Joe Auslander's Family History Background
by Mark Auslander (September 2020)
I would say that my father, who really does regard himself as a citizen of the world, has never been fascinated by family genealogy. This is not to say that Dad is uninterested in his family relations; his mathematical mind is certainly skilled at recollecting and reconstructing kinship relationships and he has maintained close connections with many relatives around the world But he lacks the obsessive curiosity I would say about family history that my sister Bonnie and I have developed over the years, along with a number of our cousins: he is I suspect just too interested in people of all sorts to wear the narrow blinders required for parochial family history research.
Nonetheless, I thought it would be fun on the occasion of Dad’s 90th birthday to summarize briefly his family history, with a few observations along the way on people and events that may have shaped his distinctive personality and outlook upon the world, including his commitment to social justice, his love of all the arts, and perhaps even his quest, in mathematics, to chart the elegant contours of the music of the spheres.
I begin with the Zeltzer half of the equation and then turn to the Auslander manifold. (Please send along corrections and clarifications.)
(Photo by Israel Metor, Minsk)
Source: Joseph Klein via Max Osowskiy
Zeltzers: Joe’s Mother’s Side
Joe’s mother’s family, the Zeltzers and Weinsteins, had their roots in the Bobruysk (Babrujsk, or Bobruisk) area of the Mogilev Region of what is now eastern Belarus, in the general vicinity of the Berezina river.
Joe’s maternal grandfather was Joseph Zeltzer (for whom I believe he was named), son of Moses Zeltzer and Rachel (“Bubba Rochel"). Joseph was born in Starye Dorogi (Old Road) also known as as (or adjacent to) Novye Dorogi (New Road) about thirty miles west of Bobruysk. The family story is that they resided on land that had been awarded to them at some point in the past by the Czar for services performed as doctors and midwives, two occupations open to Jews
Joseph married Chava (Eva) Weinstein (Vainstein) around 1890. Chava came from Bobruysk, one of the principal cities of the Minsk region. Chava's parents were Zalmon Weinstein and Rose Berskin (the latter name was related to the Berezina river, according to cousin Maxim Osowskiy) and her brothers included Nison and Jacob Weinstein. The witnesses listed to Joseph and Chava's wedding contract on July 20th, 1890, were Nison Plotkin and Wolf Brodie, who were perhaps cousins of the bride or groom. (Chava's brother, as noted, was Nison Weinstein, which may suggest Nison Plotkin was related to the Weinsteins.
Joseph Zeltzer was religious and spent his days studying, while Chava ran a general store and handled the money. (She proudly never sold alcohol, concerned that inebriated peasants might engage in domestic violence.)
|Rabbi Jacob Carnick
Wife: Pearl (standing),
Morris Cannick, age 2,
Bubba Rochel, seated
|Chava Weinstein Shaviro
|Written on the back [perhaps by Runya]:
“My grandfather Zalmon Weinstein”.
[father of Chava and Sema]
Photograph found by Vicki and Sonia Margulies
The daughter of Zalmon and Rose Weinstein, Chava (Eva) Weinstein Zeltzer, who grew up in Bobruysk (Bobroisk), had a more cultivated and cosmopolitan upbringing than the small town Zeltzer family into which she married. [Chava/Hava/Eva is the namesake of Pauline Zeltzer Klein's daughter Eva Klein, Celia Zeltzer Shapiro's daughter Joan Eva Shapiro Uchitelle, and Judy Auslander Saks' daughter Eva Saks.] Rebecca Zeltzer Auslander later recalled that the home her mother made for the family was beautiful and elegant, with oriental rugs and a rounded window; Pauline, however, recalled the home as rather plain. In any event, Chava made sure that her eldest daughter Frieda was educated in a secondary school in Bobruysk, and that all her children received a good education. The language of the home was Yiddish, although all the children were fluent in Russian.
|Aaron , Pauline, Celia, Runya, Rebekah Zeitzer
Novye Dorogi. c. 1913?
Chava helped inculcate in her children a love of literature, the Yiddish language, and music and the arts. The household included a phonograph, which ensured the children’s exposure to classical music.
Emigration to the US: c. 1908-1923
One of the first members of the Weinstein-Zeltzer family circle to emigrate to the US was Sema Weinstein, Chava's sister, who left Russia at approximately age 17 and arrived in New York, it appears, in 1908. There are different family stories as to why Sema left. One version
holds that she was sent to the US by her family because of her revolutionary activities, in order to protect her.
Another version maintains that there were too many children in the
Weinstein home and that Sema was sent away when someone else in the
community had a ticket to America but couldn’t use it. (It is of course possible that both stories have an element of truth to them.) Her daughter Vivian recalled
that Sema came with no English and no connections and ended up as a
seamstress because she could follow a pattern without knowing English. In any event, Sema married the newspaper writer Nathan Shaviro in 1917 and the couple settled in an apartment to the immediate east of Morningside Park.
|Sema Weinstein (Shaviro): children, siblings
|Frieda Zeltzer (Zukerman)
Around the same time as Zimmel's departure, approximately 1913, Zimmel’s sister Frieda (b, 1 May 1893) was sent to Paris, France, by Chava, evidently to help her escape from an unwanted marriage to a local young man. (Frieda was celebrated for her beauty and refinement. Among the Jews of Novye Dorogi there was a saying, “Even the butchers don’t curse, when Frieda Zeltzer walks past”.)
|Frieda Zeltzer (standing)
with Sema and Sema's brother Nison Weinstein
Joseph Zeltzer, his daughter Celia later recalled, when seeing off his eldest daughter Frieda at the train station, was heartbroken, realizing he was unlikely to see her again. (He passed away four years later, without indeed seeing her). While in Paris Frieda decided at the urging of friends to travel to America, and arrived in Detroit on 19 March 1914. She resided in both New York City and Chicago over a six year period. At some point, Frieda lived with her mother’s sister Aunt Sema Weinstein Shaviro, who may have been only a year or two older than her.
An air of glamor and mystery still attaches to Frieda in family lore. In the course of her travels, it is said that Frieda came to know the gangster Bugsy Siegel and the artist Marc Chagall, among many others.
While Frieda was living with the Shaviros in New York City, Nathan Shaviro introduced Frieda to the brilliant journalist William Zukerman, who had come of age in Chicago. William had written for The Forward, and during WWI was embedded in the press corps attached to the US Army. The two men evidently knew one another through the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). William married Becki Goldman, a close friend of Sema’s, but at some point, William and Frieda developed a romantic attachment. In late 1920, following the scandal associated with discovery of this liaison, William and Frieda both left the United States for Europe. They remained a couple and eventually married in London in 1925.
[William and Frieda's son, George ("Dick") Zukerman, shares a story of William's arrival in America: "Scene, 1901, a dockyard in Baltimore...the SS Rotterdam has just arrived from Hamburg. A fifteen year old William Zukerman, with barely a word of English has just cleared immigration. Around his neck he has an address – in Chicago.
In Yiddish, He asks a peddler who is leading his horse to water “how far is it to Chicago”. The peddler who, himself, has arrived in the USA only two years earlier, replies “ a long way, kid, a long way.” As he drags his horse away from the trough he adds “better find somebody from HIAS.” (The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which also, as it happens, assisted the Zeltzer in their immigration.)
What actually happened [or so we believe from long-ago recited family lore] is that HIAS finds him. He enjoys his first good meal in days [his food on board the ship has been thrown overboard – declared “trefe” by a group of zealots] he is put up in a private home for his first night in America, and delivered the next morning to the railway station with a ticket on the Twentieth Century express to Chicago. A telegram – remember them? – is sent to William’s Father, Max and the “gruener” is met at Chicago with his first memory, the pervading stink of the Chicago Stockyyards."]
|Frieda, Pauline, Celia. Danzig, c 1921
|Rebekah and other children of Joseph and Chava Zeltzer
Runya later recalled that in 1920 or 1921 she and her mother Chava watched as Pauline and Celia left Novye Dorogi in a wagon, hidden under straw, fearful of Cossacks who might search the wagon’s contents with pitchforks. Chava then turned to Runya and said, “And to think I didn’t want to have you!” (Runya was her 12th child, and she had reportedly been angered at Joseph when she became pregnant with Runya). “What would I do now without you?”
A year or two after Celia and Pauline's departure, Chava left Novye Dorogi with her 15 year old son Aaron and her youngest child Ronia (Runya, then age 9), arriving in New York City on SS Saxonia, via Hamburg, on 22 Nov 1922. [The passenger manifest lists as Hava's previous residence, "J. Zeltzer" in Bobruisk, which presumably was a mistaken reference to Hava's brother Jacob Weinstein."
Although Sema evidently remained unreconciled with Frieda over Frieda's liaison with Sema friend’s husband William, Sema and her husband Nathan Shaviro took in the other Zeltzer nieces--Sonia, Pauline, Celia, and Rebekah- as they arrived, in their home at 249 W. 115th street (Apt 226) near Morningside Park. Sema’s daughter Vivian (Shaviro) Kerman many years later shared with me stories of how dazzled she had been by the new arrivals’ Old World elegance and beauty.
By 1925, according to the New York State census, Chava was living with her children, Aaron, Rebecca, Pauline, Celia, and Runya, at 411 Manhattan Avenue, about two blocks away from her sister Sema’s place. Zimmel, Chava’s eldest child and the first to arrive in America back in 1913, was evidently living on his own by then and Frieda by this time was in England, married to William.
(To left: Chava's sterling silver soup laddle, one of the few possessions she brought to the New World from Novie Dorogi, in the hope of frequenty making borscht for her family, her daughter Celia recalled)
|Chava, with Pauline and Celia (New York. c. 1925?)
Sonia in the mid 1920s seems to have journeyed back to Europe, evidently in part to see her newly married sister Frieda. She is listed as arriving back in New York by ship on 19 January 1926 from Cherbourg, France; her occupation is listed as “dress maker”; she had been living it appears in Poland. She listed as her address immediately before coming back to the US as William Zukerman’s work address at 177 Fleet Street in London (The Zukerman’s home address was 66, Woodlands.) 18 months later, when Sonia applied for naturalization, her address is listed as 411 Manhattan Avenue, back in her mother Chava’s apartment near Morningside Park.
My late grandmother Rebekah recalled that her mother Chava during this period was searching for a lost brother, who had disappeared some years earlier, evidently in the U.S. South, Chava advertised without success in Yiddish newspapers and feared something terrible had happened to him. (His surname must have been Weinstein, but I don't believe anyone knows his first name.)
Despite the upheaval, this must have been an exciting time for the young Zeltzers, getting to know New York and America at a time of cultural ferment. The sisters recalled that Nathan Shaviro introduced them to many of the wonders of New York City. Several of the sisters were evidently involved in the Yiddish theater, presumably encouraged by Chava.
The sisters married in succession:
On 26 Oct 1926, Rebekah married the physician Dr. Jacob (“Bi”) Auslander, who had arrived from Vienna in 1923. Their children were Joseph "Joe" Daniel (b. 10 Sept. 1930) and Irene Judith "Judy" (b. 1933). (See more on the Auslander side of the family below).
Sonia to Abraham “Res’ Resika, a businessman (Date uncertain). Their only child was Paul (born 15 August 1928), who became a prominent artist.
|Pauline Zeltzer (Klein)
On 14 March 1929 Pauline married Solomon “Sol” Klein, an engineer. A year later, in the 1930 census Pauline’s younger siblings Aaron and Runya were living in Pauline and Sol’s apartment on Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx.
Sol traveled to the Soviet Union in 1933, in the company of another woman with whom he was romantically involved. There may also have been economic and political motivations for the trip. He appears to have been seeking employment as an engineer, amidst the economic privations of the Great Depression. He was also evidently inspired as an idealistic young socialist to participate in the Soviet experiment (By some versions, Pauline was more politically committed to the cause.) Pauline followed with her infant daughter Eva, for a time first staying with Frieda and William Zukerman in London. Once in Moscow, she reconciled with Sol and decided to stay permanently in the Soviet Union. The couple remained in Moscow for the next six decades. Their second child, Joseph Klein, was born in the Soviet Union. Many members of the American colony in Moscow did not survive the NKVD purges of the 1930s, but the Kleins made a full life for themselves and their descendants, some of whom now reside in Israel.
|Alice and Joan Shapiro
On 16 July 1929, Celia married Harry Shapiro, an artist who had studied in the Art Students League and Cooper Union Fine Arts and who later became a successful commercial artist. Their children were Alice and Joan.
The last Zeltzer sister to marry was Runya to Harold D. ( “Harry”) Margulies, an attorney, on 21 Feb 1936. Their children were David, who became a successful actor, and Vicki, who became a respected arts administrator.
Aaron Zeltzer married Madeline Mandelowitz on 31 December 1941, shortly following America’s entry into World War II. Their children are Joel and Neil Zeltzer.
There is an interesting family rumor of a kinship connection to Lev Bronstein (the revolutionary Leon Trotsky), whose mother may have been a cousin of Chava Weinstein. Celia recalled receiving a telephone call from Trotsky, evidently looking for Sonia or Frieda, although some family members doubt this ever happened.
Shrub Oak (1940-1960s)
The sisters, who as noted had come from the village of Novye Dorogi, in the Minsk region of what is now Belarus, during the course of the 1940s and 1950s came to recreate what was perhaps a version of their remembered Old World community by acquiring homes in the summer colony of Shrub Oak, in northern Westchester County, about an hour north of New York City. During summer months, the husbands would work in the city and commute up on weekends: the sisters would stay with their children. Bonds that would prove lifelong were nurtured among the first cousins.
The Margulies house was on the pond and is the only Shrub Oak property to remain in the family to this day. The Auslanders, Shapiros, and Resikas lived up the hill, with houses adjacent to each other in a row. “Res” Resika and Alex Dux (the father of Joe’s close friend Frank) acquired the Shrub Oak property from the the painter and printmaker Pennerton West, a descendant of the painter Benjamin West. Res and Alex served in turn as early presidents of the Shrub Oak Park association. The cousins recall the dwellings functioned nearly as one extended home, with the children running freely through them.
My late mother Ruth told me she was particularly enthralled by what a free spirit Sonia was, an ardent lover of art and of revolution who enjoyed picking mushrooms naked in the early morning. (Joe’s sister Judy remembers as a child being mortified by this.) The delightfully comic catalogue of the mythical Shrub Oak University, authored by Joe and Frank Dux in the mid 1950s, references Sonia as “Professor of Mushroom Picking.” Frank recalls that Sonia would routinely leave a basket of mushrooms outside their door, with a note asking Alex, an expert on mushrooms, to throw out the bad ones.
|Sisters: Sonia Resika, Pauline Klein with
Cousin Mark (son of Nissan Weinstein)
during Sonia's 1961 trip to Moscow
Neil Zeltzer recalls a childhood visit to Shrub Oak in the late 1950s, in which Sonia played a hilarious early Tom Lehrer album, including the wickedly satirical "Irish Ballad," which he adored.
The Zukermans Return
In October 1939, soon after war on Germany had been declared by Great Britain, Frieda returned to the United States with her sons Joseph and George --always known in the family as Dick or Dicky, perhaps for “Dick Whittington,” the legendary Lord Mayor of London or for his middle name Benedict, which is owed to his father's admiration for the great Sephardic-descended philosopher Baruch [Benedict) Spinoza. Frieda and the boys traveled on board the SS United States, emblazoned with an enormous American flag; a British ship had been torpedoed oft the coast of Ireland a few days earlier. William stayed behind in England to cover the war news for multiple newspapers, returning to the United States in 1943.
Frieda and her sons were met on the dock in New York by Joe's father, Dr. Jacob (Bi) Auslander, his wife Rebekah, and Paul Resika. Dick recalls being introduced to a card game by Paul then and there! Bi drove them (somewhat unsteadily, Dick recalls) back to 120 Riverside Drive, where they stayed for some time, before moving into their own apartment.
The Zukermans’ arrival was to have an enormous impact on my father. I’m convinced Dick’s general outlook on his life, his sense of humor, and storytelling ability shaped my Dad in many way. Later, William Zuckerman’s cosmopolitanism, anti-fascism, and progressive political commitments, as well as his early reservations over the Zionist project, were also to prove formative for my Dad.
The Zukermans ,never purchased property or built in Shrub Oak, but often spent time there. Dick served as editor of the Shrub Oak News, printed on a mimeograph machine in the Margulies House, assisted by my father Joe and cousin David Margulies.
A memorable event at Shrub Oak was a Summer 1942 production of Steven
Among the play's most famous lines: “Books are not men and yet they are alive, they are man's memory and his aspiration, the link between his present and his past, the tools he builds with.” Thinking of my father's ever growing library, now spanning two houses, and of the other wonderful book collections in the Zeltzer households, past and present, it occurs to me that this passage (in more gender inclusive language, to be sure) could well serve as our family credo.
Perhaps the most dramatic result of the Zukermans' return to the United States unfolded several years later, when Frieda and William's elder son Joseph finally met Vivian Shaviro, daughter of Sema (Weinstein) and Nathan Shaviro. Joseph and Vivian, whose families had long been separated by an ocean and the winds of history, married soon afterwards, on 14 September 1945 in Washington D.C. .Joseph took the surname "Kerman," which had been his earlier pen name, and, assisted by Vivian's formidable editorial skills, went on to publish some of the influential studies in modern musicology, including Opera as Drama (1956), a groundbreaking study of late Beethoven quartets, and Contemplating Music: Challenges to Musicology (1985). Joseph and Vivian co-authored the well known music textbook Listen. Their children were Peter, Lucy, and the late Jonathan "Jonny" Kerman.
The Zeltzer "Family Circle": Humor, Politics, Music
The Resikas, Zukermans, Shapiros and Margulies, for a time all lived in the same apartment building at 260 Convent Avenue, before moving to different places. My father's sense of humor was certainly shaped by the repartee among all these families, including the many witticisms of Harry Shapiro. My sister Bonnie and I were always delighted as little children when, as we left the Shapiro apartment, Harry would shout out, "Celia, check the silver!" as well as his by his elaborate, mock-serious instructions on how to perform gentlemanly train robberies in the Wild West.
The Shaviros lived in the Northwest Bronx Co-op (Amalgamated Clothing Workers/ILGWU housing), where Sol became the manager. Judy and Alan Saks thus obtained an apartment there early in their marriage and still live there!
Sonia traveled in 1961 to Moscow to see her beloved sister Pauline. On
the return trip home, staying with her cousin Gertrude Lieber, in
Golders Green, London, she died of a sudden coronary event on May 28,
Rebekah worked full time as an X-Ray technician and Frieda as a secretary to her husband William. Each sister married a Jewish man and stayed in life-long marriages. They shared a common aesthetic that had Eastern European Ashkenazi roots in a cosmopolitan cultural milieu that was, by and large, oriented towards trade unionism, internationalism, and socialism, as well as music and the arts. I believe all of them regularly read the New York Times; Dick Zukerman recalls the extended family reading the Sunday Times spread out across the living room in 120 Riverside Drive. Reading the Times remains a daily rite for many of their descendants. (My father, like Alan Saks, continues to do the Times crossword puzzle. Dad regularly lets me and my sister Bonnie know of interesting items in the Times we may have missed!)
Photo. Humorous telegram sent 1947 from Rebekah Auslander to Alice Shapiro, for Alice's seventh birthday.
|Yetta and Zimmel with Morris Canick
So far as I know, none of the Zeltzers in America were observant Jews, except perhaps for the shared joy of the annual Passover gathering and the tendency to use Riverside Memorial Chapel for family funerals. Nonetheless, a Jewish sensibility certainly informed many aspects of the extended family culture, most notably perhaps in their peculiar sense of humor, with a high premium placed on unexpected and absurd inversions, a love of elaborate fictions (most notably Harry Shapiro’s alleged Civil War exploits) and a related love of complicated stories of human foibles and unexpected resilience. A love of cooking and food, so evocatively chronicled in Alice Swersey’s cookbook memoir, (Whatever There Is, You'll Eat) certainly bound the whole extended family together. Obtaining old furniture, dishes, and lace at bargain prices was for the sisters a treasured, competitive sport. (My mother Ruth recalled sitting with Rebekah as they watched an early interview around 1961 with Jackie Kennedy in the White House, extolling the wonders of collecting antiques. “Oh no,” sighed Rebecca, “It's over. It's all over.” Fortunately, she and the sisters kept on finding vintage bargains and cleverly rearranging them, a gene that has mercifully been passed down through the generations.)
The Zeltzers’ politics were arrayed along the spectrum from New Deal Democrat to trade unionist to Communist Party sympathies and membership. I believe Sonia was the most directly committed to the Comintern and dutifully followed the various prescribed ideological twists and turns of the party line through the 1930s and 1940s. Others had a less rigid sense but retained a great sympathy for the Soviet experiment, and of course shared a love of Russian arts and music. An important event for many family members was the famous 1949 Paul Robeson concert in Peekskill, near Shrub Oak, at which rightists violently targeted African Americans and Jewish attendees. Sonia and Res's son Paul Resika helped provide security at the concert (my father, recovering from a hernia operation, could not).
Classical music was, and remains, a great connective tissue among the members of the extended Zeltzer clan. Harry Shapiro, an accomplished amateur violinist, committed much of the classical violin repertoire to memory, and performed it with idiosyncratic timing. I am not sure who among the elder generation played an instrument but they certainly all avidly attended concerts and listened to recordings. My father’s mother Rebekah excitedly reported to the family the day, on November 14, 1943, she heard "understudy" Leonard Bernstein unexpectedly conduct the Philharmonic for the first time, after Bruno Walter came down with the ‘flu.
I recall many times Runya playing her LP of Eugene Onegin and weeping at its beauty. Dick Zukerman went on to become one of the world’s leading bassoonists and his brother Joseph Kerman, as noted above, a preeminent musicologist. Paul Resika played in a jazz group as a youth. Judy Saks retains the ability to reproduce on the piano any piece of music she hears. Alice Swersey, who remains a gifted pianist, became a music educator with strong interests in music therapy. Vicki Margulies, a ballerina, later became a classical music administrator. My father still enjoys playing the clarinet, and on many late nights will follow the score as he listens to a Beethoven or Haydn quartet.
I do not know if there is a direct connection between Beethoven and the minimal flows my father studies in topological dynamics, but there is something about the intricate complexity of the repertoire, perhaps especially of the late Romantic period, as tensions are built and then partially recast and resolved at higher levels, that I like to think informs Dad’s mathematical sensibilities, and even his more recent interest in the philosophical foundations of proof in the intellectual history of mathematics.
Bobruysk and the Holocaust, 1941-44
A few words should be said of the fate that befell the descendants of Moses and Rebekah (Bubba Rochel) Zeltzer who continued to stay in the Soviet Union. After Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, violent mass extermination actions were carried out against the Jews of Belarus. For example, 800 Jews, from the ghetto that had been established in Starye Dorogi, were murdered by an SS detachment and local police on 19 January 1942. Many thousands of Jews in the ghettos created in Bobruysk and Minsk were murdered during this period; thousands more fled or were evacuated under horrific conditions. The Yad Vashema database of Shoah Victims lists at least seven Zeltzers and several Weinsteins (Vaynsteins) in Bobruysk who were murdered by the Nazis.
Chava's brother Jacob Weinstein became a medical doctor in Moscow, and died shortly after the start of World War II. His wife Tanya lived into the late 1970s, and was visited by the Zeltzer sisters duirng their trips from the USA to the USSR in the 1960's and 1970s. Jacob and Tanya's children were their sons Leo (who died during the war) and Gregory, a journalist/editor with the Krasnaya Zvesda (Red Star) newspaper, and their daughter Zina.
Cousin Maxim Ozovskiy, consulting family members and the Yad Yashem database, has been able to trace what happened to a few of the descendants of Riva (Rebecca) Zeltzer, who was the daughter of Moses Zeltzer, the sister of Joseph Zeltzer, and the wife of Hessell Ozovskiy:
- Riva and Hessell's son Isak Ozovskiy was a dentist in Bobruysk before the war. The Yad Vashem database records that Isak, his wife and two children, were murdered in Minsk, at some point between 1941-43. (Jews from nearby towns had been forcibly relocated from nearby towns into the Minsk ghetto, where they were subjected to a series of mass killings.)
- One of Isak's sisters, Maria Tarshis, died 1942 in Saratov (upstream of Stalingrad, now Volgagrad) after being evacuated from the Bobruysk area.
- Another sister of Isak, Shaina, married Solomon Zverev. Their son Vitali Zverev died at age one on board the train, being evacuted to Kazakhstan.
- One of Isak's brothers, Hirsch Osovskiy, his wife Gesia, and son Efim (1930-2004), were evacuated from Bobruysk before the Wehrmacht arrived; and made their way to Kazakhstan in Soviet central asia. Efim, who wrote a moving memoir of this period in Russian, recalled that he helped local Kazakh herdsmen care for livestock and learned some of the Kazakh language. Hirsch and Gesia did not survive the difficult conditions of the evacuation and perished in Kazakhstan. Efim survived and made it back to Bobruysk, six years after he had left. Efim's son, Maxim Osovskiy, lives in Moscow. He and his family became close to Pauline Klein and are still in close touch with Pauline's family.
Auslander Family: Joe’s Father’s Side
According to my father’s aunt Cilli Ausländer, the name “Ausländer” (we lost the umlaut somewhere over the Atlantic) was assigned to our predecessors in the Bukovina region, which was incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the 1770s, during the reign of Marie Teresa, when Jews were given formal surnames for tax collecting purposes. (Nowadays, Bukovina is divided between Romania and Ukraine.) The surname Ausländer” (literally “foreigner” in German) is not unusual for Eastern European Jews, conveying a certain sense of perpetual outsiderness. Cilli also heard a perhaps apocryphal tale that our ancestors drove their livestock into the hills to avoid tax enumeration, and when officials asked where they were. heir remaining kin stated they were in the “Ausland”; hence, their name. Those who affirmed this swore with the French term “parole d’honneur,” and were thus given the surname Parola, still a surname found in the region. Another variant has it that surnames were assigned for conscription purposes during the Napoleonic wars, so perhaps our ancestors were early draft dodgers, hiding out in Das Ausland?
I believe the first Ausländers in our line whom we have records of were Gershom Ausländer and his wife Hania Salzman, who were my father's great great-grandparents. Their son Moses Aron Ausländer (Joe's great-grandfather) was born c. 1845 in Sadagora, in the Chernivtsi region (Bukovina) of what is now Ukraine. The city of Chernovitz (Chernivtsi), sometimes called "Little Vienna" on which this region was centered, was a metropolis of culture, learning, and finance, with a substantial Jewish population, most famously evoked in the literary work of Paul Celan.
|Children of Moses Aron Auslander
At some point Moses Aron settled in the town of Radauti (Radautz) about 60 kilometers from Czernowitz. In a document, dated 4 Jan 1891, attested to in Radautz, Moses Aron Auslander legalized his previously common law marriage with his spouse Ester Resch: "I recognize my children produced with Ester Resch before the closure of our marriage: Sara, Isak, Chane, Uscher, Gerschon as married to Esther Resch. Radautz. 4 January 1891.”
(It is a curious coincidence that my father’s great grandfathers on his mother’s and father’s sides were both named Moses, a fact perhaps wasted on this profoundly secular fellow, although appropriate to his enduring revolutionary tendencies. It is perhaps coincidental as well that the male names in his patriline, from Isaac to Jacob to Joseph, follow the classical sequence of the Book of Exodus, from one Old Testament patriarch to another: I don't know if my Dad's parents were conscious of this precedent in choosing to name him "Joseph," an appellation which also aligned with his mother's father's name.)
It is interesting that long before my father's father emigrated to the US, two of his father's brothers, Alfred and Gustav (Gerschon) Ausländer, had already settled in New York City.
Gustav (Gerschon) Ausländer (Bi's father's brother) was born on May 16, 1879 in Radautz, and arrived in the United States on 16 July 1901. Gustav, who settled in Brooklyn, in 1904 married Minerva (Minnie) Beutel, Their children were:
- Rose Auslander (b. 10 May 1904 in Kings County, NY; d. 25 Sept 177 in Stony Brook, NY, married Leo Holland on 21 March 1929). Children were: Marvin Holland (1931-2013) and Eugene William Holland (b.1932)
- Helen Auslander, b. 15 Nov 1908; died 9 October 1979 in Easton PA; Married Herbert Holland on 30 Aug 1931. Children were Carol Sue Holland and Shelly Holland.
- Jesse Auslander (b. 30 Dec 1912 in Brooklyn, died 14 April 1955 in Kings Park, NY). Married Pauline Kweller ,24 October 1937. Children were Susan Auslander (1941-2012) nnd Marjorie Auslander.
Moses and Ester’s son Alfred (Uscher) Auslander (my father's great uncle) was born 30 March 1877. Alfred married Rougea (Rebekah) Eifermann in 1902 in Czernovitz, and the couple emigrated to the US in 1902 with their children Samuel and Nettie Eiferman. Alfred Auslander, trained as an architect at the University of Vienna, taught architecture at either Cooper Union or the Mechanics Institute, his grandson Dean believes. Alfred and Rougea lived first in Bronx and the moved to a house in Queens Village. Their children were Caroline, George, Stanley, and Donald Auslander. Their family connections with the Jacob (Bi) Auslander side of the family seem to have faded at some point in the 1940s or 1950s, although these have been reestablished over the past five years or so. (More on that below).
Back in Bukovina
Alfred and Gustav’s older brother Isak, my father's grandfather, ("Itzieg," born 23 March 1858; died 1944) remained behind in Radautz, Bukovina, and became a successful sugar wholesaler. He is mentioned in various records as a socially prominent philanthropist, involved in local Zionist causes and in the leadership of the city’s synagogue. He married Clara (Chaia Ruchl) Tauber (1869–1948).
Photograph of Ausländer family in Radautz, c. 1905. Front Row, from left: Cilli, Clara, Jacob (Bi) Isak, Ziefgried (youngest0 Rear row:Zully, Sarah (Tsuli), Julia
Isak at one point served as a Councillor in the Kehillah (the elected local communal Jewish structure in the region during the interwar period) andwas decorated with the Romanian order of "Meritul commercial, First Class."
Isak and Clara's daughter Julia Ausländer (my father's aunt) married Joseph Pagis (1904-1982), who emigrated on his own to Palestine at some point after 1930, never returning to Europe, He evidently hoped eventually to bring along his wife and young child, Severin. Julia died in Radautz in 1934, leaving behind her four year old son Severin (my father's first cousin), whom Isak and Clara raised and who was to remain with them during the horrors of the Holocaust's deportation period, 1941-1944. (Severin emigrated to Palestine around 1946 and took the name Dan Pagis; more on him below).
Isak and Clara’s daughter Tsuli (Sully or Suli) (Sarah) married the physician Robert (“Bert”) Klinghoffer. Their daughter Martha Klinghoffer (1923-2009), another of my father's first cousins, emigrated to the United States in 1938. Martha's brother Arthur Klinghoffer, born 1927, remained with his parents in Bukovina during the war period, before making his way to Palestine; he still resides with his family in Israel. Arthur explains that his Jewish middle name was Moshe-Aharon (Moishe-Arn), after the pateral grandfather of his mother Suli Auslander Klinghoffer. (As a physician, Bert Klinghoffer was allowed to remain in Bukovina during the war period, under Romanian fascist rule, while the great majority of Bukovinan Jews were deported, many facing violent death, illness or starvation.)
|Jacob (Bi) Auslander's forebearers
Jacob Auslander (My father's father)
Now, let us turn to my father's father, Jacob Ausländer, son of Isak and Clara. Jacob (who became known by the name “Bi” at an early age) was born 28 September 1896. He attended Gymnasium in Radautz and appears to have excelled in his studies; he took a medical degree in the University of Vienna, and evidently attended there lectures by Sigmund Freud, among others. His principal medical advisor, however, was no fan of Freud. This gave rise to one of Bi's famous stories: When Bi told his mentor that Freud had been awarded a major scientific prize, the professor remarked, "Oh, so they are giving it for fiction now, are they?"
Bi served as a physician in the Austrian Army during World War I and settled in Vienna. I believe during this period he became particularly close to his sister Tsili (Cilli) who obtained a doctorate in Chemistry from the University of Vienna in 1920. (In 1971, Cilli obtained a second doctorate, in Linguistics, from the University of Vienna: "Once every fifty years!" she joked.)
My impression is that pervasive anti-semitism in Austria weighed on Bi in the immediate post-World War I period. He too made the decision to emigrate to the United States, arriving in New York, 26 November 1923, on the vessel Sierra Ventana, which had departed from Bremen, Germany. His father’s brother Alfred Auslander, mentioned above, appears to have served as Bi’s initial sponsor.
Bi’s sister Cilli (Tsili), with whom he remained in close correspondence throughout his life, told me that his train through Germany was rerouted during Hitler’s failed coup d’etat, the Beer Hall Nazi putsch of 8-9 November 1923, a foreshadowing of the terrors to come.
Bi spent his first year in the United States in Wisconsin studying a course in psychiatry, before returning to New York City. For some reason he did not pursue a career in psychiatry, but instead established a general medical practice, with specialization in obstetrics, and arthritis and rheumatism, the latter being a continuing research interest of his. In time he became the chief of the arthritis clinic at Sydenham Hospital,
Bi married Rebekah Zeltzer on 26 Oct 1926 in Manhattan; she served as nurse and X Ray technician and I believe office manager in his clinic for the rest of his career. Three years after their marriage, in 1929, Bi and Rebekah traveled to Europe, visiting Vienna and Radautz, so Rebekah was able to meet her in laws. Before the trip Bi sold his stocks, so they were not as adversely impacted by the Crash as many of their friends; they arrived back in New York on October 1, 1929; eleven months later, their first child, Joseph, was born.
Although Bi and Rebekah were active in progressive circles, they seem to have been skeptical of aspects of the Communist Party program. I do not believe they were ever party members, and while some family members believed Stalin’s claims of the so-called Doctors' Plot, Bi was skeptical. During the 1930s Bi served on the board of directors of the Joint Anti Fascist Refugee Committee, helping resettle Republican Spanish refugees and was involved in various efforts in support of the doomed Loyalist cause in Spain. These heroic and conscientious efforts were later to cost him dearly.
It is clear that Bi’s political sensibilities were informed by a deep humanism, that did not hew to any particular ideological stance. Dad recalls that after the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, his father was the only person he knew who was unwilling to join in the general exultation, mindful both of the terrible human toll and the potential threat for all of humanity posed by these horrific new weapons.
Bi seems to have functioned as informal head of the extended Zeltzer family circle in New York, providing guidance and at times financial assistance to local relations as well as relatives in Europe. He served as physician, and confidant, to all Rebekah’s sisters, and was remembered by all of them as an unflinching pillar of support and compassion. A letter from Pauline in 1933 during her sojourn in London, en route to save her marriage to Sol, then in the Soviet Union, indicates that Bi managed to send her regular financial support at her time of greatest need.
My father, Joseph Daniel, “Joe” (born 10 September 1930) and his sister Irene Judith “Judy” (born 1933) were raised in a world that was centered in many ways on the Zeltzer sisters, their husbands, and children. As noted above, my father was particularly close to his cousin Paul Resika (son of his mother's sister Sonia and Abraham "Res" Resika"), and later, after the Zukerman’s 1939 arrival, his cousin Dick (George) Zukerman (son of his mother's eldest sister Frieda and William Zukerman). David Margulies (son of Joe's mother's "baby" sister Runya and Harry Margulies) was younger, but he and my father were lifelong friends. My father’s admiration was David’s skill on stage and on screen was boundless, even if they argued over politics. David’s libertarian streak confounded my father, who, as he likes to say, started life as a radical and has moved ever further left since then.
Frank Dux is not a relative by blood, but has been profoundly close lifelong friend; they were summer friends primarily at Shrub Oak. One beloved story relates to Joe's comic book lending library, now alas entirely lost. Frank's mother once discovered to her horror that Frank had a comic book, and told him, look at Joseph Auslander, he would never stoop to read a comic book! Frank, of course, never told.
In 1938, the Auslanders, who had resided at 520 W. 110th St (fairly close to the other Zeltzer sisters) moved 26 blocks south to 120 Riverside, at West 84th street. Dad recalls being upset over the move since it meant giving up an express stop on the IRT. A possible compensation for Joe, a great fan of the Yankees, was that Babe Ruth lived right across 84th street!
All in the family circle agree that Auslander's apartment at 120 Riverside Drive (3E) was for the extended Zeltzers and their many friends a center of civility, art, and intellectual engagement across the years. My late mother Ruth recalled delightedly Rebekah’s story that every six months she would move Bi’s writing desk (on which he copiously corresponded with family members and friends around the world) to adjust for the changing angle of the sun, and each six months he would be horrified, convinced the desk had never been relocated before.
The apartment at 120 was also a refuge for anti-fascist and Jewish European emigres during the war period. My aunt Judy recalls that on Thursdays, she believes, refugees were invited in for an open meal prepared by her mother Rebekah. (Aunt Judy recalls Bi remarking he was very glad he had always paid his taxes conscientiously, as this allowed him to sponsor many refugees from Europe.)
Rebekah removed a wall between two parlors to create a capacious living room, which I remember as a child thinking was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen, filled with oriental carpets (perhaps a touch of Novie Dorogi) and works of art, including a grand Sol Wilson of Rockport and later Paul Resika’s large landscape of a New York upstate glade, which now hangs above the mantle in my father and Barbara’s “R” street house in DC. The views of Riverside Park and the Hudson were always a miracle. The apartment seemed endless and labyrinthine to me as a child, filled with mysteries and delights in every corner. Bonnie and I were entranced by the little dolls that "Nana" (as we called Rebekah) would whip up out of scraps of cloth, and by her extraordinary strudel. She had a great way with words. At one point her dismissal of a play as "warmed-over Gorky" was reproduced, without attribution, by a New York Times theater critic. Her caustic comment on an grotesque example of philistinism, "Direct from Lower Vulgaria," has entered our shared vocabulary, especially in reference, nowadays, to the current uncultivated inhabitant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
One of my last memories of Nana, as we canoed on Loon Lake at sunset, the summer before she died, when I was fourteen, is of her thoughtfully querying me about my then obsession, that Einstein's theoretical prediction six decades earlier of black holes had finally been confirmed through observational data. "So much to learn," she sighed, "so little time."
Humor and Story-telling
Joe and Judy grew up in a milieu filled with a love of literature, art, theater, and music, and an internationalist cosmopolitanism. (It is said that Bi preferred to read Shakespeare “in the original German”). Bi’s jokes were legendary, nearly always with an ironic twist. My late mother Ruth remarked that while she knew many people who turned a conversation in a direction so that they could tell a favorite joke or story, Bi had the nearly unique gift of listening intensely, and then sharing a joke that perfectly complemented the thread of the conversation. (Judy recalls that her late cousin Martha Klinghoffer Cohen shared this sense of humor, using jokes to illustrate a point. A poignant example of this is the time Martha, gravely ill, was taken to Sloan-Kettering hospital for an examination. As multiple specialists palpated her, she remarked to them that this was like the story of the girl stuck in the crowded Underground station during the Blitz in London: "Keep your hands to yourself, brother--but not you, darling!')
My Dad also inherited this special ability; his skills as a raconteur are always attuned to the moment at hand, speaking as it were to his interlocutors’ frame of mind. (The most perfect example of this ability to intuit the appropriate joke is when Dad was at a party chatting with a couple who made a remark that brought to Joe's mind one of his favorite New Yorker cartoons, which he then shared: a hearse is stuck behind a slow moving vehicle, and the undertaker says, “Pass him. He would have wanted it that way.” The couple laughed and laughed uproariously, more so than Dad thought the joke deserved, until they explained, still laughing, that the husband of the couple was in fact the author of the cartoon!)
I am not quite sure if any family members directly influenced Joe in his love of mathematics. Dad has sometimes explained that at the heart of mathematical discovery is the capacity to recast a seemingly intractable problem in a novel register, a kind of radical subversion of what had previously had seemed "obvious." So in this sense, it might be argued, the particular sense of humor that circulated through the extended family, which delighted in turning tables and disrupting commonsensical suppositions, paved the way for his mathematical career.
Bi closely followed events back in Europe through the 1930s, and corresponded extensively with family members. His sister Cilli was a committed Communist and was arrested at some point for selling Communist literature; she spent some time in Romanian prison camps; She told me years later that her cruelest commandant had been a woman. She also told me, although it seems hard to believe, that her father Isak never told her mother Clara that Cilli was a political prisoner, for fear of the shame it would be bring her. Clara supposedly labored under the mis-impression that Isak's monthly trips to Bucharest, where he saw his imprisoned daughter, were actually to visit a mistress, evidently a more respectable state of affairs in polite society!
|Severin (Dan) Pagis
Bi, well aware of the dangers of fascism and state anti-semitism (and presumably directly informed on the subject by William Zukerman’s prescient reporting) traveled back to Bukovina (by then in Romania) in 1936, and attempted to convince his parents Isak and Clara to emigrate to the United States. They refused, for reasons that are not entirely clear. By one version, they were concerned that their standard of living would decline precipitously in New York. “Here we have servants, does Rebekah have servants?” They also seem to have been concerned that their grandson Severin, whom they were raising, would be unable to travel with them, perhaps because his father Joseph Pagis, then living in Palestine, would likely refuse permission for international travel, or perhaps because US law would have made it impossible for Bi to bring in Severin as his nephew (as opposed to his parents). Correspondence from the period indicates that Joseph Pagis attempted to convince his in-laws to allow his son Severin to be sent to Palestine, but that Isak refused, believing Palestine under the Mandate was too dangerous for a child, and holding out hope that Severin would at some point be able to live with Bi in New York and himself become a physician.
During this 1936 trip to Bukovina, Bi visited his sister Tsuli (Klinghoffer) and her family who lived in the town of Storojinet, about 40 kilometers from Radautz (and about halfway to Czernowitz). Tsuli’s son Arthur Klinghoffer recalls that Bi gave him the book Bambi, by Felix Salten, which Bi had purchased in Vienna and which Arthur liked very much. (We nowadays read Bambi as an allegorical tale of antisemitism, with the deer as the imperiled Jews, but I’m not sure if the Auslanders and Klinghoffers interpreted it as such at the time.) I believe Bi's sister Tsili (Cilli) at this point was still confined in a Romanian prison camp, and that Bi was not able to visit her during this visit.
Bi returned to the US without his parents, arriving in New York from Southampton on 1 September 1936. On his way back home through Vienna, a city he loved, Jacob bought four identical linens. Each featured an elaborate vase motif inspired by the Hapsburg Coat of Arms, held aloft by the mythical winged lion creatures known as Gryphons. Upon returning to New York he presented the linens to his wife Rebekah and her three sisters living in New York, Celia, Sonia, and Runya. (Celia's daughter Joan kindly gave me and my wife Ellen the linens which Bi had presented to Celia, and they are among our most treasured possessions.)
How much can one read into Bi's choice of these gifts and their royalist motifs? Although Bi was of course an anti-monarchist, I suspect that like many Jewish central European intellectuals of the period, he harbored a certain nostalgia for the old Empire, which for all its faults had granted a degree of citizenship to its Jewish residents and which seemed to embody, at least in retrospect, principles of cultivation and tolerance that were rapidly disappearing as Nazism cast its dark shadow across Europe. (Fancifully, I wonder if the Gryphon, a classical symbol of a couple’s enduring love, reminded him of his parents and their bond to one another.)
|Martha (Klinghoffer) Cohen
By 1938, as the political situation in Romania had grown considerably worse for Jews the Klinghoffers agreed to Bi’s offer to bring over their eighteen year old daughter Martha, during the relatively brief period before travel out of Romania for Jews became impossible. She arrived on the Normandie, lived with the Auslanders for some time in their new home in 120 Riverside Drive, and later spent time in Canada. During the war period, she worked as a broadcaster for the Allied cause, broadcasting in Romanian as the voice of Radio Free Romania. Martha married Ben Cohen and the couple had two children, Jackie and Laura, who live respectively in Massachusetts and Ontario.
Into the Abyss: European Interlude
Conditions in Bukovina grew increasingly grim for Jewish residents, with many incidents of violence and forced removals, Bi must have watched these events from a distance with growing horror, unable to assist his loved ones as the fascist regimes of Calinescu and then Antonescu consolidated power. As a leader of the local Jewish community, Isak was targeted for harrassment by the authorities. By ine account, on 18 August 1941, Isak Auslander was arrested on charges of "having foreign currency." [SANIC (Serviciul Arhivelor NaţionaleI storice Centrale in Bucharest), fund Collection 50, file 313, page 549. See: http://www.bondashku.com/437392973] He and other Jewish leaders were then released for a period of time
During Sukkoth, October 9-10, 1941, Romanian fascist authorities ordered all Jews in Radautz to board cattle cars normally used to transport livestock to their deaths. A telegram by the authorities records that in order to pressure Jews to board the cattle cars, a number of Jewish leaders, including Bi's father "Isak Auslander, angrosist (wholesaler,)" were held as hostages in the local Gymnasium (high school).
Among those in the sealed train cars were Isak, Clara and their eleven-year-old grandson Severin. We do not precisely know what transpired within those spaces of unimaginable horror. The circumstances are hinted at in a famous poem that Severin wrote years later, after he had emigrated to Israel and taken the name Dan Pagis:
Lines Written in Pencil in the Sealed Train Car
Here, in this cattle car,
I am Eve,
Mother of Abel
If you see my other son, Cain, son of Adam,
tell him that I
The poem is brutally interrupted even as it runs in an endless circle: Eve never completes her written message, yet at the same time she eternally repeats it. I am struck that these lines powerfully evoke the predicament of the Old Testament’s first family after their expulsion from the Garden, traveling “East of Eden.” In perpetual exile, all of us, the children of Adam and Eve, are bound to contemplate our human propensity both for endless love and for unspeakable violence. The poem is among the most powerful evocations I know of loss—of childhood innocence, of mythic homeland, of historic belonging. (The poem is inscribed on at outer wall at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.)
My cousin Jonathan Pagis (the son of Severin/Dan Pagis) reports hearing from another survivor of that fateful journey a startling story. Her mother thought that to make the family comfortable on the floor of the cattle car they should spread out the family bedspreads and linens, which they did before the space became impossibly crowded, soon littered with bodies.
Isak and Clara's daughter Henrietta and her husband Nutzl Wildman and their children remained safely in Czernowitz during the war, and were not deported. (The family attributed their survival to Traian Popovici, a conscientious attorney who served as mayor of Czernowitz/Chernivtsi during World War II. Popovici is recognized for his role in saving 20,000 Bukovina Jews from deportation as one of the "Righteous Among the Nations" at Yad Vashem.)
In Transnistria, 1941-1944
Those who survived the train trip across the Dnister River in October
1941 were forcibly settled in the region known as “Transnistria” (Across
the Dnister), established under joint Romanian-German fascist rule.
From late 1941 to early 1944, many thousands of deported Jews were
subjected to forced labor, gradual starvation, overcrowding, disease,
arbitrary beatings, and murder. Some were in brutal work camps,
evidently not as organized as the concentration or death camps further
west, and others seem to lived from hand to mouth in local settlements.
Many were sent further north across the Bug river into Ukraine where they were murdered by
mobile Nazi execution squads, the dreaded Einzatzgruppen D.
Jonathan Pagis and I have only been able to trace a little of what befell Isak, Clara, and their young grandson Severin during the Deportation period, 1941-44, under Romanian fascist control in Transnistria. It appears that most Jews who survived the journey from Bukovina were first settled into the main town of Moghilev. and from there channeled into labor camps of various sorts, between the Dniester and Bug rivers.
Two documents in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives (USHMMA) in Washington DC record that small amounts of money were transferred to Isak Auslander in Vindiceni (now Vendichany, Vinnitsa region, Ukraine), a village in northern Transnistria that contained a Jewish ghetto on 17 Dec 1942 and 31 Mar 1943, evidently by the Jewish Agency in Bucharest. There is also the record of a monetary transfer to Isak on 17 Aug 1942. Another document lists Isak Auslander getting two payments associated with a sugar facory, in the Jewish ghetto of Vindiceni. The sugar mill in Vindiceni, in several survivor accounts, is said to have been restored by deported Jews: perhaps Isak, who had expertise in sugar as a wholesaler, was involved in these restoration efforts.
One or more of these payments may have been from his son-in-law Dr. Bertl Klinghoffer (Arthur and Martha’s father), who as a skilled physician was allowed by the fascist authorities to remain in his home village of Storojinet Arthur Klinghoffer (Bertl's son) wrote to me from Israel that his father Bertl believed he successfully sent money to Isak twice, and then tried unsuccessfully, a third time, to send money through a secret messenger who disappeared and who was presumably killed.
A record in Yad Vashem (filed by Sarah Klinghoffer lists Vindiceni, as Isak's place of death and his month of death as January (Jänner) 1944. It is recorded in another deportee's memoir that this factory was run by a particularly brutal and violent Romanian man. Cilli Auslander recalled when we last spoke that her father had apparently succumbed to tuberculosis just prior to the area's liberation by the Red Army. (According to the Holocaust Memorial Museum's Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, p. 822, Vindiceni was liberated by the Red Army at the end of March 1944; Moghilev itself was liberated in late June 1944.)
My father reports at some point, perhaps in 1945, seeing his father Bi in tears, upon receiving a letter informing him of his father Isak’s death.
Jonathan has shared a register dated February 1944 from an Orphans Camp in Moghilev listing his father Severin Pagis as an inmate. I do not know if Severin was transferred there just after his grandfather Isak's death or if he been separated earlier from his grandparents. It appears that Severin, along with other Jewish children, was allowed by the Romanian fascist regime to return earlier than the adult deportees, perhaps because as the Red Army advanced, the regime wished to present a better picture to the world.
At some point after the Transnistria/Moghilev region was liberated by the Red Army in 1944, Isak’s widow Clara made it back to Radautz, Arthur Klinghoffer recalls that Severin and some other children made it back to Bukovina about one year before his grandmother. Severin Pagis stayed with his mother's sister Henrietta (Lala) and her husband Nutzl Wildman) in Czernowitz, before leaving for Palestine in 1945. Severin and Clara were reunited in Czernowiz (I believe at the Wildman home),and then evidently saw one again in Radautz at some point before his final departure.
Clara survived in Radautz until 1948. For some of this time, she was residing in several rooms of her previous house, most of which was occupied by the local police force. Also living with her, in two room was her daughter Tsuli and son in law Bertel (Robert) Klinghoffers, and her grandson Arthur, since the family had moved 40 km from Storojinet to Radautz, in part to avoid life under direct Soviet rule.
Clara's daughter Cilli, who had spent the war period in the Soviet Union serving in the Comintern and later as an interpreter attached to the Red Army, traveled after the War back to Radautz to see her mother. There they learned that both of them attributed their survival in part to their enormous fear of sheltering in bomb shelters during air raids; many of their friends had perished in shelters that had collapsed above them.
Clara had an emergency operation on the apartment's kitchen table, and died soon afterwards, in 1948. She is buried in Radautz’s old Jewish Cemetery. (Several years ago, I
was deeply moved to learn, two gentile German high school teachers and their
students traveled to Radautz from the Rostock region, and worked with
local Romanian young people to help restore the cemetery, carefully
cleaning, among others, great-grandmother Clara’s tombstone).
Isak and Clara's grandson Severin Pagis, Julia’s son, emigrated to Palestine in 1946, hoping to reunite with his father Joseph, but their reunion did not go well, perhaps because Joseph had a new family. Severin settled in a kibbutz, and under the name of Dan Pagis went on to become one of Israel’s most important poets and literary scholars, an architect as it were of modern literary Hebrew.
Nathan Ausländer's Family
Addenda 4/12/2021 & 5/10/2021: I was recently contacted by Edgar Auslander, the great grandson of Sarah Auslander (c, 1868-1920), a daughter of Moses Aron Auslander, and sister of Isak Auslander. Sarah emigrated to New York from Radautz, arriving 27 February 1911, with her husband Zabek Korner c, 1875-1928) , who later took the Americanized name "Sam Kerner," their two daugthers Clara, born around 1902 and Bertha, born around 1900. The family indicated they would initially stay with Sarah's brother Gustav Auslander in Brooklyn, who would similarly sponsor Jacob (Bi) Ausländer twelve years later when he arrived in New York from Vienna.
The Radautz Jewish Vital Records Database 1857-1929 indicates that Nathan's father was "Alter Mehler" so he was only a half brother of Clara and Bertha. Since his parents' marriage was not legally legitimate, Nathan kept his mother's maiden surname of "Ausländer." (Edgar Hauster estimates that in this period, only about half of the children born in Bukovina were considered legally legitimate.)
Emigration records indicate that Nathan's father Alter Mehler departed Hamburg, traveling alone to Canada, on 4 June 1889, when his newborn son (born 1 April, 1889) was just about two months old. Sarah, remaining in Radautz, thus was presumbaly a single mother throughout Nathan's childhood.
A letter by Bruno Auslander, confirms that Sarah's son Nathan Ausländer
(1 April 1889-1975) stayed behind in Radautz and indicates he was raised in Radautz by his
mother's sister Anna in the home of his grandfather Moses Aron
Ausländer. I do not know if Nathan was ever in contact with his biological father. Nor do I know if Alter Mehler stayed in Canada or, like many Bukovnans, eventually emigrated to the United States.
Nathan, who worked as a law clerk, married Netti Koppelmann (b. 1896); the couple had two sons in Radautz, Yusiu (Joseph), b. 1922 and Bruno, b. 1921. (Netti Koppelmann, born on 17.04.1896, was the daughter of the merchant Berl Koppelmann and Mali Koppelmann, all from Radautz. Netti Ausländer, née Koppelmann passed away in October 1971)
Bruno spent the war period in Uzbekistan, USSR, and married Valea, a Soviet citizen. In 1941, Nathan, Netti and their son Joseph were deported to Transnistria, and appear to have remained in Moghilev during the war. Joseph labored at a metal-working factory organized by Siegfried Jagendorf (whose experiences are chronicled in his 1991 book, "Jagendorf's Foundry: A Memoir of the Romanian Holocaust 1941-1944. ) Evidently during the deportation period, Joseph met his future wife Dora Fichman. Natan, Netti, Joseph and Dora survived the war, in spite of a number of near-fatal and terrifying experiences, and returned to Romania. Arthur Klinghoffer recalls that "Nathan and Netty Auslander were my parents' neighbors in Radautz in the 1950's." Joseph and Dora emigrated in 1962, from Romania to Paris, where their son Edgar Denis Auslander was born two years later. Nathan and Netti remained in Radautz.
In New York, Bi and his family remained close to Sarah's daughters Clara (who married Emanuel Brooks) and Bertha (who married Oscar Greenberg), neither of whom had children. Bruno eventually settled in Montreal. Joseph remained in Paris until his death in 2019. (As of this writing I do not know if Bi, a prolific correspondant, was ever in contact with Joseph, who was born around the time Bi left Vienna for America, Judy Auslander Saks recalls being in touch with Joseph's brother Bruno at some point in the 1990s.)
Cilli (Tsili) Auslander
My father's father's sister Cilli Auslander told us many remarkable stories about her time in the Great Patriotic War (as the Soviets referred to World War II) As a member of the Comintern, she helped set up underground hospitals near the battle front to the west of Moscow. She recalled that one night the entire eastern horizon was filled with a wall of flame, seemingly a mile high. She had been reading War and Peace and was convinced that Moscow had fallen. When daylight came she saw hundreds of German tanks in ruins, following General Zhukov’s great victory, and learned that Moscow had been saved.
Cilli also told me, although this seems hard to believe, that while ministering to dying Red Army soldiers she would recite from memory Rilke’s poetry to them. (“And they would weep,” she insisted.)
One of the most haunting stories I know, told rather differently by the two women, is of a meeting between Cilli and Pauline in Moscow, I believe in late 1944 in Pauline's apartment. (As a reminder of their relationship, Cilli was Dr. Jacob "Bi" Auslander's sister, and Bi was married to Pauline's sister Rebekah). Pauline had earlier in the war been evacuated with her children to the Urals, but by this point had returned to Moscow and was actively trying to reclaim her apartment from the Red Army officers who had occupied it; for some time, she recalled, she and the children Joseph and Eva were confined to the kitchen) Cilli had just received orders that she was being transferred out of the Comintern: she was soon to be attached to the Red Army as an interpreter for the march on Berlin. As Cilli told the story, the two women embraced as Bolshevik sisters, united in the cause. Pauline, years later, told me a rather different account. They argued, she claimed; Cilli was a loyal servant of the cause, but Pauline at that point, having seen the NKVD take away innocent neighbors in the night, was disenchanted. Pauline says she was even angry that the Comintern had devalued Cilli's gifts as a chemist, and not allowed her to contribute scientifically to the war effort. Cilli, evidently anticipating she might not survive the coming combat (or perhaps be purged as a German-speaker) gave Pauline her Soviet war bonds for the children.
As seen in the attached picture, Cilli and Pauline did meet in Vienna in the 1970s, and perhaps at other times as well.
After the war, Cilli returned to Vienna and lived there until her death in 1989; she never married. She worked for a time as the artist M.C. Escher's interpreter As an active member of the Party she was never allowed to visit the United States, although many members of the family were able to meet her in Europe over the years She and her nephew Dan Pagis had a break in their correspondence after the 1967 Six Day War, over political differences. She did finally write to him many years later, seeking to reconcile, noting that life was too short to bear grudges. They were able to meet in the Klinghoffers' apartment in Tel Aviv. Some of the family correspondence among Cilli, Bi, and Dan has been donated to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, in the Dr. Jacob Auslander collection.
|Cilli, Pauline, Runya (Vienna, 1970s)
My parents, sister, and I visited Cilli in Vienna in 1969 and I have wonderful memories of her taking us through the city, among other things advising us which were bourgeois cafes (bad) and which were proletarian cafes (good): they seemed identical except for the newspapers available in them. Watching me prowl through a toy store she remarked that I approached a toy store like my father approaches a museum, first doing a general overview and then returning to concentrate on a few favored pieces.
Cilli stayed with us for several memorable weeks in Paris, a decade later, in spring 1978. A committed Communist, she marked up my copy of Hedrick Smith’s The Russians, noting its various petty bourgeois errors. She had been in Paris in 1939, before the Comintern surreptitiously sent her to Moscow, and I was dazzled how well she remembered the twists and turns of the city streets. (There were unsubstantiated US newspaper reports that she had been a Soviet intelligence agent.)
One of my favorite memories is of a dinner party that spring in our Paris apartment, as my uncle Alan Saks’ brother Eugene, a factory owner living in France, seated to one side told me that the thing about "Latins" (including the French) was that they were naturally lazy and needed iron discipline from above, preferably mixed in with some Yankee ingenuity. Simultaneously, Cilli, seated on my other side, was explaining to me that when the Revolution comes, the proletariat must exhibit no mercy for the bourgeoisie oppressors, and that blood if necessary must run in the streets. (This was appropriately all happening in the Latin Quarter). Fortunately, neither Eugene nor Cilli heard one another and seem to have regarded each other as perfectly pleasant distant relations. I like to think that that was the moment I discovered cultural relativism and became an anthropologist!
My father visited Cilli at her home in Vienna on Schubertgasse soon before her death in 1989. He recalls that she was saddened by the impending collapse of the Soviet Union. He tried to cheer her up, paraphrasing Mark Twain, opining that reports of the death of socialism were greatly exaggerated. Cilli, witty and unsentimental to the end, would have none of it: “I tell you what, Joseph, when I’m dead you send me postcard and we see who is right.”
Back in New York
(Painting of Joe Auslander by Paul Resika, c. 1947?)
Thanks to his mother Frieda, Dick Zuckerman enrolled at the High School for Music and Art, near where the Zukermans lived: Paul Resika, Joe Auslander, Judy Auslander, Cookie Canick (Solomon), Alice Swersey and Debbie Un all followed at Music and Art. David Margulies attended the High School of Performing Arts for a year or so and then finished high school at DeWitt Clinton in the Bronx. Vicki Margulies attended Performing Arts for dance. Music and Art clearly solidified Dad's growing love of music and the arts, and nurtured his love of mathematics.
I do think that the early post-World War II period saw in our family, as in so many immigrant Jewish families, a distinct pressure to assimilate and to attain status within mainstream American institutions. My father, I suppose, experienced this tendency when he was strongly encouraged by his father and uncle Harry Margulies to transfer out of Queen College to the much more prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dad at the time regretted the change, which thrust him into a much more competitive atmosphere with much less solidarity than he had experienced among his peers at Queens College, with whom he shared, among other things, excitement over the 1948 progressive Henry Wallace campaign. At Queens, he formed at least three lifelong friendships, with Naomi Landy (who later married Fred Stern), the great scholar of African American history Herb Shapiro, and Alan Saks, who would marry Joe's sister Judy and be Dad's devoted brother in law for over six decades.
In hindsight, MIT clearly launched Dad on his career as an academic mathematician (leading to graduate school at Penn, where he roomed with Stan Deutsch, who would be another lifelong friend). Cambridge and the Boston area exposed to him new themes in progressive politics, including, I believe, greater sensitivity to issues of racial and gender injustice, to which he has been committed for the subsequent seven decades (working hard, among other things, to diversify the field of mathematics).
The postwar period saw increasing political repression and the rise of fanatical anti-communism, what later became known as McCarthyism, although it predated the rise of the infamous senator from Wisconsin. This was the period of “naming names” and of rightist denunciations of pre-war, so called “premature anti-fascism.”
In 1947 Bi was summoned with others who had served in the 1930s on the board of directors of the prewar Joint Anti Fascist Refugee Committee (JAFRC) by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), chaired by J. Parnell Thomas. They all refused to turn over the membership lists of the organization, in part, Frank Dux recalls, out of the well founded fear that these records would fall into the hands of the secret police in Francoist Spain, with potentially deadly consequences for Spaniards of conscience.
The co-directors were found guilty in a subsequent Federal trial of contempt of congress. Bi served in 1950 three months in Danbury Federal Prison. There he ministered as a physician to fellow inmates, including, in one of life’s remarkable ironies, HUAC Committee chair J. Parnell Thomas himself, who soon after Bi’s trial was caught and sentenced in a payroll padding scandal. Among other prisoners, Bi got to know two of the Hollywood Ten, including Ring Lardner, as well as some organized crime figures, who while baffled by his politics, respected the fact that Bi had never ratted anyone out, as it were.
In addition to protecting opposition figures in Spain, the JAFRC co-directors' courage safeguarded many Americans. Some years ago, I happened to meet at a civil rights history conference the remarkable Carolyn Goodman, the mother of Andrew Goodman, who was killed by Klansmen on June 21, 1964, in central Mississippi’s Nashoba County, along with fellow civil rights workers Michael Schwerner and James Chaney. Upon seeing my name tag in the elevator she explained that she had been Manhattan borough chair of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, and that the brave silence of my grandfather and his fellow directors in a sense "gave her her life," she reflected.
By the time I met Carolyn, Bi’s conscientious act of defiance of course seemed a romantic story in our family saga, but back in the early postwar era the episode must have been deeply traumatic and humiliating. Shamefully, in 1954 the New York Medical Association suspended Bi’s medical license for a period, and he had to confine himself to research on rheumatism and arthritis, rather than attend to his many patients. He then resumed his medical practice until shortly before he died in 1958. (I believe all but one of his patients remained loyal to hm and returned once the clinic reopened.)
|Bi and Rebekah Auslander
Trip to Europe/Israel with daughter Judy, March 1951
My impression is that his experiences with HUAC and this unjust period of imprisonment steered Bi considerably to the left. It would have been fascinating to see how he understood and negotiated the rise of the New Left and the tumultuous politics of the 1960s, but this alas was not to be. He died soon after learning that his daughter Judy was pregnant, and did not live to see the birth of his first grandchild, Eva Saks, on the very eve of the 1960s.
On a happier note, a memorable trans-Atlantic trip was taken after his release, by Bi, Rebekah and their daughter Judy, 21 March-7 June, 1951, first to Paris and Rome, then to Venice to see Paul Resika and Vienna to see Bi's sister Cilli, and then to Israel to see, among others, Bi's nephew Dan Pagis, Bi's brother Siegfried "Tzip," Bi's sister Tsuli and her husband Berl Klinghoffer, the parents of Martha and Arthur. (Joe was at MIT at that point and couldn't travel.)
Painting of Bi Auslander by Paul Resika, cc. 1947?
I believe they also may have met Bi's sister Henriette (Lala) Auslander Wildmann. (Lala had two children, Haim (Otto) and Stella Avni Wildman, the latter a renowned theater actress in Israel and Germany, who died in Germany.)
Photograph: Stella Avni Wildman, Joe Auslander, Michael Klinghoffer (son of Arthur Klinghoffer), Israel, c. 1975?
Family, Lost and Found
|Alfred Auslander children/siblings
Six years ago, shortly after my mother Ruth’s death, my sister Bonnie and I were contacted by a Dean Hamilton Auslander (in Manilla, the Philippines) explaining that we were in fact cousins. We were initially skeptical, but quickly realized he was right. Dean is the grandson of Alfred Auslander, brother of Bi's father Isak Auslander. Alfred’s son Stanley Auslander, awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross during WWII, married Jane Hamilton (1920-1999); their children were f Dean Hamilton Auslander and Gail Hamilton(Auslander) Ginnity. Alfred’s son George Auslander (b. 1904), in turn, was the adoptive father of Diane Peters Auslander, wonderful historian of medieval women saints. who lives in the Bronx near Alan and Judy Saks, my uncle and aunt.
George’s family in particular seems to have wanted to assimilate, and even join restricted country clubs on Long Island, and perhaps the bonds between the families frayed over that issue. Perhaps political differences, and anxieties over anti communism in postwar America, split the families. Gail has found a card from Bi to her parents congratulating them on Gail’s birth in 1945; it is not clear they ever replied.
|Stanley Auslander (1918-2007)
The City that Never Sleeps
Yet, thanks to Dean’s perseverance, we are now all in touch once again. Judy Saks has had Diane and her two sons over for Passover, and my father has met with Dean and Diane. Dean has proved a skilled genealogist, and has made several breakthroughs in tracing our Bukovina kin. It turns out in 1924 his grandparents Alfred and Rougea Auslander traveled with their young son Stanley to Vienna and met with Alfred's niece Cilli Auslander, (Bi’s sister). who declared Stanley looked like a Romanian prince! We do not know if Alfred, Rougea and Stanley ever made it back to Radautz to meet with Alfred's father Moses Auslander there, or if they kept in touch with the Radautz family during the war period. (Stanley did serve in the US Army Air Corps with distinction during World War II). Recently, we met with Dean, his wife Cristina Benitez Auslander and daughter Dianna Benitez Auslander,in Dumbarton Oaks, the beautiful gardens in Washington DC; it seems a miracle that after so many decades apart, our family lines are once again reunited.
|Lou Uchitelle, Joe Auslander, Paul Resika
I remain in awe of Dad’s ability (during that distantly remembered pre-pandemic era) to find his way onto the single available seat on a crowded NYC subway train: he explains you have to scan the blurred scene, and anticipate who is about to stand up, as the train pulls into the station. I admired his mother’s ability to get into intense conversations with strangers in a New York shop or street corner, something that no doubt embarrassed her children endlessly, but which I am profoundly grateful was inherited by both Judy and Joe, who are deeply curious about other people and find out all sorts of fascinating things about them. A century after his mother Rebekah, her sisters, and cousins left the shtetl, my father remains the embodiment of the principle that “Life is with people,” taking joy in the entire human comedy. He often likes to say that on his last day of life, he hopes to make a new friend. I tear up whenever I hear that, even as I envy that lucky person who will have the chance, however briefly, to meet, converse, and exchange a joke or two with the singular Joe Auslander.
|Rear: Paul Resika,Dick Zukerman, David Margulies. Front: Pearl Solomon Judy Saks, Joan Uchitelle, Vicki Margulies, Alice Swersey (Photo: Bill Swersey)
|Rear: Joan Uchitelle, Judy Saks, Vicki Margulis, Pearl Solomon, David Margulies
Front: Joe Auslander, Dick Zukerman, Alice Swersey. (Photo: Bill Swersey)
TIMELINE OF ZELTZER FAMILY INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION AND TRAVEL
Acknowledgements; Thanks to Dick (George) Zukerman, Alice Swersey, Bill Swersey, Lucy Kerman, Deb Un, Bonnie Auslander, Joe Auslander and Judy Saks for sharing so many stories and helping correct various points of fact Special thanks to Eva Saks for detailed, close editing of the text. Family photos are from Bill Swersy, Alice Swersey, Deb Un, Lucy Kerman, Pearl Solomon, and Max Osowski.
Please do let me know of any errors or points that need to be clarified. This is very much a work in process.