Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Day 11: Fearless Females: Struggling with Loss

March 11 — Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how did this affect the family?

Sadly, my family has lost many female ancestors prematurely, all during the holocaust. Since this series of posts are about celebrating Women's history month,  I don't want this post to be about the Holocaust. Instead, I would like to dedicate this to the memory of one of my great-grandmothers who died in the Holocaust, and the heavy price my father's family paid for this loss. On March 3rd, I wrote about the other great-grandmother I lost in the Holocaust, Tzila Jampel, whom I was almost named for (see: Women's History Month Day 3: Fearless Females: The Middle Name that Almost Was). Today, I would like to introduce you to Ana Celnik (Rosenblum).

Anna Celnik (Rosenblum)
Born c1890 Tarnov, Poland,  Died c1943
Anna, also known as Hannah (pronounced Channa in Hebrew), was my father's maternal grandmother. I learned about Anna, not from my grandparents but from the Yad Vashem (Israel's Holocaust Museum) document, which my grandfather filed in 1955. Previously, I wrote a post called, Never Give Up and Good Things Will Come about the impactful experience of discovering these documents. Most relatives of Holocaust Victims, did not have a records for the deaths of their loved ones, no grave and no death certificate, not even a date date. This is the only document we have for Anna.

Anna Celnik Yad Vashem Witness Testimony Sheet
(Click to enlarge)
* Information I obtained from this document
Surname Name: Celnik 
First name: Channa* (in Hebrew) Anna* in Latin letters.
Father's name: Leib*
Mother's name: Esther*
Marital Status: Married
Date of Birth: c1890*
Place and Country of Birth: Tarnov*, Poland*
Belong to the community of: Tarnov
Country: Poland
Residence in 1939: Poland
Place and date of death:
Circumstances of death: Holocaust Victim
Maiden name: Rosenblum*
Last known address: Moscickiogo 21, Tarnov
Informant information: Shoshana Lavi Resident of: Kibbutz Tel Yitzchak Full address: P.O. Box 2167, Tel-Aviv (note: my grandparents lived on the Kibbutz, not in Tel-Aviv. The Kibbutz had a Post Office Box in Tel-Aviv which is where all the members received their mail and which was forwarded to a rickety box a few kilometers for the Kibbutz, on the main road to Tel-Aviv) 
Relationship to the victim: Daughter
Date: 28th of August 1955
Signed: Shoshana Lavi

Note: Even though my grandmother Shoshana supposedly filled out this form, I recognize my grandfather's handwriting. He must have filed the form for her. I can only imagine that the task of filling out the equivalent of a death certificate for her mother, was emotionally too difficult for my grandmother. When I received Ana's photograph from my uncle, I submitted Ana's photo to Yad Vashem and the museum attached it to her record a couple of years ago. 

Anna, was married to Matias Celnik. They had five children: Asher (c1910-c1943), Helena (c1916-c1943), Sabina (c1919-c1943), William (1922-2003) and my grandmother Shoshana (Ruja in Polish) (1913-1992). William survived Auschwitz and lived in Chicago. Asher, Helena and Sabina all perished in the Holocaust along with their parents. I learned from these testimony sheets, that my grandmother was the second eldest of her siblings. I also discovered that she had one niece, Asher's daughter, Esther who was about two years old when she perished in the holocaust. 

Baruch and Shoshana Lavi with their son's (my father and uncle)
Losing her parents and siblings proved to be too much for my grandmother. Shoshana, left Tarnov, around 1934, three years before Hitler invaded Poland. She was about twenty years old at the time. A very fearless act! Her siblings would have been twenty-three, seventeen, fourteen and eleven years old at the time. With the exception of her youngest brother William, she never saw any of them again. My uncle, was born in 1942. By then, it is very likely that my grandmother did not know the whereabouts of her family. Choosing to start a family, when you just lost your entire family, must have been very brave.

At some points, my grandmother became very depressed. Members of the kibbutz told me that in retrospect she may have suffered from postpartum depression (after my father's birth). She struggled with depression, anxiety, claustrophobia and agoraphobia for the rest of her life. One will never know how much of her mental illness was due to the premature loss of her family and the guilt of avoiding the holocaust caused her. She was extremely lucky to have so many loving friends on the Kibbutz. The fellow founding members of the Kibbutz, all of whom suffered similar tragic losses, were like family to each other. They helped my grandfather take care of my grandmother as he so lovingly did throughout her life. She displayed the picture of her mother Anna  in her bedroom and always pointed out to me how beautiful her mother had been. I had to agree that my great-grandmother Anna was a beautiful woman! 

To read more about Shoshana and Baruch Lavi visit: 


  1. Such a sad story. I was in Germany in November. I went to Dachau Concentration camp and saw the showers and the ovens, but mainly felt the atmosphere. There just seems to be a sadness throughout the whole camp. I know to have your relatives go through so much atrocity must be difficult to think about sometimes. I am glad you are willing to share with us.

    1. I have not visited the concentration camps yet. It is something I really want to do, and it's taken me a long time to feel ready to do so. I revisited Yad Vashem a few years ago, and saw their new exhibition. I spent much of the visit in tears. It's a very powerful experience. It doesn't matter how much you study what happen and how much you read, it's one of those periods in History that is impossible to get your mind around. And yes, even though the loss was long ago, it's impact continues to affect descendants to this day, sometimes in subtle ways and sometimes in more powerful ways, like it did on my grandmother. I believe it's important to share the story and honor their memories and I feel blessed to have such wonderful and supportive readers! Thanks for your kind comment, Betty!

  2. The Holocaust, the length and breadth and depth of loss, is something I can't even fully imagine any more than I can understand an atom or the universe. The Holocaust Memorial in Boston is a beautiful and fascinating tribute that tries to put the numbers of lost lives into perspective, but your story demonstrates that there was another kind of loss even among the survivors.

    1. I couldn't agree with you more Wendy! The Boston Holocaust Memorial is one of my favorites. It's beautiful, and powerful and tasteful all at the same time! I love that it is in the heart of the city and part of the Freedom trail!


Thanks for sharing your comments!