My first problem was to obtain material for research on the Zielinski family.
It seems that the only book to be published on the Jewish community of Przedecz was the “Yizkor Book” published in Tel-Aviv in 1974 by the “Organisation of Former Residents of the City of Przedecz in Israel and the Diaspora”. This book consists of 400 pages and is written partially in Hebrew and partially in Yiddish. The first part of the book contains articles on the liquidation of the Jews of Przedecz by the Nazis, descriptions of Jewish Communal Organizations which existed in Przedecz, and personal recollections by former members if Przedecz. A number of photographs of streets, houses, site of the former Synagogue and cemetery taken by former members of Przedecz who visited the village in the mid-1960s are included. The second part of the book gives brief biographies in Yiddish together with a number of photographs of members of the Przedecz Jewish Community murdered by the Nazis. I found this to be the most valuable source, and certainly the most reliable, for researching the Zielinski family.
This book also lists former members of the Jewish community of Przedecz living in Israel and abroad. As I have already stated above, I ascertained the telephone numbers of those living in Israel who are still alive and spoke to them over the telephone. From my various telephonic conversations, I learned that the person remembering the most was Reuven Yamnik who lives in Bnei Brak. Since a conversation over the telephone is limited, I asked Mr. Yamnik if I could come and visit him and speak to him face to face. He readily agreed and in January 1998, I travelled to Bnei Brak, armed with a cassette-recorder and plenty of paper and conversed with him for two hours. During this conversation he supplied me with important information regarding the various institutions and organisations in Przedecz and also additional information not appearing in the biographies on members of the Zielinski family.
Another person on my list was Golda (Zehava) Grabinski of Haifa. When I telephoned, her husband Tzvi answered and said that Zehava had passed away five weeks earlier and that she was the grand-daughter of Yeshayahu Zielinski - the brother of my grandfather. Tzvi had never lived in Przedecz, although he had come from Poland, and was therefore unable to supply me with information on the Zielinski family of Przedecz.
I was also in contact with other former residents of Przedecz now living in Israel. A few of them were able to give me some fragmentary facts about the Zielinski family, whilst others said they did not remember the family after such a long period.
Evidence is being taken from survivors of the Holocaust and in “Yad Vashem” I found that one of the former residents of Przedecz, Levi Schweitzer, had given such evidence. Included in this evidence was general material on life in Przedecz before the Second World War
In his account of his family history, Monty Zielin had included a list of the brothers and sisters of his father. I wrote to him asking the source of such a list and he replied that during the Second World War, whilst serving in the British army, he was told to supply a list of relatives in occupied Europe, in order not to be sent to those areas. I asked him for a photocopy of this list which he duly sent me. The list was typed in March 1942, and since in those days not many people had typewriters, he thinks it was typed my by late father.
One should stress here, that this list and Reuven Yamnik’s information were important sources in identifying from the “Yizkor Book”, the members of my immediate Zielinski family. Any errors in these two sources would thus naturally affect the accuracy of the reconstruction of my family history.
On the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem there are the “Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People”. I visited these Archives, looked up their catalogue and found that they had a few fragmentary records from Przedecz dating from the mid-19th century. A few of them were on the Zielinski family.
The best source for “vital records” - details of births, marriages and death in any country would be the State and Local records housed in that particular country. However, I did not know to whom to apply for such Polish records or whether they were still in existence? Today, one has an added tool for research - the Internet. Via the Internet, one can find information regarding the sources Polish genealogy, although the actual records themselves do not seem to be on the Internet. Using the Internet, I found a lot of valuable information given out by the “Polish Genealogical Society of America”. Amongst the information I obtained was where to write in Poland - on the State level, on the local level and on the parish level. One can write in English to the State Archives, although the reply is likely to be in Polish! To the Local Councils and to the Parishes, one must write in Polish. The genealogical society gives via the Internet, various appropriate sentences in English together with their Polish translation in order to facilitate inquiries at the Local and Parish levels.
I also received assistance from Rose Szczech, a volunteer at the Polish Genealogical Society of America. From inquiries she had made, she received a letter on 11 March 1998 from Miss Maigorzata Koska, a member of the Polish Archives staff in Warsaw informing her that the Warsaw Archives do not have any register books from Przedecz.
I learned from a letter dated 8 June 1998 from Dr. Jaroslaw Porazinski, Director of the Archives at Torun that the records of Jewish births in Przedecz were destroyed, probably during World War II. There are some books of records between the years 1885-1931, of the population register of permanent residents of Przedecz which may be found in these Archives at Torun.
An organisation dealing with Jewish genealogy is “Avotaynu”, situated in New Jersey, U.S.A.. This organisation brings out its own journal called “Avotaynu”, and has also published a number of very helpful books and other material in order to help the Jewish genealogist investigate his ancestry. The Internet contains an index of the articles appearing in the past issues of their journal. I went through this list and marked out the articles which might possibly help with my research and then went to Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem where I looked up and photocopied these articles.
It emerged from these articles that the Polish authorities asked exorbitant prices for obtaining photocopies of their “vital records” - $20 for each photocopy, which is about 50 times the price paid elsewhere in the world!! In addition the service is very very slow and bureaucratic.
Another fact that I learned from these articles was the existence of lists of over 200,000 Jews of the Lodz Ghetto and also the Cemetery Burial lists of Lodz. This could be relevant to my research since several members of the Zielinski family had moved to Lodz from Przedecz. I went to the Yad Vashem Library and found a set of five volumes listing all the members of the Lodz community which had been arranged in alphabetical order using a computer. I then went to the archives room of Yad Vashem and found microfilms of the two original lists, which had been prepared on the basis of addresses in the Lodz ghetto. One had been prepared in 1940 and the other about 1942. In order to use these microfilms. one first looks in the computerised alphabetical lists to determine the address of a specific person in the Lodz ghetto and then one is enabled to find his name by looking up the street and house number in the microfilms. The latter list also gives the dates of birth, and sometimes the former addresses of the inhabitants and the dates that they were sent to the concentration camps.
Another record of the Lodz ghetto which is extant is a cemetery list of those buried in the Lodz Jewish Cemetery. Of the roughly 180,000 buried there, about 80,000 appear in this list which is held by “OFRLI -The Organization of Former Residents of Lodz” which has its office in Tel-Aviv. There is therefore a fair chance that one might find the names of someone buried in this cemetery.
Armed with the foregoing, I began reconstructing my family history.
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