Here is another story of a large Jewish family who used to live in various cities of Brzesko and Bochnia poviats.
Nowy Wiśnicz – now a small town in Bochnia area – has existed since at least the 13th century, and the first documents related to Wiśnicz Jewish community date back to the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries. Jews, like in other towns, were mainly traders and craftsmen. In 1765, 979 Jews lived in Nowy Wiśnicz. Most likely, ancestors of the Hamelsdorf family were among them – when researching Jewish vital records from Wiśnicz, I found information about Mayer Hamelsdorf, who died on August 21, 1814 at the age of 70 (which means that he was born in 1744) and Schewa Hamelsdorf, who died in June 1825 at the age of 71. Since both Mayer and Schewa lived in Nowy Wiśnicz in the same house # 61, they were most likely spouses.
Although it is difficult to be certain, the next piece of information most likely concerns the grandson of Mayer and Schewa – as far as I know, only one Hamelsdorf family lived in Wiśnicz at that time.
Dawid Majer Hamelsdorf (1822-1883) was the son of a teacher from Nowy Wiśnicz, Mordche Ize and Brandla Hamelsdorf. He also became a teacher and married Chane Hinde Spanauf (1817-1888), daughter of Kopel Hirsch and Reisla Spanauf, merchants in Nowy Wiśnicz. The spouses had 8 daughters born in Wiśnicz in the years 1840-1860.
At the time, the town consisted mostly of wooden houses – as we can see in many drawings by Jan Matejko. However, in 1863 a fire broke out in the Jewish quarter. It had tragic consequences for the city. Many Jewish houses, the post office, the church, the presbytery, the town hall, and two synagogues were burnt at that time. Families were left homeless and many of them moved to Bochnia. The Jews who stayed in Nowy Wiśnicz, including the Hamelsdorf family, struggled with the rebuilding of their houses for several years. Seven years later there were two synagogues in the town – one partially survived the fire, the other was built on the site of the burned one – and several prayer houses. The new synagogue was built of stones and bricks.
In 1880, 3,773 people lived in Nowy Wiśnicz, including 1,394 Jews. Thanks to the census conducted that year, we know that three related families lived in house # 42: spouses Dawid Majer and Chane Hinde Hamelsdorf; their third daughter Reisel Feigel with her husband Samuel Józef Kohane and two children; the youngest daughter Bruche with her husband Dawid Kegel and a one-year-old daughter and two sons of another daughter, Chawa Blume, who married Izak Friedman from Tarnów.
Our further story will be related to the family of Tarnów-born Samuel Jozef Kohane and Reisel Feigel nee Hamelsdorf. Samuel Josef – just like his father-in-law and his wife’s grandfather – was a teacher in Jeleń (Chrzanów district) and later in Wiśnicz.
Samuel Josef and Reisel Feigel Kohane had seven children, but only four survived: Naftali (born in 1872), Breindel (born in 1877), Chajm Jakob (born in 1882) and Shalom Leiser (born in 1889). The family lived in Nowy Wiśnicz at least till the end of 1887, and then they moved to Czchów, where their youngest son was born. I will try to share about the lives of this and the next generations of Kohane-Hamelsdorf family.
Naftali Kohane married Ittel Gassner from Łapanów (a village near Nowy Wiśnicz). They had several children, including twins Marjem and Chaje, born in 1905, and a son, Kalman. I know that for some time Naftali lived with his family in Łapanów, where he was a “forest janitor”, and later he moved to Bochnia. Thanks to the help of Mrs Iwona Zawidzka from the Bochnia museum, I know that he was registered in Bochnia: “Naftali Kohane, born 1872 in Wiśnicz – an industrial card issued in May 1925 for the sale of mixed goods and scarves at a stall in Bochnia and at nearby fairs and markets”. It was in Bochnia that the son of Naftali and Ittel, Kalman, married his cousin Malka Manheimer/Kohane in the beginning of 1930ies. But I will share more about it in a moment. During the war, Naftali was with his family in the Bochnia ghetto (54 Trudna Street); he perished in the Holocaust.
Breindel Kohane married Chaim Leiser Manheimer, a shoemaker from Brzesko, son of Samuel and Chane nee Teichler. The couple married in Brzesko on February 9, 1904 in the presence of Rabbi Tobias Lipschitz. Manheimer and Teichler families had lived in Brzesko for generations. Chaim Leiser Manheimer and his three siblings were born in the same house # 236 at the Market Square in Brzesko, and next to it, in the house # 234 there lived most probably his grandfather, Samuel Manheimer, son of Markusz and Malka Manheimer, former innkeepers in Brzesko, who died in 1886 at the age of 75. Matzevah of Chaim Leiser’s grandmother, Niche Teichler (1827-1899) has survived at the Jewish cemetery in Brzesko.
“Modest, honest woman Necha, daughter of our teacher and rabbi Mordechaj…”
Chaim Leiser Manheimer and Breindel nee Kohane had 5 children: Ruchel Scheindel (1904), Nicha Chaja (1907), Malka (1910), Ester (1911) and Naftali (1913).
Spouses Chaim Leiser and Breindel Manheimer lived in Brzesko. Chaim Leiser died before the war, and Breindel was murdered during the Holocaust.
Their older daughter Ruchel Scheindel survived the war in France, and her descendants live there to this day.
Nicha Chaja married Majer Templer from Bratislava. The family settled in Slovakia, had four children. Unfortunately, they all perished in the Shoah.
Malka married her cousin Kalman – apparently, because Kalman had papers that allowed him to emigrate to Palestine, and Malka was a Zionist and dreamed about it. In 1934, the spouses moved to Palestine. Due to this fact they survived the war and kept many family pictures, that you can see in this article. (My gratitude goes to Malka’s granddaughter Sara Ohayon for sharing these photos.) Malka and Kalman had three children. Their grandchildren and great-grandchildren live in Israel.
Ester married a dentist from Krakow, Jakob Kleinberger, in 1937. Their daughter Anna was born the same year. The family lived in Brzesko. Jakob was murdered in Brzesko in 1942; Estera and Anna managed to survive the war. They lived in Belgium, where Ester died in 2003.
Naftali was a student of yeshiva in Bobowa. He was murdered in the Shoah together with his wife and two children.
Chaim Jakob Kohane emigrated to the US in 1929 together with his wife Rozalia and children Hanna, Nathan and Moris. It was possible due to the support of his brother-in-law Simon Frisch. His descendants still live in the USA.
Shalom Leiser Kohane was the only child of Samuel Josef and Reisel Feigel born in Czchów. (It happened on May 13, 1889).
Czchów is a small town in Bresko poviat that already existed in the 11th century. First Jewish families settled in Czchów at the end of the 18th century, but until World War II, Jews constituted only a small part of the city’s population: in 1880-1921, the number of Jews ranged from 136 to 252 people, with the total population from 1,550 to 2 541 people. A separate Jewish community was established in Czchów only in 1883, when Yitzchak Yeshaya, son of Chaim Halberstam, the founder of the Hasidic dynasty from Nowy Sącz, became the rabbi of Czchów. It was during this period that Kohane-Hamelsdorf family moved to Czchów.
Shalom Leiser Kohane was born in Czchów in the house # 5. Most likely, this house was in the Market Square – as it is shown on the map from 1847.
Shalom Leiser married Bluma Goldberger from Oświęcim, daughter of Leibisz and Rachela Leia. The family settled in Oświęcim, where they had 4 daughters: Necha, Chana, Eva and Ester. There’s survived a photo of the whole family sitting around the table. It’s impossible to stop looking at these faces.
Shalom Leiser died of stroke on December 31, 1939. According to his granddaughter Rivka Yogev, the cause of the stroke was the great sadness caused by the burning of Oświęcim synagogue.
Bluma Kohane nee Goldberger perished in Auschwitz.
The oldest daughter Necha married Akiwa Zwerling, their daughter Reizel was born in March 1940. The girl perished in Sosnowiec ghetto, and Necha – in the Auschwitz camp.
Chana fled to Russia together with her husband, where they managed to survive the war. After returning to Poland, they settled in Bielsko, where their 3 daughters were born. In 1957, the family emigrated to Israel.
Eva and Ester survived Auschwitz and the Death March. After the war, Eva emigrated to the USA, and Esther to Palestine. Her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren live in Israel.
Blessed be the memory of all Holocaust victims. Ultimately death can’t overcome life.
I’m very grateful to Mrs Rivka Yogev and Sarah Ohayon for providing all the family photos in this article and for the information about the post-war fate of the family.
© Anna Brzyska, 2020