Nathan never saw each other after 1928, despite keeping in touch by letter.

CCF12402021_0001.jpg
Figure 11a.  Nathan Lane (left) shaking hand with my dad in 1928
CCF12402021_0002.jpg
Figure 11b.  reverse of photo. 

References

[1] http://www.zchor.org/zdunska/blic.htm

[2] http://www.jri-poland.org/town/zdunska_wola.htm

[3] Germans or ex-Germans who lived close to the German border.

[4] A Yizkor (Memorial) Book is a book published by former residents or landsmanshaftn as remembrances of homes and people lost during the Holocaust. The majority of these books were written in Hebrew or Yiddish .

[5] Zdunska Wola (The Zdunska-Wola Book), ed. Elchanan Ehrlich (H,Y) and Leila Kaye-Klin (E), Zdunska-Wola Associations in Israel and Diaspora, Tel Aviv, Israel Press, Ltd, April 1968

[6]And I can Still see their faces,  http://www.zchor.org/isee.htm (accessed 17 March 2021)

[7] Photograph 100. And I can Still see their faces,  http://www.zchor.org/isee.htm (accessed 17 March 2021)

[8] https://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/passenger (accessed 15 November 2017)

Welcome to the website for
Natan (Nathan) and Laja (Lonja) Blicblau (nee Rajchbart)
 from Zdunska Wola, Poland, to WWII, then Israel and finally settling  in  Melbourne,  Australia   

bottom of page