Tag Archives: Poland

Expanding the family tree


It is always fun and exciting expanding the family tree. I have talked with cousins from around the world, from Australia to Germany. That is often thanks to this very blog. People find my notes on so-and-so, and then write to me.

Recently I learned about a man named Milczewski — Zygmunt Milczewski. It is such a rare surname that I am sure he is a distant cousin, so I am working on learning more about him and his work.

I have a Google Alert set up for that name. Every time the Google bots find something with that name included, I am alerted via email. I highly recommend using Google Alerts.

I am particularly interested in the ethnic diversity of where my ancestors lived in Germany, near the Polish border. There were many Jews, Poles, and Kashubians living among the Germans, or Germanized people, in the Bütow area, where my great-grandparents lived before emigrating to America.

One of the questions I want to answer: Is the Milczewski name German or Polish? I am guessing that it is Slavic and that through the years some with the name became more and more Germanized, including a few of my ancestors.


Many Germans feel abandoned by their government

ɢᴇʀᴍᴀɴꜱ ᴏᴘᴛ ꜰᴏʀ ᴘᴏʟɪꜱʜ
ᴀꜱ ᴀ ꜱᴇᴄᴏɴᴅ ʟᴀɴɢᴜᴀɢᴇ
ᴏᴠᴇʀ ꜰʀᴇɴᴄʜ ᴀɴᴅ ꜱᴘᴀɴɪꜱʜ

Their is a sense of neglect from ʙᴇʀʟɪɴ. That and ᴘᴏʟᴀɴᴅ’s rapid economic rise are fueling the shift.

It’s part of a deeper shift taking hold in a part of ɢᴇʀᴍᴀɴʏ where decades of slow economic development have pushed those with means to seek a new future far from their homes, leaving behind an aging population in ever more desolate villages and towns.”

“Many here feel the federal government in Berlin has abandoned them, but now, their gaze is turning to the east.

Remember Donald Rumsfeld and what he said years ago?

“I was ambassador to ɴᴀᴛᴏ… When we would go in and make a proposal, there wouldn’t be unanimity. There wouldn’t even be understanding… You’re thinking of ᴇᴜʀᴏᴘᴇ as Germany and France. I think that’s ᴏʟᴅ ᴇᴜʀᴏᴘᴇ. …the center of gravity is shifting to the east.”

Despite being mocked and ridiculed by many in the news media, and the political and military establishment, he was right.

“Once a source of cheap, unskilled labor and affordable cigarettes, Poland has developed into ᴇᴀꜱᴛᴇʀɴ ᴇᴜʀᴏᴘᴇ’s economic powerhouse… Now, more and more eastern ɢᴇʀᴍᴀɴꜱ are betting on Poland as their hope for a brighter future…”


New & improved! A multilingual blog — in Polish, Arabic, German, Turkish & English!

Since there are many varied people involved with this story, I am providing multilingual translations within the blog post, a first for me. I may do it more, since I think a blog in different languages is a cool idea.

I’ve settled on four translations of my original tweet: German, Polish, Turkish, and Arabic.

Poland refuses to take Muslim immigrants. Can you blame them?

Polska odmawia przyjęcia muzułmańskich imigrantów. Czy możesz ich winy?

Polonya, Müslüman göçmenleri almayı reddetti. Onları suçlayabilir misin?

Polen weigert sich, muslimische Einwanderer zu nehmen. Kannst du sie beschuldigen?

وترفض بولندا اتخاذ المهاجرين المسلمين. يمكنك إلقاء اللوم عليهم؟
watarfud bulanda aitikhadh almuhajirin almuslimina. yumkinuk ‘iilqa’ allawm ealayhim?


I’ve been wondering. I’ve been trying to learn more about the Jews in my ancestors’ neighborhood. ✡

A photograph of a street with the surrounding shops and homes in the town where my great grandparents married in 1880 before emigrating to the United States. The German name is Bütow. It is now within Poland and the Polish name is Bytów. In America it is often known as Buetow.I just learned that the town in Germany where my great-great grandparents married in 1880 did indeed have a synagogue, which was destroyed in 1938 during Kristallnacht, The Night of Broken Glass, when the Nazis encouraged people to target the Jews after the assassination of the German ambassador in Paris. I am hoping to learn some of the names of these people, the Jews of Bütow.


Bernie Sander’s Roots

Ever since learning of Bernie Sander’s roots in Poland, where I share some familial connections too, I wanted to get specific.

I’ve been reading and learning about his father, Eli, who was born in a village not far from Kraków. Fleeing poverty and prejudice, he left for the United States in 1921, ending up in Brooklyn.

Sadly, many of the family who remained were murdered during the Holocaust.


Remembering the Jews of Bytów

There aren’t any more of them living in the town. Any descendants are likely scattered around the world. Perhaps most are in Israel.

Like Jews throughout Germany, those living in the town of Bütow were driven out by the Nazis. How many died, in the gas chambers and elsewhere, is unclear.

In 2011, remnants of the Jewish cemetery were discovered, which was destroyed during Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, in 1938.

To honor and commemorate the Jewish residents, a monument is being planned. An obelisk, to be completed by November 2013, will stand at the former site of the Bytów synagogue.

A plaque will read: ‘Pamięci Społeczności Żydowskiej Ziemi Bytowskiej, Bytów 8-9.11.2013 r. (In memory of the Jewish community in Bytów, Bytów 8-9.11.2013).

The monument will be unveiled on November 8th, which marks the 75th anniversary of torching down of the synagogue. The plaque will bear the Star of David and inscriptions in Polish, English and German. The idea has been discussed in Bytów for a few years. However, the discovery of matzevos on Wery Street set the plans in motion. One year ago, a committee for commemorating the Jewish community, headed by Prof. Cezary Obracht-Prondzyński, was set up. Over the past year, committee members were looking for materials, documents and other traces of Bytów Jews and their culture.


Stalin’s Gratitude

A seller on eBay from Tallinn, capital of Estonia, has a proclamation from Stalin thanking a soldier for ‘liberating’ the towns of Bütow (Bytów) and Berent (Kościerzyna) in Pomerania during the last days of World War II. Stalin’s portrait graces the top center and is flanked by flags. The bottom portrays a Kremlin tower, possibly with celebratory fireworks.

It’s known as decree No. 296, issued on the 8th of March 1945. Issued by Commander of the 2nd Belorussian Front on behalf of Supreme Commander-in-Chief Marshal of the USSR Joseph Stalin, Senior Sergeant Vladimir Starodubsky was cited for excellence in battle. The document has the stamp of the unit and hand signature of the commander.


I am looking for an image of it. The one I posted originally via a link has disappeared.