The Autobiography of Solomon Katzen
The Early Years: 1902-1923

Reader Comments

From: "Christine-Olsen" 
Subject: Thank you for the wonderful history
Date: Sun, May 27, 2001, 4:09 PM


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 

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

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 


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.


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
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
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
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

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


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:
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 
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

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