Wednesday, 12 November 2014


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The Administration of this municipality certifies that Hawa Frenkiensztejn and Lajzer Finkielsztejn are siblings, children of Jankew Josek and Gitla née Kon, and that this error occurred as a result of the wrong name being written on the birth certificate. 
This certificate was issued to Hawa Florkiewicz on her personal request.
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Finkelsztejn or Frankensztejn?
My grandfather’s brother Lajzer went through most of his adult life using a different surname to that of the rest of his family. He was always known as Finkelsztejn. His father and grandfather were both born Frankensztejn, and the name seems to have been adopted by the family around 1820. His brothers and sisters are all recorded as Frankensztejns. Lajzer and my grandfather Lajb used to tease each other as to which one had the ‘real’ name, but neither of them ever told us when or why this difference arose. Lajzer’s daughter Bracha wrote a family history a few years ago, but he had never explained it to her, and her research didn’t uncover an explanation either.

In the mid-1930s Lajzer’s sister Chawa was hoping to join him in immigrating to Palestine, then under British control. She obtained this document from the local authorities in Poland, certifying that, despite the difference in surname, they are in fact brother and sister. She must have sent it on to Lajzer in Tel Aviv, because Bracha came across it amongst a collection of his papers, just last year.

The ‘wrong name’
The Certificate says that the ‘error’ is due to a ‘wrong name’ on a birth certificate - but it doesn’t say what the error is, or on whose birth certificate it appears. So which is the ‘wrong name’? From other records, it seems that Lajzer was born in the town of Gombin, about 100km north-west of Warsaw, and Chawa in the nearby village of Juliszew. Unfortunately birth records from this area do not seem to have survived, so we can’t check directly. However, as indicated above, other records clearly show that the family name was Frankensztejn. So we still don’t know when, or why, Lajzer became known as Finkelsztejn. 

Immigration requirements
I have not been able to find out what immigration regulations the British authorities had in force at that time, but I presume that Lajzer would have had to show that Chawa, her children and her mother were members of his family, hence the need for this Certificate. He maybe also would have had to show that he would be able to guarantee their accommodation and upkeep, as Chawa herself was the only one of working age. The children were aged 14 and 16, and Chawa and Lajzer’s mother Gitla (my great-grandmother), was 75, although Lajzer entered ’65’ on the Immigration Certificate.

So who was Lajzer Finkelsztejn?
Tracking Lajzer down is proving quite entertaining. We have reason to believe that not only was his surname not really Finkelsztejn, but he wasn’t called Lajzer either, and was actually born several years after he claimed. But that’s a story for another day.

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