The Autobiography of Solomon Katzen
The Early Years: 1902-1923
---------- From: "Christine-Olsen"
Subject: Thank you for the wonderful history Date: Sun, May 27, 2001, 4:09 PM Hi, My Grandfather, Sol Greenspan, emigrated from Liepaja with his parents, brother and sisters in 1904. He and his brothers were always active in the Young Men's Kurlander Benevelent Society. It's wonderful to read about life in Kurland. I would like to visit someday. Your account was wonderful. I loved the story about the banana. My Great-Grandfather used to tell my father a story when he was a little boy. It was about the time he went to the city to the big market. His mother wanted an orange for a present. They got her the orange and she was very pleased. Thank you so much for writing this. Best Regards, Christine Olsen ---------- From: Exsimon@aol.com Subject: Re: Thank you for the wonderful history Date: Mon, May 28, 2001, 9:17 PM Is Sol still alive? My family were also Harlem Kurlanders. In Libau they were Moshe and Channah (We think!!) Schmululovitz or something like that. When they came to America their name was changed to Simon, Morris and Anna. There is a Kurlander book online but my grandparents are not in it. Anna's maiden name was Roloff (Rolof) and she was either from Kurland Germany or Courland. Arlene ---------- From: Flagg Date: Tue, May 29, 2001, 6:13 AM My heartfelt thanks to Mr. Katzen and his family for generously sharing with us this wonderful gift. He has literally made history come alive. I'm very grateful for having been allowed to see, through his eyes, Jewish life in turn-of-the-century Courland. It has given me a better understanding of the circumstances that led my grandmother's family, among others, to leave all that was familiar--dear as well as despised--to set out for a new life in a foreign land. I'm looking forward to reading the second half of the book, and would again like to thank Mr. Katzen and his family for making this remarkable work available to us. Sincerely, Alberta Freidus-Flagg Honolulu, Hawaii ---------- From: Annette Young Date: Fri, Jun 1, 2001, 6:57 PM Dear Mr. Katzen, First let me thank you for such a poignant biography. It has brought back so many memories of my childhood as well as an understanding of why our families moved to such diverse parts of the world. My g-ggrandfather Moshe Lerenblatt was the Rabbi of Sassmacken in 1843 according to other researchers and died there prior to 1878. His daughters, including my great grandmother married Rabbis and lived in Sassmacken at some time in their lives although we find them listed on the Raseniai, Kaunas revision list in 1858. Rabbi Abraham Dubitsky, the husband of Pessia Lerenblatt Dubitsky followed Rabbi Moshe as Rabbi in Sassmacken before moving on to Friedburg , then Goldigen where he served as Rabbi of both localities. He and wife Pessia finally emigrated to Montreal. Canada around 1917 where my great grandmother and Great Grandfather Joseph & Emma Margolese had moved around 1892. The children of Rabbi Abraham Dubitsky were born in Talsei and we find their families living in South Africa and Australia. My paternal grandmother who was born in Poland was the one who always prepared the Seder for Pessach and the children were given the home made raisin wine at that time. It was always such a treat but I had no idea how it was made until reading your description of such. She died when I was twelve. You mentioned the family Himmelhoch. Rabbi Moshe Lerenblatt had a brother named Nochum Gimelsheyn [Himmelshein] for whom we have found no trace. Was curious if they might have been same family as names were changed constantly. Am looking forward to the rest of your story and am hoping my daughter and granddaughter will also read your biography to better understand where they came from. I am a second generation American. Thanks again Annette ---------- From: Knud and Lorraine Bertelsen To: "Courland Area Research Group" Subject: Solomon Katzen's Memoirs Date: Sat, Jun 2, 2001, 7:51 PM I have just read Parts 1, 2 and 3 of Solomon Katzen's Autobiography - "The Early Years: 1902-1923" and want to thank him for these wonderful memoirs of his earliest years in Sasmacken, Courland. I especially found interesting the information about the rail routes/distances between shtetls, towns, etc., how people travelled via dray and carriage to the nearest railline, their everyday activities, attitudes to the Germans prior to WWI and the effect of the German invasion and how people were arbitrarily deported into Siberia, etc.. Another thing I found interesting was the comment about Jewish families not having a civil calendar in their homes and totally living by the Hebrew luach, even though they lived in a mixed community, the majority of whom presumably may not have been Jewish. This probably accounts for many instances of births in the shtetls being recorded according to the Hebrew calendar, often with no corresponding civil date recorded. Even if the birth was eventually registered with the nearest Crown Rabbi, who could have lived at a great distance from the shtetl, possibly in a larger settlement/town or even in a regional centre which, in those days, could have been remote and perhaps not easy to get to, probably most of the family may never have known the civil (Julian or later the Gregorian) date. Thank you Mr. Katzen for these wonderful memoirs - they give us so much firsthand knowledge of how our grandparents and great grandparents lived and show us how much things have changed in less than one hundred years. Lorraine Bertelsen Boho Downunder ---------- From: Lehava Falkson Date: Sun, Jul 1, 2001, 7:25 AM B"H I have just finished reading the first part of Solomon Katzen's memoirs of his childhood in Sasmacken, Kurland. I would like to make contact with Solomon Katzen, if still living, or his children/grandchildren, in order to check out possible family connections, via his grandfather, Moishe Falksohn, side. (My husband's grandfather, Harry Falkson, and his siblings were all born in Sassmacken.) Please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you, Lehava Falkson Johannesburg, South Africa ---------- From: Knud and Lorraine Bertelsen Date: Wed, 08 Aug 2001 15:21:30 +1000 Dear fellow researchers I have just read the last four parts of "The Autobiography of Solomon KATZEN - The Early Years 1902-1923" via Courland SIG. His memoirs are so very interesting and provide so much background information and answers to so many questions that have arisen in my research - particularly in relation to my late Mama Nana (maternal GM), who was born in Libau in 1898 and who left Odessa in 1926, with my four year old Mother, for Canada, via Riga/Libau. In her Ukrainian/Russian passport, issued in Odessa in February 1926, it was stipulated that my Mama Nana and Mother had to travel to Libau/Riga via Sebeszh. When I tried to ascertain where Sebeszh was I realised there were several possible railway routes between Odessa and Riga and more than one Sebezh, so I was never sure which route she might have travelled. On reading Parts 5 and 6 of Solomon Katzen's memoirs, I realised that the Sebeszh he mentioned must have been the same as that listed in my Mama Nana's passport, although how she managed the three-day train journey to Vitebsk, and then the journey to Sebeszh and the border/river crossing on foot, into Latvia, possibly having to avoid the border guards on both sides, and possibly carrying my four year old Mother, and some luggage including fur coats, amazes me. As this happened in 1926, the obstacles, dangers and risks that Mr. Katzen encountered in 1923 as a young man, must also have presented a terrible challenge to my Mama Nana, who was 27 at that time and travelled alone, with my young Mother, as far as I know, as my GF had left Odessa for Montreal (via Libau) about nine months earlier. My tiny GGM (born Vilna), my Mama Nana (born Libau) and Zaida (born Odessa), and my Mother (born Odessa), made incredible journeys, and endured and survived terrible hardships beyond comprehension. But thanks to Mr. Katzen's wonderful memoirs, it is possible to gain some understanding of what our parents, grandparents and great grandparents endured under the Czars and Lenin/Stalin, and, later, the suffering and slaughter of so many of our relatives who did not emigrate and who were trapped and perished under the Nazis and their collaborators in Latvia, Lithuania and the Ukraine. I strongly recommend that anyone who is interested in life in pre-WWII Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine, and the expulsion from Latvia into Ukraine in 1915, should read these memoirs, which can be accessed via Courland SIG's home page Thank you Constance, Martha, Arlene and everyone for making this fascinating material available to us all. Lorraine Bertelsen Boho Downunder
Back to Courland Site Index
Primary Courland Links: