“Master of the Universe, give me the strength to be a listening ear to Man; we are sons of the compassionate (e.g. Abraham), but how many are there in the world who do not receive pity, who suffer in agony. Otwock, a city of healing, though many illnesses come to Man from sadness, but even selfless joy only partially frees one from this world... naked souls, souls rising up and coming down, rejected souls. Men strive in this world - and many are the harried and confused... one who receives compassion is one who is loved!„ -The Otwocker Rebbe
“It is the illness that brings health, davka the illness!„ -Rebbe of Amshinov, resident of Otwock, referring to the many visitors of the city's sanatorium and rehabilitation centers
“The ecstatic is only one side of Hasidism. The second side - restraint of the ecstatic. This too is in the nature of the pious ['Hasidic'], an important foundation. „ -Rebbe of Koshnitz, resident of Otwock
“"Justice and kindness, I will sing to You, Hashem, I will lift up my voice." Psalms 101:1. Regardless of whether the Master of the Universe judges you with a measure of Kindness or, forbid, a measure of Justice, I will sing to You, Hashem, I will lift up my voice.„ -Modzitzer Rebbe, famous for his love of songs and many self-composed nigunim, religious melodies
The following is the result of genealogical research conducted
regarding the Kutnicki family of the Polish towns Otwock
(pron. Ot'vosk) and nearby Karczew
(pron. Kar't'shev), a vacation and rehabilitation town
located 25 km (16 miles) southeast of Warsaw. The lone remnant of this
family after the Holocaust was Solomon Joseph (Szlama) Kutnicki
who immigrated to New York with his wife Valeria, whom he met at a
Displaced Persons camp after the war, and their young son,
Benjamin. The author of this web page, Chaim Kutnicki, a descendant of
Solomon's, embarked upon this research after visiting Otwock on July
5-6, 2011 and collecting relevant archival documents, a process
photo album. Please send any corrections or suggestions
Keep in mind when reading the following that genealogical research is inherently limited. Most of the documents consist of straightforward facts such as dates, names and places. Additionally, the information is certainly not complete and many holes still remain including names of brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles whose records simply didn't survive the passage of time or the destruction of the Nazis. We can never truly reconstruct the past, but with a little imagination and an appreciation of the spirit of the times, we can perhaps still hear the distant calls of the Yiddish shopkeepers out on Kupiecka Street hawking their wares to curious passersby.
A map of modern Otwock with several points of Jewish interest noted.
Just a few kilometers from Warsaw is the small town of Otwock. It was famous throughout Poland for its crystalline air and sanatoria for people suffering from lung disease... there stretched miles of pine forests and on the pitch area were the houses of the Jews, also known as villas. Wooden, painted brown and at least from the porch, almost all look identical... summer and the neighboring town of Otwock, thousands of families were arriving... It is hard to imagine that there are no longer Jews. There remains only the sand, on which we built...„ -Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1945
Some background information concerning Otwock and its surroundings --
3,000,000 Jews (10% of total Polish pop.) (Source: German Crimes in Poland. Central Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland. 1946)
Eastern side of the city consisted of villas, vacation homes
Western side of the city, where most of the permanent residents lived, generally poorer, more cramped
City divided by train tracks leading from Warsaw
...All of that is during the weekday, but on Shabbat, you could no longer recognize the Jews, after they bathed in the mikva (ritual bath), and they changed all of their clothes - it's like they changed their entire being and received their extra soul, everyone runs wearing their Shabbat clothes to their shul or Rebbe for prayers... Everyone here deals in Yiddish, even the Gentiles, including the policemen, they know the language and are knowledgable of the Shabbat and holidays. They come to visit their Jewish neighbors with gefilte fish or cholent. They particularly enjoy Passover with the wonderful alcohol called Pasachovka [vodka from raisins].„ -Meir Yarkoni, "The City as I Remember Her", Otwock Yizkor book
The Otwock Jewish community began as an outgrowth of the original community in nearby Karczew. The community became independent after World War I and continued to grow until the financial crisis of 1929 which caused an economic depression throughout Poland. Community charity services operated throughout the town, including a free loan society, hospitals, and an orphanage. Most of the town's shops were in Jewish hands and served both the townspeople and the vacationers. The Jewish population again grew in 1938 as a result of an incoming wave of refugees from eastern Germany.
Immediately following independence in 1919, the new, untrained Polish army harassed the Jewish community as they passed through the town, including robbery, rape and beatings. As for the townspeople, anti-semitism was relatively uncommon, particularly since the Poles were interested in the frequent wealthy Warsaw Jewish clientele, but by the mid-1930's, outbreaks of violence began as well.
Pictured are members of Otwock's Poalei Zion, Labor Zionist, youth group, one of many such Zionist associations in town. (Otwock Yizkor book)
Jewish Otwock was impressively varied including a great many organizations along the political and religious spectrum. Cultural performances were common and sports clubs were popular. Multiple Zionist groups were active, especially amongst the youth, including Labor, Beitar, Revisionists, Mizrachi, Kadyma and Aguda, and many Hasidic courts were drawn to the town due to its quiet, salubrious environs. Some of the more famous Hasidic masters in the town included:
Betzalel (Calek) Perechodnik wrote a fascinating memoir while in hiding during the war called Am I a Murderer(התפקיד העצוב של התיעוד) which details his service as a Jewish policeman in the Otwock ghetto, his escape from the town following the ghetto liquidation and his time hiding in Warsaw. He did not survive until the end of the war, but his writings from only a few months after the liquidation provide an amazing insight into the thinking of the Jews at the time, exactly what they did and did not know about the German plans of genocide and his own personal story of loss. It is incredible to read his astonishingly precise knowledge in 1943, years before Yad Vashem, the Nuremberg trials, the Eichman trial or anything else we know about today. A summary of his more important insights:
The preceding decade of 1925-1935 was seen as a time of great freedom and liberty
He considered himself a Polish patriot along with other fellow Jews. (Ed. note: Patriotism is an important value following the foreign occupation of Poland over the previous centuries).
Upon reexamination, he recognizes as naive his previously held belief that the Poles identified with the Jews since both were oppressed peoples
Anti-semitism was not a central issue; most believed that the world was quickly marching towards liberal values of equality for all
Nonetheless, there was widespread discrimination in acceptances to Polish universities, government career opportunities, receiving government permits for businesses, acceptance to the Polish army (many Jews attempted to enlist as a demonstration of patriotism)
Ironically, the Jews were nevertheless large buyers of Polish bonds, while ethnic Poles took their money out of the government
In 1939, no one expected that the events in Germany would affect Poland
Government-sponsored anti-semitism campaigns began in the mid-1930's. From a government calendar distributed to civilians:
"The Jew is the mortal enemy of the Church and of Greater Poland"
"All the evil that befalls modern Poland comes from Judaism"
"If we distance the Jews from Poland, the current Polish crisis will be averted and not return"
The process of writing is almost like waking from a stupor of Enlightened values - he can't believe this all happened simply because they were Jews. He says that he and his fellow Jews educated with modern, universal values were wholly unable to anticipate the barbaric notion of a genocide against the Jews, it simply never entered the realm of possibility for them.
The Russian (Bolshevik Communist) invasion of eastern Poland came with mixed feelings - some saw it as an opportunity for equality; others were certain the German invasion would end swiftly, while the Russians would remain in eastern Poland (like pre-1918 Russian control of eastern Poland); many Jews therefore fled to German-controlled western Poland!
Since Jews weren't permitted to own businesses, many Poles 'kindly' offered to transfer the businesses to their own names; needless to say, most Jews never saw any further profits. Jews often were forced to sell their worldly possessions to Poles for far below their market value for the sake of buying food.
Wartime was entirely characterized by an attempt to stay in familiar surroundings, provide food for one's family, and 'wait it out' until the end of the war. Despite the ever increasing noose around their necks (economic restrictions, then an open ghetto, then a closed ghetto, etc.), people were solely focused on day-to-day survival.
Rich Jews commonly used bribery (to the Judenrat) to receive exemption from forced labor and transports, which further fooled them into believing that money would always save them. The poor were inevitably the ones transported first.
With enough money, all goods were attainable in the ghetto. At the same time, the poor were starving in the streets and typhus outbreaks were common. Many charitable organizations sprung up in the ghetto in response, some run by the Judenrat.
German promises were almost universally believed. For instance, when the Jews were ordered to move into the ghetto, complete freedom of movement was guaranteed and so most Jews willingly moved into the ghetto. After a few months, exiting the ghetto became punishable by death.
The Germans were masters at pitting different groups against each other and they knew they could enlist the Polish apathy (if not downright violence) towards the Jews
Every rumor of genocide occurring elsewhere was dispelled by the Jews with wishful thinking. For instance he notes that people insisted, "Otwock is different... Vilna was destroyed by the Germans because they were Russians, but we're not resisting the Germans, so we'll be safe..."
A coping mechanism was developed whereby transports were seen as tragedies of individual families, but the unaffected individuals continued to feel safe.
The overwhelming Jewish reaction to the unfolding events around them was indifference.
He provides a detailed account of the Germany strategy of genocide as per his observations:
No one should know they're intended for death, continue false promises, as ridiculous as they may seem, give people something to hold onto
Prevent attempts of self-defense
Keep as few Germans involved as possible
Get the Jews to do as much of the work as possible
Clean the ghettos after liquidation
The Jews should be responsible for digging the graves
All valuables should end up in German hands
Every town should believe they will not be liquidated
Convince rich (read: influential) Jews that they will not be affected
To prevent resistance, keep hope alive until the last possible moment
Use Jewish bodies for valuable resources (creating soap, fertilizer) to hide Jewish bodies (Ed. note: how did he know this with such detail already in 1943???)
Preceding the final 'selection', the author relates that his wife's Polish childhood friend requested to inherit their property since, "The Jews are simply the walking dead in any event"
Most parents believed that it was more important that the children have the same fate as their parents, rather than leave an orphan child alive. (Thus precluding the possibility of hiding a child among the Poles).
On the day of liquidation, Germans entered the ghetto while the Jews proudly stood by their shops and some even ran to the approaching German officials to present their certificates of vocation to prove their usefulness to the German cause. They were promptly executed on the spot.
Perechodnik's description in 1943 of the events from only a few months prior have an almost dream-like quality, referring to the Jews simply as puppets trying to stay alive in a bizarre Nazi game. In his writing, he already expresses a desire for revenge against the Nazis and wants his memoir to serve as a testimony.
Finally, the author blames the Poles as much as Germans for the genocide because of their complicity and collaboration.
Ukrainian soldiers hurrying Jews to the train station for transport to Treblinka during the liquidation of the Otwock ghetto. (Otwock Yizkor book)
Holocaust time line in Otwock:
September 1, 1939 - German invasion of Poland. In the following weeks, some of the town's youth flee eastward.
September 29, 1939 - Germans start taking some Jews of Otwock to forced labor.
October 1939 - Judenrat is established for the purpose of providing Jewish labor to the Germans, and paying for German demands of money. They also established charitable organizations for the poor.
December 1939 - Edict enforcing donning of Jewish star; stores forced to put up a sign indicating Jewish ownership
January 1940 - Jews banned from traveling by train.
July-August 1940 - Germans begin to send Jews to work camps, particularly to Lublin, and for the building of Treblinka, and the draining of Tishbitze.
December 1, 1940 - All Jews forced to live in the ghetto. About 15,000 reside inside including Jews brought from Karczew, many residents penniless since no belongings allowed to be brought inside. Money quickly loses its value inside the ghetto, and barter is used for purchasing food (at well above the items' market value) at any cost, butchers forced to pay special taxes to the Polish police. Around 6,000 estimated to be poor.
1941: Polish-Jewish relations worsened because:
Jews were autonomous in the ghetto, while the Poles were subject to German rule
Jews living in Polish homes in the ghetto were seen as ruining Polish property
The Jewish ghetto, outbreaks of disease in the ghetto, etc. were seen as contributing to the economic downturn of the resort town
January 15, 1941 - Wall erected around ghetto. Hundreds dying from hunger and illness at this point.
December 1941 - Rumors of deportations and genocides (Slonim, Vilna, Baranovitch) spread rapidly
January 1942 - Deportations to Treblinka begin under guise of skilled labor transports. 150 youth transported, 15 survive.
April 1942 - Jews of Lublin transported; 400 Otwock youth transported to Treblinka.
June 1942 - Judenrat is ordered to provide a list of tailors, shoemakers, and other craftsmen to the German authorities. Jews in Otwock rush to register themselves as craftsmen, open up shops, in the belief that they will then be more useful to the Germans.
July 1942 - Jews build a large platform adjacent to the train station to hold what they believe will be wood shipments for the 'upcoming' carpentry industry in town. In fact, they are building their own transport platform (Umschlagplatz).
August 1942 - In anticipation of the upcoming 'selection', only two Jewish families of Otwock attempt to escape the ghetto. All others 'hunker down' and hope it will pass.
August 19, 1942 - Liquidation of the ghetto, with assistance of Polish police, S.S. and Ukrainians. 12,000 Jews in the ghetto. The sick in the hospitals are killed, along with the staff, those showing resistance shot in the streets, and 50 cattle cars transport the remaining 8,000 Jews to Treblinka. Their remaining belongings later pillaged by Polish townspeople. The Jewish police were responsible for loading town residents into the cattle cars (with the implicit promise that the policemen would be kept alive) and were then summarily loaded onto cattle cars by the German officers. The Jewish police were taken to Villianov and Trachoman where they were shot.
"The Germans were responsible for burning down the Kupiecka Street (where the Kutnickis lived), including the Blass Central Synagogue which stood in the center of the square. The area has been rebuilt as a bus depot and strip mall".
A member of the Warsaw community told me that after WWII, Warsaw was completely decimated and therefore many of the returning Jewish refugees went to Otwock and restarted a community in the town. (Immediately following WWII there were still 300,000 Jews living in Poland (Source: YIVO)). The final mass exodus of Jews from Poland came in 1968, following the Six Day War, when the Soviets politically aligned themselves with the Arabs and forced out the remaining Jews.
Kupiecka (lit. Merchants) Street, Otwock, former home of the Kutnicki family
Earliest recovered documents mention Benjamin and Fajga Kutnicki (parents of Szlama), among others, living in Karczew in the early 1900's, but within a few years they almost all moved to Otwock. Among the documents analyzed, the Kutnickis are referred to as a large family living on Kupiecka ('Merchants') Street engaged in the butcher trade. S. Kutnicki and U. Kutnicki are listed in a 1930 business directory, and a 1937 directory lists Sz. Kutnicki on Kupiecka 24. Other documents refer to Benjamin and Fajga living on 26 Kupiecka, Srul and Jenta living on 27 Kupiecka, and Szlama Chaim and Rojza Perla living on 22 Kupiecka. Quoting the Otwock Yizkor book, "At the crossroads of Alexandrovska Street [later renamed Kupiecka], the dwellings of the butchers, large and extensive, the Kiejzmans, the Kutnickis, the Goldmans and the Kenigsbergs, together with the carters and the porters are the heroes of the city standing up against those Gentiles that are anti-semitic." It is interesting to note that a number of court documents mention multiple instances of 'public disorder' caused by younger members of the Kutnicki clan.
Other Jewish families in the butcher business listed in the 1930's business directory: ... M. Fajgenbaum, ... Frejman I., Geldman Sz., Goldfarb K., Guttner J., Kiejzman S., Kenigsberg Ch., Klamberg D., Kutnicki S., Kutnicki U., Migdalski Br., Pitkiewicz H., Rebkowski W., Rozenberg K.,... These families maintained among themselves both business and personal relationships. Many of the court cases reference multiple butcher families, particularly the Kiejzmans and the Kutnickis. There were even marriages:
Chana Ides Gutrajman sued business partners (?) Moszek Kiejzman, Szlama Kutnicki and Moszek Kutnicki
Aron and Benjamin Kutnicki and Jankiel Goldfarb were accused of "disturbing the peace" for continuing to slaughter and sell kosher meat in defiance of national ban against shechita (page 180 of this book | YIVO). (As a result of the ban, a brisk business of smuggling from Otwock to Warsaw kosher meat by young girls who 'look like shikses' developed).
Aron Kutnicki and Srul Kiejzman were accused of "disturbing the peace" regarding matters of the meat business
Aron Kutnicki and Joska Rosenberg were accused of "disturbing the peace"
Moszek Goldfarb, Chaim Kutnicki and Abram Kutnicki were accused of hiding illegal meat
and lasting friendships:
Calki Kiejzman testified in 1948 to the deaths of Benjamin and Fajga Kutnicki, almost a decade later
(This was one of the least expected revelations, learning that Szlama Josef had a brother named Chaim. This is of course surprising since they are the same names as Frank and Adina's children, even though the existence of an uncle Chaim was unknown at the time of the children's births. The younger Chaim was in fact named after Adina's mother Irene (Chaya).).
Few documents remain from the wartime period which reference the Kutnicki family. The best guess is that most of them met the same fate as the rest of the Jews of Otwock. This is corroborated from the little that is known - post-war testimony shows that Srul Kutnicki was murdered by Germans in the ghetto (perhaps for attempting to leave the ghetto boundaries?) and his wife Jenta Kutnicki died later in the ghetto liquidation. Similarly, Fajga Kutnicki (née Gurfinkel) was witnessed murdered by the hands of the Gestapo in May 1942.
Yad Vashem has a list of Kutnicki family members who were murdered during the Holocaust, based on the original list of the perished in the Otwock Yizkor book.
From Larry Kutnicki:
"My father told me that an eyewitness observed the Nazis testing the new ovens at Treblinka. The eyewitness said that the ovens were tested as follows:
The Nazis said to throw in my father’s brother alive—when my
father’s father protested and said “I will go in his place”—the Nazis
threw them both in the ovens alive…"
Larry was also told that following the war, Szlama and a cousin returned to Otwock to try to reclaim their homes from Poles who were squatting there. According to the account, Szlama eventually tried to dissuade the cousin from confronting the family but failed. Szlama hid in some bushes nearby, while his cousin knocked on the house door. A conflict ensued, the cousin was shot and Szlama fled.
In the earliest of court cases, the documents don't bother to provide an address for identifying individuals. For instance, in 1916 it was sufficient to request Szlama Kutnicki's appearance in court by simply listing his town of residence, Otwock, while a summons from 1936 for Chaim, by which time the town's population had tripled, includes his street name and house number.
Apparently, even literacy is not something to be taken for granted. Birth certificates for the children of Szlama Chaim and Rojza Kutnicki could not be signed by the father since, as the documents note, he did not know how.
It was considered reasonable to note a person's religion on official documentation, for instance Uryn's police report. Judaism was referred to as 'mojzeszowe,' the Mosaic religion.
It is important to realize that people at that time didn't care about official documentation in the same way which they do nowadays, particularly since their lives were often circumscribed within a few square miles and had little interaction with people outside of their own town. One example is Aron Kutnicki who states in police documents that he was born in 1891 while his marriage certificate lists his birth year as 1888! Another example is the birth certificates of Henia Dwojra and Sura, where it can be seen that they were both issued on the same day, July 23 1919,
even though the children's births happened well before then. The same
happens with Aron Kutnicki's children who issues their birth certificates
all on June 28, 1920 - 8 years after the oldest one was born! It seems that
they didn't really care about official documentation until it was required by the authorities. In the case of Aron, he was a widower and wanted to remarry, so he
suddenly had a need for his children from his previous marriage to be
recognized. It could very well be that birth certificates don't exist
for many people.
Less understandable is the following: Aron was widowed from Bina Cymler and later remarried Sura Cymler (the relationship between Sura and Bina is unclear; they did not share the same parents; perhaps cousins?). The birth certificate of Abram states that he was born to Bina, but his police report states that he was born to Sura. Even though the second wife Sura was clearly the one who raised the children, it doesn't make much sense then that his brother Chaim would make a point of designating Bina as his mother. Accuracy of the birth certificate itself is called into question considering it was filed 6 years after Abram's birth.
Names are transcribed in their original Polish form. For instance, the Hebrew name Dvora (דבורה) is spelled Dwojra, where the Polish 'w' sounds like an English 'v' and the Polish 'j' sounds like an English 'y'. Polish also declenses proper nouns, such that in certain placements in a sentence Kutnicki can transform into Kutnickiem, Szlama into Szlamie and Aron into Uryna. More information about Polish phonology and grammar.
Death information is generally uncommon for the wartime period since no one was there to file death certificates and the few survivors had little reason to file documents in a place they never intended to return to.
The telling counterexample is that of Jenta Kutnicki whose nephew after the war
wanted to reclaim her property so he filed a retroactive death certificate
Both genealogists with whom I spoke in Warsaw were surprised to find how rare the name Kutnicki is, both among pre-war and post-war documents.
Szlama Josef and his wife, Valeria (Courtesy of Larry Kutnicki)
Szlama and Valeria's ketuba from the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons camp (full size) (Courtesy of Larry Kutnicki)
Map of Szlama Kutnicki's documented travels, 1944-1949
Szlama Josef was registered as prisoner A 19264 in Auschwitz on July 30, 1944. He was eventually liberated from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on April 15, 1945. From displaced persons records, we know that in his travels he passed through the DP Camp in Kaunitz, which primarily housed Hungarian women deported from Auschwitz to the Lippstadt sub-camp of Buchenwald and at war's end forced to march to Kaunitz. It is possible that this is where he met Valeria (Walli) Chana Siegelman who he later married in the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp on April 10, 1946 (9 Nisan 5706). In the memorial book She'erit HaPleitah (1946), a Salomon Kutnicki from Otwock b.1921 is listed as living in Celle (a city near Bergen-Belsen) and a Szlama Kutnicki from Otwock is listed as living in Kaunitz, a city 2 hours away from Celle. As can be seen from the above map, he passed through multiple DP Camps before leaving from Bremerhaven, Germany on the ship "General Howze" on May 9, 1949. Interestingly, in a document from only a few months following liberation, he lists his desired destination as Haifa, Palestine. This was unrealistic though due to the strict British quotas at the time.
As mentioned earlier, Szlama eventually settled in New York City where he and his wife Valeria raised a family of 3 boys and 1 girl. Szlama passed away on March 1, 1973, and his descendants now live in New York, Kentucky, and Haifa, Israel.
As for the other handful of Kutnicki families in the United States, it seems they are not related to Szlama Josef Kutnicki. There is a Kutnicki family in Colorado (Cindy, Stan, Diane, Evan, Sara, Peter, Bernadine, Loretta) who received the name from Peter Kutnicki, born in Landstuhl, Germany in 1947 to Bernice and Wladyslaw Kutnicki from Warsaw. There is also a record of a Mieczyslaw (Moshe) Kutnicki owning a metal hardware factory named Felart in Solec 23, Warsaw and living at Raszynska 5, Warsaw. No further information about him has been identified. There are also a number of families who changed their names from Kutinski to Kutnicki upon immigrating to the US.
Google Translate is an invaluable resource for understanding the Polish Internet. It is also helpful for (roughly) translating letters and emails to Polish officials and even for speaking to people in person. (At one point, I walked into a store, the owner opened up Google Translate and we spoke to each other by typing our dialog on screen).
Always seek out a young person with whom to speak. Poles only started learning English after the fall of Communism, so only individuals below the age of 35 will be able to communicate on a reasonable level.
It is almost always preferable to search the Internet in Polish and look at Polish language sites (and then translate into English), as opposed to using the usually sparse information on the site's English pages. Many more resources are available in Polish.
The Kutnicki family seems to have begun their story in Karczew and gradually moved to Otwock as the city developed, following the overall migration pattern of the area's Jews. Delving into Karczew's archives may produce additional insights (even though Otwock now serves as the district capital and serves most of the area's administrative needs).
It is almost a requirement to be in person when requesting information, preferably with a Polish speaker
According to Polish law, only a direct descendant may look at the files for any given person. That being said, when I showed up at the various offices in person along with basic proofs of lineage (passport with last name, copy of birth certificate of Solomon Kutnicki), I found the various clerks to be sympathetic to my research and amenable to bending the rules.
Otwock can be reached from Warsaw by a 40 minute ride via car, train or bus.
Map of the primary locations and resources used in my research.
The Otwock archive has access to various census data and records, which I was unable to view at the time. The birth, marriage, death records from Karczew arealso viewable at Latter Day Saints' Family History Centers. This data includes:
The various bits of information have been collected in a program called Gramps. I have exported my current database as of 13 Sep 2011 into databases of different formats: GEDCOM, GeneWeb, Web Family Tree, and Gramps XML Package (only download if you want to play with the databases on your own computer).
First, to my father Frank Kutnicki, z"l, who, along with hundreds of thousands of other children of Holocaust victims, grew up in torment knowing (and not knowing) what atrocities had been committed to their parents. As for the work involved, this project was possible thanks to the saintly patience and support of my wife Kayla, the encouragement of my uncle Larry Kutnicki, and the expertise of Jewish genealogy experts Yale Reisner and Anna Przybyszewska Drozd of the Zydowski Instytut Historyczny (Jewish Historical Institute) in Warsaw, Sebastian Rakowski of the Museum of Otwock, the kind librarians of the National Museum, Jerusalem, Israel and Daniela Malec, Polish translator and recent immigrant to Tel Aviv.