Left, from Latvia Holocaust Jewish Names Project.
Right, Kaiserwald concentration camp, Riga; from The Vilnius Ghetto.
In the previous post, I wrote about my father's father and his extended family, who left Riga, Latvia, for the U.S. and England in the late 19th century. In the past several years, I've done extensive research on the Stander (aka Stender) family, first on JewishGen.org and EllisIsland.org, then on Ancestry.com and at the genealogical archives in London.
When I started my research, the only Stander relatives I knew of were my five half-sisters, two first cousins and a handful of second or third cousins, all in the U.S. But since then, I've found a vast and ever-growing web of family, from Opelousas, Louisiana; to Capetown, to Liverpool, to Denmark, to Israel. I've gotten in touch with and met many of them, and they've helped me to greatly expand the two Stander family trees I've drawn up: one for my father's line from Riga; one for a line from Tukums, some of whom also ended up in England (none were listed in the 1924 Tukums telephone directory). I plan to combine those two trees, once I find their missing links. It may take a long time, though, as many records of Latvian Jews are missing or were destroyed. To make matters more complicated, they're variously in German, Russian and Latvian.
There are quite a few names on my family trees that have birth but not death dates, and I found no records of those people having emigrated. What could have happened to them, I've often wondered?
Yesterday, one of my British cousins sent me a link to this website: the Latvia Holocaust Jewish Names Project. I searched the Surnames database and discovered the fates of some of those missing family members in 1941-45:
- Marianna Stender (b. 1864) - Ghetto, killed
- Frume ("Pious") Stender (b. 1879) - Ghetto, killed 1941
- Asna Lea Stender Schandler (b. 1888) - Fled
- Esther Stender (b. 1908, same as my father) - Ghetto (i.e., died or killed)
- Gita Stender (b. 1916) - Red Army, survived
- Johanna Stender (b. 1919, Gita's sister) - Fled?
- Haim Owsey/Osvald Stender (Gita's father, b. 1879) - Fled?
- Jocha Switgall Stender (Gita's mother, b. 1880) - Fled?
- Leon Stender (b. 1899) - Killed 1941, Riga
- Nachman Stender (b. 1872) - Killed Sept. 1, 1941, Riga
- Hinke Stender (b. 1892) - Killed July 1941, Tukums (Per this site: "After German occupation [in June], most of those [Jews] remaining were either shot outside of the town, burned inside a local synagogue, or sent to forced labor camps.")
- Jacob Stender (Hinke's brother, b. 1899) - Killed July 1941, Tukums
- Masche Stender (Jacob's wife, b. 1910) - Killed July 1941, Tukums
- Sore Stender (Jacob & Hinke's brother, b. 1902) - Killed July 1941, Tukums
- The list goes on and on...
My relatives in Liepaja seemed to have escaped that fate, though Mowscha Stender (b. 1881), a shoemaker, was killed some time in 1941. His son Wolf and daughter Rachel-Leie, both in their twenties, were sent to Kaiserwald, where they died in about 1944. A widow Sara Stender (b. 1919) was sent to Auschwitz with her little children Theodor (b. 1939) and Manja (b. 1940), where all three died on November 3, 1943, presumably gassed. In that same year but a world away, my father acted in three Hollywood movies and a radio series.