Recent News Articles

How I Stumbled Upon Thousands of Holocaust-Era Letters and Traced the Stories Behind Them

11 Sep 2023 7:48 PM | Anonymous

The letter was dated July 17, 1939, and signed by a man named Joseph Gross. He was writing from New York to thank the Forward for helping to find his relatives. Alongside it in the digital archive was a letter written in Yiddish, dated the following week, sent from Brussels and signed by Avrom Gross, Joseph’s cousin.

“I read the letter with such great astonishment,” Avrom wrote. “I have no way of thanking you.”

I stumbled across these letters online, in the digitized archives of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum in Jerusalem, while searching for references to a column called Seeking Relatives that ran for decades in the Forward.

They were part of a collection donated, upon Yad Vashem’s founding in 1953, by a man named Isaac Metzker, a Forwardeditor who oversaw the column for years. I soon discovered that Metzker’s files included some 15,000 documents relating to Seeking Relatives, letters and notes that hinted at the way the newspaper connected thousands of Eastern European Jews with family in the U.S. before, during and after World War II.

The Yiddish letter written by Avrom Gross on July 26, 1939, thanking the Forward.  

I had been looking for information about Seeking Relatives in June 2022 for what I thought would be a fairly straightforward article to help commemorate the Forward’s 125th year of operation. Instead, Metzker’s files would lead to more than a year of painstaking reporting in partnership with the Forward’s archivist, Chana Pollack.

You can read more in an article written by Andrew Silverstein and published in the web site at: 

Blog posts

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software