My cousin Sandra posted this a few days ago in our family Facebook Group:
“As a child I met relatives who came from Panama to visit us in the USA. I don't remember the names but the male was our cousin and I think he was a tailor. This was in late 40s or early 50s. I think they stayed with my Aunt Fannie.”
Well, there were 6 of them, and they were all tailors. They are the Schwartz brothers from Gombin, and their parents were Towie Aron Szwarc and Bajla Frankensztajn. They had all left Poland to try their luck elsewhere. Jack came to London in 1913, and Abraham followed him in the 1920s. Morris also came to London, then went to Panama in the 1930s, and ended up in the USA, in New Jersey. Nathan, Paul and Ralph went to Panama in the late 1930s.
They all came together in 1946, in New Jersey, for a special occasion:
Morris, Nathan, Paul, Abraham, Ralph, Jack
Cousin Belinda tells the story behind the photo:
“The picture of the 6 brothers is in my parents’ wedding. My parents, Pinhas (Paul) and Sarah were married in New Jersey in 1946. My eldest brother Allan and I were born there, but they returned to Panama when I was a baby, so my first language is Spanish, then English, and now, Hebrew. In Panama my brothers Arthur and Eddy were born there.
The story about the picture is the following. You'd better sit down:
My father had emigrated to Panama with his brother Nathan. He got a visa for his mother Bajla and his brother Herzl Ber to leave Poland; his father Towie Aron had died a couple of years before.
My father said that later on they will send for the rest of family that was staying in Poland. But Herzl Ber got sick, and they exchanged the visa and gave it to the youngest brother, Ralph. Another brother, Isaac, did not want to leave Herzl Ber alone and stayed taking care of him.
Bajla did not want to leave because she wanted to stay with her two daughters Sarah and Rivkah. Sarah was married with two children and her husband Izrael Zolna was in the army. Rivkah was engaged, and she was waiting for her fiancé to return - he was also in the army. They were planning to leave Gombin in the near future. Rivkah’s fiancé didn’t return.
Well, the Nazis got into Gombin in 1939. They killed Sarah’s two children in the snow, in front of them, and as far as we know Bajla and the sisters were sent to Auschwitz. Herszl Ber and Isaac were also killed.
My father had left in the last ship to leave Poland, bringing his young brother Ralph. They arrived in Panama, where Nathan was waiting for them.
Several years later, after the War, my father went to the USA, where his brother Morris had emigrated earlier. He met my mother, and this beautiful picture occurred.
The B'nai Brit magazine sent the picture all around the world. In Australia, Rivkah’s fiancé saw the picture and recognized the brothers and called via telephone to my father. (I can’t remember his name... I was a little girl).
I know he came with his wife to Panama to explain why he never returned to Gombin.
He was sick in a hospital in Russia and couldn’t leave. When he finally came to Gombin, it was too late. He came to Panama to explain himself to the family.”
So who was the tailor from Panama who stayed with Sandra’s Aunt Fannie for this momentous occasion? I think it must have been either Nathan or Ralph. And what was their relationship to her?
Morris, Nathan, Paul, Abraham, Ralph, Jack - with hats
I’m pretty sure that Sandra's ‘Aunt Fannie’ was Frajda Rajn, daughter of Boruch Rajn and Sura Rywka Zegelman. This makes her not just a cousin, but a Triple Cousin to Bajla Frankensztajn, the mother of the Schwartz boys:
- Boruch’s brother Gersz Ber Rajn married Tauba Frankensztajn, and then after Tauba died, he married her sister Rywka Laja; Bajla is their younger sister.
- In the generation before, Sura Rywka’s father Hemie Zegelman, and Bajla’s mother Rachla, were brother and sister.
- At the same time, Sura Rywka’s mother, Hana Frankensztajn, and Bajla’s father Wolek, were sister and brother. In other words, a sister and brother had married a brother and sister. So the children of these two couples would be cousins twice over.
(Nathan and Ralph Schwartz later kept up this family tradition, when they married two sisters, Ruchla and Siza Aizenman, in Panama in 1944.)
So Aunt Fannie's mother, Sura Rywka, and the Schwartz brothers' mother, Bajla, were Double Cousins, through both the Zegelmans and the Frankensztajns. Then in the next generation the Rajn brothers joined the party, and married a Frankensztajn and a Zegelman respectively. So in fact all of Boruch Rajn’s descendants are Triple Cousins to all of Gersz Ber’s. The rest of our Frankenstein clan can only look on in admiration. Have a look at I have a feeling that we are related for how we worked all this out.
This is now the third time in a couple of months that we have confirmed family connections through things that happen at weddings. In Is this the Missing Link?, it was where the groom was staying, in Another Link in the Chain it was the identity of a witness. This time it's where the groom's brother was staying. The first two were in documents, this one is from childhood memories.
And in this case we also have an iconic photograph, which as Belinda's childhood memories tell us, had played a part, 70 years ago, in bringing together people who had been separated in tragic circumstances.
I wonder what's next?