Benjaman Kyle

Has the Genetic Genealogy community lost its GPS?

In recent weeks, there have been false statements posted about me on Benjaman Kyle’s personal Facebook page.

I cannot prove Mr. Kyle posted these statements himself—but let’s suppose he did.

On March 29, 2015, the following was posted:

FB Post

I normally would not respond to such nonsense, but judging by the comments below his post, there are members of the genetic genealogy community who have a blatant disregard for the Genealogical Proof Standards (GPS) required of professional genealogists.

A few sample comments:

Fitzpatrick may be able to muscle her way through a letter or on the Media because she is obviously feeling denied her rights to your DNA. This woman is a joke!”

“This should be about you and your well being, Ben, not a greedy “scientist”. She should be reprimanded and feel ashamed.”

Regardless, we will not give up or let her and her attorney(s) scare us off your case.”

All of this would be funny, except for the way in which the community has embraced Kyle’s statements as true without review.

If Mr. Kyle is an amnesiac, he has a mental problem. If he is only pretending to be an amnesiac, he has a psychological condition. Why are so many genealogists jumping on Kyle’s bandwagon without questioning what he is saying?

To quote Judy Russell in a recent blog article, “Facts Matter”.

The wise genealogist should insist Mr. Kyle produce the name of the law firm he alleges I hired. A wise genealogist should also request a copy of the letter I supposedly sent to DNA volunteers to deter them from working on his case.

Kyle has not produced either of these items, nor have any DNA volunteers come forward claiming to have received such a letter.

A denial of service attack is a grave offense. In the US, a denial-of-service attack may be considered a federal crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act with penalties that include years of imprisonment. A denial of service attack occurs when a website is bombarded with so many incoming service requests, the site crashes. It describes an attack on a website, not a personal DNA account that is accessible only through login credentials.

When closely examined, Mr. Kyle’s claims of a denial of service attack on his DNA accounts are nonsense, but unfortunately those sympathetic to his alleged misfortunes have swallowed his technological gibberish.

Does Mr. Kyle have evidence a denial of service attack occurred, much less that it occurred from California, or do we simply take his word for it? Does Family Tree DNA and 23andMe support his claim?

Regarding Mr. Kyle’s statements about me changing the contact info on his DNA accounts to my own personal contact information—this did not happen, nor is it relevant.

  • To log into a Family Tree DNA account, you must provide a kit number and password, not your contact information. In early March 2011, BK changed his password, after which I had no further access to his account.
  • For 23andMe, an email address and password is required, but the email address is impossible to change in a practical sense. Changing the login email requires the user to reissue his sharing invitations and rebuild the information he has gathered from those contacts. BK has a large number of shares – has any of them heard from him during the alleged rebuild of his account?
  • His account is not an issue, because Ancestry did not offer autosomal DNA testing until after I was no longer actively involved in the research.

Does either Family Tree DNA or 23andMe have evidence Mr. Kyle’s DNA accounts were compromised?

Lastly, does Mr. Kyle or anyone else have evidence that I am writing a book on him, or that I am even interested in writing such a book? Note that I have not made any money on my research into BK’s identity.  I have in fact lost money, through the countless pro bono hours I spent trying to help Mr Kyle recover his identity.

An individual’s DNA does not provide insight into his character

After five years of trying to discover BK’s identity using autosomal DNA from all three DNA testing companies, the genetic genealogy community has produced no epiphanies about his identity. The fact that BK has ancestry in the Carolinas was a discovery I made in 2010.

Do any volunteers have relevant information about BK’s identity other than he might be the great-great grandson of Archibald Aiken from North Carolina, or perhaps a descendant of Archibald’s father Ezekiel? Archibald had about 24 children from four known wives.

I am apparently the only person who has actively researched non-DNA aspects of BK’s identity. I tracked down and interviewed the owner of the Burger King and his wife who discovered BK nearly dead in their dumpster area. I have spoken extensively with the Georgia nurse with whom he lived for three years. I have spoken with law enforcement, including a former FBI agent who has worked on his case. I have interviewed the victim of a massive stroke who described how his brain healed itself. This stroke victim also had extensive experience with the homeless community. I learned a lot from this individual that educated me about the habits of the homeless. These factors and others led me to believe BK might have been homeless prior to his discovery in 2004.

In February, I expressed my opinion on 11Alive Atlanta. I stated:
“I am not sure whether Benjaman is interested in finding his identity or not.”

Thousands of hours of non-DNA research contributed to my point of view, yet it has led to a hostile reaction from the genetic genealogy community. They should instead be grateful that I expressed my opinion about the “big picture” and did not restrict my comments to an analysis of who shares segments with him on Chromosome 10.

The BK search angels automatically assume BK wants to return to his former life because he has been so cooperative with their requests. Have they considered BK may have other motives for cooperating?

These angels have produced very little, if anything, about BK’s identity over the last three years; add to that the two years of 23andMe autosomal results they inherited from me. Yet after years of fruitless sharing requests and “In-Common-With” reports, these angels are continuing on the same track. If BK is interested in returning to his former life, why does he continue to work with a group who has been unable to produce viable leads to who he is?

Frankly, if BK is truly interested in finding his identify, why hasn’t he asked a friend to drive him to North Carolina, so he can walk down Main St. in Rosman to see if anyone recognizes him?

On the other hand, after this blog post, let’s suppose something significant about BK is discovered by these angels for the first time. Will the wise genealogist applaud the find without digging into the suspicious coincidence?

Step back and look at the facts

Eleven years ago, BK appeared out of nowhere, apparently the victim of an attempted homicide.  Since 2004 no one has come forward to identify him.

The FBI has no record of his DNA or his fingerprints. Attempts at facial recognition through various DMVs have failed. He has received national media attention through Dr. Phil. Nothing has come of numerous articles in major newspapers. He has been interviewed by NPR at least twice. Subscribers of Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and other social networks have also failed to identify BK.

As of 2015, we know nothing more about this man other than the clues I have uncovered.

So why take Mr. Benjaman Kyle’s word for anything? He could be in the witness protection program, or he could be a member of the Mafia. He could be the father of five children avoiding child support. He could have been beat up while on his “Meal on Wheels” delivery route, or could he possibly have been a member of a traveling circus? Or maybe he was involved in a drug cartel, and his associates are dead?

Of all the possibilities, should we assume the benign without ruling out the sinister?

Should we assume Kyle was a loving husband and father, who would feel happy to return to his family, but disregard the possibility he was a child molester? Mr. Benjaman Kyle could have been anyone. Isn’t it therefore wise to look beyond what DNA can reveal?

Should it be a concern to our community that someone who is such a blank slate is controlling the emotions of so many genetic genealogists at the expense of critical thinking?  Have they become a rabid crowd, cannibalized by their starvation for excitement?

What happened to our Genealogical Proof Standards?

Posted in Benjaman Kyle, Crime and Law Enforcement | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Who Am I? What is My Name? Part VI – Our Search for Gertrude Spiro

Gertrude Spyra and Charlotte Rebhun, Warsaw, about 1942

Gertrude Spiro and Charlotte Rebhun, Warsaw, about 1942

Gertrude Spiro must have been well-connected.  She was the proprietor of a liquor and cigarette shop at 2 Nowiniarksa St. in Warsaw in 1941-1942. The shop undoubtedly generated a lot of income for whoever owned it; liquor and cigarettes are two of the most in-demand commodities during wartime.  Moreover, Gertrude’s shop was the only cigarette shop in Warsaw, and it also sold liquor. In her position she must have had many friends and many enemies.

Gertrude Piss-Spiro and her daughter Sonia were arrested in Warsaw and put into Pawiak Prison in 1943. They are listed among 141 women on a prison transport bound for Auschwitz on 24 August.  However, three of those 141 women apparently did not arrive. Two of them were Gertrude and Sonia.

As of a few months ago, the trail ended there.

As of today, the trail still ends on 24 August 1943, but there is so much more we have learned about this mysterious baby-smuggler. Adele and Wolfgang Rebhun’s account of Gertrude’s visit to speak to their mother Charlotte, and Pnina’s subsequent delivery to the Rebhun’s apartment, have been revealed as a small part of a much larger and more complex picture.

When we started this research, we knew very little about Gertrude Spiro (Spira, Spyra, Spyro, Szpyra, Schapiro, ???) other than she was a Christian woman from Berlin who had been married to a Jew. Her husband had been deported, and she was the middle man in a scheme to save the life of a Jewish baby by placing it with a Christian family on the Aryan side of Warsaw.  We did not even know how to spell Gertrude’s last name.

1931 Berlin Jewish address book Leo David and Gertrude Spiro

1931 Berlin Jewish Address Book

Our new revelations about Gertrude began with Cate Bloomquist’s discovery of a Leo David Spiro and a Gertrude Spiro in the Jüdisches Adressbuch für Gross-Berlin 1931 (Jewish city directory for Greater Berlin 1931). They were both listed at N 54 Brunnenstrasse 175/177.  In 1930, Leo David is listed at this address as a “lederarbeiter” or leather worker. Until now, we had been assuming that Gertrude was the Gertruda Spyra who was a partner in Poniecki, Meisner & Co., a wine and spirits manufacturing company in Chorzów near Katowice in southeast Poland. Could we have been wrong?

Another clue came a few weeks later when Cate discovered Frederick Priess in the 1940 Berliner Adressbuch (1940 Berlin City Directory) at N 54 Brunnenstrasse 176.  He is listed as a wagon driver (or delivery man) living at this address as early as 1925, and as late as 1943, the last year available through the Zentral und Landesbibliotek Berlin.   Note the last name is P-r-i-e-s-s (pronounced Preece), and not the more common P-r-e-i-s-s (pronounced Price).  We felt confident that this was Gertrude’s father, and that the Leo and Gertrude listed at this address in 1930-1931 were “ours”.

1940 Berlin City Directory

1940 Berlin City Directory

Gertrude’s liquor and cigarette store was located at 2 Nowiniarska St. on the Aryan side of Warsaw. Before about 1940, the Warsaw city directories indicate that the address was located in a Jewish neighborhood; as of early 1941, according to Barbara Engleking’s book The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide to the Perished City, the area was incorporated in the Warsaw Ghetto.  Later that same year, when the neighborhood was excluded from the Ghetto and became part of the Aryan section, shops appeared along the even number (north) side of Nowiniarska St.  Whoever opened Gertrude’s shop must have been well-connected and wealthy to grab such desirable real estate on a busy corner, just a block from the Ghetto wall.

North boundaries of the Warsaw Ghetto as of February 1941 (green line) and area excluded as of December 1941 (blue area).

North boundaries of the Warsaw Ghetto as of February 1941 (green line) and area excluded as of December 1941 (blue area).

Engleking’s book reveals another curious detail.  In the section on smuggling, on p. 437, she quotes from the Ringelbaum Archives:

“The policeman Jakob Frydman set up a business smuggling goods to the ghetto. The Zglinowicz cafe in Leszno Street was the place where contacts were made.  In the cafe, Misza Waserman sat by the telephone and took calls from the Aryan side to say that the goods were ready.  Misza replied with a password, indicating the time and guard post one could enter (Wroblewska 1996, 205)”.  A similar role was played by a certain cafe on Nowiniarska St. “All the smugglers knew the telephone number 11-33-00 of that cafe, where they could come to terms among themselves and make deals with the players (AZIH, Ring I, 435)”.

The 1941 Warsaw city directory reveals that the phone number associated with the cafe belonged to Chaim Szok, 8 Nowiniarska St.  It was located in the same building as Gertrude’s shop.

Warsaw was boiling with both pro- and anti-Nazi activities during the early 1940s; without doubt Gertrude was acquainted with both sides.  She was the proprietor of a shop on the Aryan side that was only steps away from the Ghetto walls and located next to a cafe that was a well-known center of smuggling activities.  Her daughter’s sweetheart was a German soldier, yet she felt safe in relaying his request to a Christian friend to shelter a Jewish infant smuggled from the Ghetto.  Gertrude and her daughter Sonia were arrested as political prisoners and put into Pawiak Prison in early 1943.  Yet both mother and daughter apparently escaped from a transport to Auschwitz a few months later.

Who was this woman?

In search of answers, we contacted the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, asking for any information they might have on Gertrude Spiro or on 2 Nowiniarska St.  One item they provided was the handwritten record from the Pawiak Prison recording Gertrude and Sonia’s arrest on 11 May 1943.  Gertrude’s parents are listed as Friederich and Maria; Sonia’s parents are listed as Leon and Gertrude. Their last name is confirmed as Priess-Spiro.  No release date is specified.

Gertrude and Sonia's Pawiak record from the JHI 209_312 s35-2

Gertrude Spiro and her daughter Sonia were arrested on 11 May 1943 and sent to Pawiak Prison. Images courtesy of the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw.

Gertrude and Sonia's Pawiak Record from the JHI 209_312 ok








We were hoping the JHI could provide the names of other prisoners arrested the same day as a clue to why Gertrud’s was arrested.  This was not possible, as there are 35,000 names in the register, and only images of the Jewish entries in the book have survived. The records of German prisoners were not copied after the war.

Regina Domanska’s book Pawiak Wiezienie Gestapo (Pawiak Gestapo Prison) offers a hint that Gertrud was affiliated with the Communist party. As translated by Franek Grabowski, our group member from Poland, the prison’s diary entry for 11 May 1943 reads:

Book of Pawiak without Watermark_1

Book of Pawiak without Watermark_2 Marked Up








Bełina Brzozowski Antoni                      Kamiński Jerzy                    Trzewski Jozef
Jankowski Stefan                                     Poklewski Jozef

Budzyński Andrzej                                   Hereczy Jan                          Osiński Andrzej
Domański Waclaw                                   Hryciuk                                  Skołimowski Mieczysław
Dylag Czslaw                                             Kosiński                                 Strzałkowski Jan
Gasch Erhard                                            Maciejewicz Emil                 Wisniewski Władysław

Cpt. Mikolaj Arciszewski, commander of intelligence network “Michal” was shot in the gate of the tenement at 27 Dzielna St on the orders of the SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Paul Werner.

As a result of denunciation by an informer, arrests began among attackers on “Bar Podlaski” [Podlasie’s Bar or Pub] (10 May), members of the battle group Union of Youth Fighters [Zwiazek Walki Mlodych] of Mokotow [Warsaw’s district]. Arrested were: Zbigniew Swanczyna, then Ludwik Zakrzewski (date not set) Jan Niwiński (26 May), Witold Ganabiniski (6 June), and Zdzislaw Kaczynski (19 June).

Research revealed that many of those arrested had Communist party affiliations.

Book of Pawiak without Watermark_3

Book of Pawiak without Watermark_5 Book of Pawiak without Watermark_6 Book of Pawiak without Watermark_7Book of Pawiak without Watermark_8

The diary’s entry for 24 August 1943 reads in part:

A large transport left for Auschwitz. The next day 875 men and 141 women arrived at the camp. The prisoners were not allowed to take food. At the Station West [Warszawa Zachodnia – Warsaw West] the escort was increased, and harassment intensified. Carriages were loaded with 75 prisoners each. The prisoners were given numbers: men 138771-139645 and women 55778-55918 . They were:

[A long list of prisoner names follows, including those of Gertrude and Sonia Priess-Spiro.]

There is no other mention of Gertrude and Sonia in Domanska’s book.  Contact with the Auschwitz Museum provided no further information on their fate.

As an aside, the last name on the transport list for 24 August 1943 is that of Krystyna Żywulska, a noted Polish writer, columnist, song writer, and graphic artist of Jewish origin. Her real name was Zofia Landau, but she changed it upon interrogation at the infamous Szucha Prison. Zywulska was wife of Leon Andrzejewski aka Leon Ajzef aka Lajb Wolf Ajzen, an important figure of communistic security services.  After the war, she wrote Przeżyłam Oświęcim (I Survived Auschwitz), an account of her harrowing experiences in the camp.  She also wrote Wiersze oświęcimskie (Auschwitz Poems) in 1946, and Pusta Woda (Empty Water) in 1963.  She died in 1992 in Munich of leukemia and is buried in Dusseldorf.

If Gertrude and Sonia escaped the transport to Auschwitz, they probably went into hiding. But where could they have gone?  As the proprietor of the liquor and cigarette shop, Gertrude was well-known around Warsaw.  It’s likely that she and her daughter escaped to another part of Poland, to a place where they would not be easily recognized.  If so, she probably had assistance, either from family members, from friends, or from fellow members of the underground.

Cate Bloomquist, our resident expert on German records, came up with useful information about Gertrude’s background.  Several months earlier, while researching the Priess family in Berlin, Cate came across the book Widerstand in Berlin gegen das NS-Regime 1933-1945: ein biographisches Lexikon (Resistance against the Nazi regime in Berlin, 1933-1945: a biographical dictionary) that references a Gertrud Priess from Berlin. Cate managed to obtain a copy of the relevant pages.

Widerstand in Berlin gegen das NS-Regime 1933 bis 1945 (Book on KDP) p1According to the lexicon, this Gertrud was connected with the KPD (Communist Party of Germany).  Her entry says she was on the KPD member list for 1928, also that she was involved in the KPD once it became illegal, specifically with housing a Communist named Ludwig Marmulla after his release from prison.  Her address is given in 1935 as 64 Kottbusser Damm St., Neukolln, Berlin. There is also a Fritz Priess mentioned, who was a member of the KPD, but it is not clear if he was related to Gertrude, nor if she was the woman we were searching for.

Cate made further inquiries about Gertrude and Fritz, and searched for more information on Ludwig and KPD member lists and activities.  She also investigated the Kotbusser Dam address, but without success.

However, two familiar names appear on another page of the lexicon.

WiderstandinBerlin Leo and Gertrude Spiro_1 p1

Spiro, David; 15.3.1897 – ?
Leather worker; 1938 resident of Berlin-Kreuzberg, Kommandantenstr. 55; on 26.4.1938 sentenced by the High Court in Berlin for preparing to commit treason to 3 -1/2 years in prison.

Spiro, Gertrud; 24.2.1899 – ?
Milliner; 1938 resident of Berlin-Kreuzberg, Kommandantenstr. 55; on 26.4.1938 sentenced by the High Court in Berlin for preparing to commit treason to 2 years in prison.

Gertrude’s fate was tied to that of her husband, Leo David Spiro, at least between 1938-1940.  She received a sentence of two years; he received a sentence of 3-1/2 years.  In 1940, after her prison sentence was completed, she fled or was deported to Warsaw.

So what happened to her husband Leo?

The International Tracing Service at the The US Holocaust Memorial Museum provided much information on him.  His fate was unfortunate.  Once he was sent to Brandenburg Prison, unlike his wife, he never left “the system”.

On 26 April 1940, when Leo David Spiro had completed his first two years in Brandenburg Prison, he was transferred to the Polizeigefängnis c (Police Prison) in Berlin to serve an additional 1-1/2 years.


Dienstelle_2 Dienstelle_3Dienstelle_4





Alphabetical list of prisoners serving their sentences at Brandenburg Prison, 1933-1944, Deutsche Dienstelle in Berlin.  Collection of the International Tracing Service,  US Holocaust Memorial Museum Washington DC.

Brandenburg Prison Records _1

Brandenburg Prison Records _2

Inhaltverzeichnis:  Namenliste uber Gefängene des Strafgefängnisses Berlin-Plotensee 1933-1945.   (Table of Contents: Name list of prisoners of the prison Berlin-Plotensee 1933-1945). Collection of the International Tracing Service, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington DC. Leo David Spiro’s name is the first on the list.


Leo Spiro would have normally been released on 26 October 1941, but by then he was a prisoner in the Sachenhausen Concentration Camp.  On 7 August 1941, the camp records state that he was transported from Sachenhausen to an unknown destination.

Sachenhausen Data_1Sachenhausen Data_2 Marked Up
 KL Sachenhausen, Ordner 93, GCC 10/84; Transportenlisten des Konzentrationslagers Sachenhausen Nach; Unbekannt; 7.8.1941; 400 Personen. Sachenhausen Concentration Camp, File 93, GCC 10/84, Transport List of the Sachenhausen Concentration Camp to an unknown destination, 7 August 1941; 400 Persons. International Tracing Service, Collection of the International Tracing Service, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington DC.


Ravensbruch Info 2017_1 Ravensbruch Info 2017_2 Marked Up Ravensbruch Info 3_1 Marked Up
 KL Ravensbruch, Ordner 46, GCC 9/54; Nummernbuch (Mannerlager); Blattenzahl:  200. Ravensbruch Concentration Camp, File 46, GCC 9/54; Number book (Men’s camp); Page count: 200. Collection International Tracing Service, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington DC.

spiro ravens gedenk (1)_1 Marked UpThat destination must have been Ravensbruch, as he is on the camp’s outgoing transport list of 25 March 1942.  The list does not mention where he was sent, but the Ravensbruch Gedenkbuch (Ravensbruch Memorial Book) states he died the same day at the Bernberg Euthanasia Center, a wing of the State Sanatorium and Mental Hospital in Bernburg, Saxony Anhalt.  It was one of several euthanasia centers run by the Nazis under their official “Euthanasia Programme”, later referred to after the war as Action T4. A total of 9,384 sick and handicapped people from 33 welfare institutions and nursing homes as well as around 5,000 prisoners from six concentration camps were killed there in a gas chamber using carbon monoxide gas.

Leo David Spiro, FindaGrave

Leo David Spiro was among them.  Although his remains were probably cremated by the Nazis, he is listed on Find-a-Grave among the Jews of Germany Murdered During the Holocaust.


Gertrude and Sonia were almost certainly unaware of Leo’s fate; they could not have depended on him for their survival.  We are still left with the mystery of what happened to them after 24 August 1943.

Part I:   Who Am I, What Is My Name? Pnina, Otwoc, and the Kazcmareks

Part II: Who Am I? What is My Name? Pnina, Wolfgang, and the Warsaw Ghetto

Part III:  Who Am I, What is My Name? Gertrude and Sonia Spyra

Part IV:  Who Am I, What is My Name? Wolfgang & Adele’s Eyewitness Account

Part V:  Who Am I, What is My Name? Gertrude and Sonia’s Escape

Part VI:  Who Am I? What is My Name? Our Search for Gertrude Spiro



Posted in Holocaust Project, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

DNA Pilot Study on Missing Identity Holocaust Children – 2013 IAJGS Conference

In August 2012, I was invited to give a lecture at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies in Boston, MA, on our pilot project to identify two missing-identity child survivors of the Holocaust.  Please enjoy the video of my talk that describes our progress as of late 2013.   We have come some ways since and continue to work towards solving the mystery of their identities.

Posted in Holocaust Project | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Am I? What is My Name? Part V – Gertrude and Sonia’s Escape

Pawiak Prison

Gertrude and Sonia Preiss-Spiro’s names are listed on the transport to Auschwitz of 141 women from Pawiak prison in Warsaw on 24 August 1943.  Pawiak prison was originally used by the Polish judicial to incarcerate criminals, but after the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1969, is was converted into a German Gestapo prison.  Approximately 100,000 men and 200,000 women passed through the prison, mostly members of the Armia Krajowa, political prisoners and civilians taken as hostages in street round-ups. An estimated 37,000 were executed and 60,000 sent to German death and concentration camps.  There were few known escape attempts.  

Even if Gertrude survived Auschwitz, she would undoubtedly be dead by now, considering she was about the same age as her friend Charlotte Rebhun who was born in 1908.  There is a slim chance her daughter Sonia would still be alive, although she would probably be in her late-80s.

Auschwitz Birkenau Database

Auschwitz Birkenau Database
Click on thumbnail to search the database.

Hoping to find for more information on Gertrude and Sonia’s fate in Auschwitz, I searched the Auschwitz prisoner database for them by name, but nothing came up.  This was not surprising, as many Auschwitz records were destroyed by the Nazis in the final days before the camp was liberated.

According to the website Więźniów  Pawiaka and Danuta Czech’s Auschwitz Chronicles, the 141 women on the transport were assigned numbers 55778 – 55918.  Curious about whether I could find information on any of the women on the transport, I searched it by number and was surprised to discover that many of the women were listed, and that they were assigned numbers in more or less alphabetical order. The first number #55778 was assigned to Anaszkiewicz, Marianna; the last number #55918 was assigned to Zielińska, Zofia. (This was slightly out of order since the last woman alphabetically Złotnicka, Irena was given #55907).

The list yielded valuable information about Gertrude and Sonia, but what I found was was quite different from what I expected.  I was stunned to discover that although there were 141 numbers reserved for the group, there were only 138 women who  were assigned these numbers.  Three women were missing from the list, including Gertrude and Sonia Preiss-Spiro. Considering the Auschwitz Chronicles do not mention any deaths while the transport was en route, nor any executions that took place upon arrival, I concluded that Gertrude and Sonia were not on the transport.  Although they were included on the “passenger” manifest, they probably did not board the train. There was no further information on the third missing woman, Elizabeth Rudnik.

The Warsaw GhettoTwo of the most valued commodities during wartime are liquor and tobacco.  According to Barbara Engelking’s book The Warsaw Ghetto, in March 1942, a few months before the major transport from the Ghetto to Treblinka, a pack of cigarettes cost about 0.4 zlotys.  In September 1942, as the situation in the Ghetto worsened, a cigarette cost 3 zlotys.  By May 1943, a cigarette cost 250 zlotys. The price of liquor also skyrocketed.

Until she was arrested, probably in the spring or summer of 1943, Gertrude Spiro owned a liquor and cigarette shop at Nowiniarska St. No. 2 on the Aryan side of Warsaw.  She must have accumulated much wealth through her shop, and was likely active in the Black Market.  She would have made many of the right contacts among the higher-ups in Warsaw, who probably depended on her to maintain their stock of liquor and cigarettes. She would have had the money and the connections to save herself and her daughter from being transported to Auschwitz.

My guess is that when the transport arrived at the camp, the person assigning the numbers realized that three prisoners were missing.  Knowing that he might be executed for the shortage, he simply skipped three numbers as he went down the list, making sure that the first number was assigned to the first woman on the list, and the last number to the last woman.  No one noticed.

Gertrude and Sonia probably bribed their way off the transport and went into hiding in Warsaw.

Nothing more is known of their fate.  A search of the Yad Vashem, Karta, the Memorial Book on the website of the BundesArchiv in Berlin has yielded no further information.  We continue to search, hoping that if Gertrude and Sonia survived, they may have left behind some information about the baby they helped smuggle from the Warsaw Ghetto in the fall of 1942.

To be continued…

Who Am I? What is My Name? Part I – Pnina, Otwoc, and the Kaczmareks

Who Am I? What is My Name? Part II – Pnina, Wolfgang, and the Warsaw Ghetto

Who Am I? What is My Name? Part III – Gertrude and Sonia Spyra

Who Am I? What is My Name? Part IV – Wolfgang and Adele’s Eyewitness Account

Who Am I? What is My Name?  Part V – Gertrude and Sonia’s Escape

Who Am I? What is My Name? Pari VI – Our Search for Gertrude Spiro

Posted in DNA Testing, Holocaust Project, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Los Angeles Times Article “DNA Sequencer could give doctors wealth of genetic information”.

An article appeared in the Los Angeles Times last Saturday January 4, 2014 that is of interest to the genetic genealogy community:

DNA Sequencer could give doctors wealth of genetic information.

The article was prompted by the recent FDA approval of the Illumina MiSeqDX DNA sequencer that can sequence a human genome in a couple of hours for about $5,000. Also approved last fall were two Illumina assays that can sequence for 139 genetic variations associated with cystic fibrosis, one of the most common inherited diseases.

The rapid turn-around, low cost, and more accurate sequencing of genetic data prompts the question:  Now that we can sequence a genome faster, cheaper, and better, what do we do with all that data?  The 2008 Genetic Information Disclosure Act (GINA) made it illegal for insurance companies or potential employers to discriminate against anyone because of his DNA.  But this was just the first of many issues that must be dealt with as we have increasing ability to access our own genomes.

If an individual gets his entire genome sequenced, who knows what he will discover?  And even if he is only interested in sequencing those parts of his genome containing information  specific to a genetic disease such as cystic fibrosis, what other unexpected markers might be discovered?

As an aside, in 2007, Nobel Prize Laureate James Watson, recognized along with Francis Crick and Rosalind Franklin for the discovery of the DNA double helix structure, was the first person to receive his personal genome, in a ceremony at Baylor College of Medicine (see  It cost $1M and took two months to sequence. 

Because Watson has a family history of cystic fibrosis, he requested that the segments of DNA containing the cystic fibrosis genes be omitted from his data. However, a few months later at a conference, someone commented that although segments specific to CF were omitted from the data presented to Watson,  because of the phenomenon of linkage disequilibrium, the data still contained information sufficient to tell him whether he carried the markers for the disease.  (Linkage disequilibrium describes the non-random inheritance of genetic markers, so that they appear together in the population more or less frequently than if they were inherited independently).  His data were immediately edited to delete the linked segments.

The article assumes that physicians are needed as intermediaries in genomic testing and evaluation – “[should] physicians ordering such tests – and the patients receiving their results….decide in advance how much of that incidental information they want to know”. However, the article also states that it might take a while for physicians to become proficient in conveying such information. Dr. Robert Green, a medical geneticist at Harvard University comments that,”We know that people get state-of-the-art genetic counseling and still walk out of that office confused”.

The direct-to-consumer (DTC) issue is addressed only as a muscle-flexing action on the part of the FDA, whose recent cease and desist order to 23andMe centered on the accuracy and reliability of the information provided by 23andMe’s personal genomic testing services. The a discussion on the nature of 23andMe’s claims about its product versus the FDA’s approval of its DTC testing is outside the scope of my comments.  But these claims aside, if physicians are not proficient in interpreting and conveying genomic information, why can’t I do that on my own?

What is not explicitly discussed in the article is the enormous market that is being created for genomic-information services. United Health Services Inc, the largest publicly-traded health insurer, estimates the market will increase to about $25 billion annually within a decade [1].

The public debate is about the accuracy and reliability of the genomic information conveyed to a patient.  But hidden below that is the real question of whether the medical industry can control that $25 billion annual market now that off-the-shelf technology enables genomic information to be made available direct-to-consumer.

Posted in DNA Testing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Am I? What is My Name? Part IV – Wolfgang and Adele’s Eyewitness Account

Charlotte Rebhun with Her Mother and Sibs

Margarete & Emil Schoessow Family (About 1922). From left to right, Erna, Herbert, Margarete (mother), Margarete (daughter),and Charlotte. Their father Emil is not pictured because he was killed in 1917 during World War I.

Charlotte Schössow Rebhun was the oldest of four children of Emil and Margarete Schössow from Berlin.  Charlotte, like her friend Gertrude Spiro, was a Christian woman who had married a Jew.  Charlotte’s husband Max Rebhun had moved from Poland to Germany and settled in Berlin, probably right after WWI.  Max was arrested on Kristalnacht in 1938, and sent to Poland. His wife Charlotte followed him in 1939 with their two children Wolfgang and Adele, where, after the outbreak of the War, the family lived in the Warsaw Ghetto.

On August 20, 1942, Max Rebhun was arrested on the street in Warsaw and sent to Treblinka.  Charlotte and the children fled to the Aryan side. They were living at 33 Krochmalna St. when later that year, she was approached about rescuing a nine-month-old Jewish infant.

The testimony given by Wolfgang and Adele Rebhun to the Yad Vashem upon their reunion with Pnina in March 1997, offers an eyewitness account of events surrounding her rescue from the point of view of adults who, as children, may have been told some things, and who may have assumed others.   The account is short with many gaps, but their testimony is the best description we have of Pnina’s parents. As Wolfgang and Adele related to the Yad Vashem:


Wolfgang and Adele’s testimony to the Yad Vashem, p1

“Such was our life.  So began and ended our common but also separate lives, our time of sorrow, years of humiliation, disempowerment, deprivation, torture, fear and cruelty – camp, ghetto, concentration camp, and death.

The two of us, our family’s survivors, are my brother Wolfgang, born on 27 November 1927 in Berlin, prisoner number 95864 from the Mauthausen concentration camp, and I, his sister Adele, born on October 10, 1930, in Berlin. We are survivors of the Warsaw ghetto.

After following many dangerous detours and perilous escape routes, the two of us, both survivors of the Holocaust, were reunited at my bedside in the Paulinen House at No. 28-30 Eschenallee 28-30, Berlin-Charlottenburg, on 22 June 1945.


Wolfgang and Adele’s testimony to the Yad Vashem, p2

We were very lucky – I had my brother and my brother had me.  When I was recovering from a serious injury on my hospital bed, we were given the terrible news :

Father was gassed in the Treblinka concentration camp, Uncle Karl was murdered in a concentration camp, Mother was shot.

We were both are orphans, with no one left.  We were survivors of the Holocaust.


Wolfgang and Adele’s testimony to the Yad Vashem, p3

Our reunion cannot be described – a human tragedy. We vowed never to be separated from each other again, no matter what may come.

From birth up through the time we went to school, we had shared a life nestled in our family, well protected and much cared for, without emotional stress, protected by our parents, as was so common in every other well-functioning family. We were a satisfied, happy family, with a modest income, and provided for by both parents through their initiative, connectedness, prudence and diligence. Our parents were, and remain for us children, without doubt, true role models in terms of their deeds especially in times of persecution, successfully using their personal lives to assist others persecuted by the Nazi regime. Until 1938 we lived in Lembachstrasse 6 in Berlin-Lichtenberg .

Our family members were:

Our Father – Max Rebhun – Trade Merchant – born  29 January 1906
Our Mother – Charlotte Rebhun born Schössow, Saleswoman – born 5 September 1908
Son – Wolfgang – born 27 November 1927
Daughter – Adele – born 10 October 1930

Uncle Karl (Kiwa), my father’s brother who was a regular guest with us, lived up to his arrest at No. 1 Gormannstr. in Berlin. Uncle Charles was born on 13 May 1892.

On Kristallnacht, November 8, 1938, at 4:30 am, our father was arrested as a Jew, taken from our apartment in Berlin at 6 Lembachstrasse, and transported with a group to Poland.

Two policemen from the police station in the Boxhagenerstrasse, demanded official entry [to our apartment].  Mother was asked to bring along warm things for Father, because he would be most likely be away for a long time.

From the police station he went with the group to the train station.

My mother followed the transport at a careful distance.

As a result of the arrest, our mother searched for Uncle Karl, who immediately hid himself in our apartment so that he was initially able to avoided arrest.


Max Rebhun’s Page of Testimony given by his son Wolfgang, 1997.

The arrest and detention of our father was a completely new situation for those of us who had remained behind.

We were in shock, felt despair, and at the same time, anger and anxiety, but were powerless. Our situation was then and is still now an intolerable mental burden.

As we have aged, our condition has become more and more unbearable.  Irritability, lack of concentration, poor sleep, headaches, and stomach problems, dizziness, restlessness, sensitivities are the consequences today of what we have lived through, an expression of our nervous constitution.

Today’s flight into memory harbors still a greater grief about those who have not survived. We feel that we can no longer escape this sorrow.


Kiwa Rebhun’s Page of Testimony given by his nephew Wolfgang, 1997.

The forced separation of our Father from our family was followed by psychological terror. Constant interrogation of my mother by the Gestapo resulted in significant health problems for both our mother and us children.

During the period of absolute separation from our Father, our mother’s interrogations were orchestrated by the secret police, and after she returned to our apartment, always ended with her absolute collapse, with unbearable headaches, migraines, even a temporary loss of consciousness.

The steadfastness and courage of our mother during her harassment by the Secret State Police was not without serious consequences to her health. Our mother sought more and more medicine from the hospital.

We children began to fear we would lose our mother.

In addition, up to that time, we had such a good, friendly relationship with our school friends.  My brother attended the 15th and I attended the 16th elementary school in Market Street, Berlin-Lichtenberg.  Suddenly things were so different, conditions changed. We had to leave school – there was no more room for Jewish children.

For us children it was all the more painful because it was no longer safe to play together outside in the street in our immediate neighborhood.

It all started with a conversation between Mrs. Gertrude Spyra, wife of a Jew from Berlin, and my mother, Charlotte Rebhun born Schössow.

The conversation involved the adoption of a small child of a Jewish family from the Warsaw ghetto – the safekeeping and the survival of the child until its retrieval after surviving threats to life and limb. The birth parents were organized resistance fighters in the Warsaw ghetto.

The handover of Baschke by the birth mother took place in our former apartment in Warsaw Krochmalna No. 33, and included a baby stroller with baby clothing.

The intention was presented to my mother, that after taking care of their responsibilities in the Ghetto, the parents would return for the child after not too long a period of time.

After that, in the fall of 1942 – the exact time unfortunately, does not come to mind – there was no sign of the parents.

Barbara’s parents were Polish Jews.

In daily life Barbara was our child and our sister, with the name Barbara Rebhun.

In August 1944, we were rounded up for a scheduled, yet for us, unexpected transport. We went through a selection on the outskirts of Warsaw during which we were forcibly separated from Baschka.

As a result of earlier correspondence initiated by the German Red Cross in Munich, including faxes, personal telephone calls, and letters, on March 30, 1997 the anticipated reunion occurred with Wolfgang Rebhun in Oberhausen, in the presence of his sister Adele.  We are both strongly convinced, based on the evidence, that Mrs. Pnina Gutman is our long-sought Barbara Rebhun.

In the fall of 1942, our mother took Baschka in under life-threatening conditions. For our mother it was an additional important responsibility, considering her hope that we would survive together.  Our father was at this time no longer with us.

We would like to add that Mother and Wolfgang were organized members of PAL and had the responsibility for perilous tasks for the Underground during the Ghetto uprising.

It was such a responsibility for her to take Baschka, to do everything imaginable to keep the child alive.

Wolfgang Rebhun                                      Adele Bogner
Oberhausen                                                  geb. Rebhun
1.4.1997                                                          Potsdam Ebraestr.

Charlotte Rebhun was executed by the SS in 1945 after returning to Berlin.  On November 10, 1997, Yad Vashem recognized her as Righteous Among the Nations.

Wolfgang died in 2007; Adele died in 2010.

To be continued.

Part I:  Who Am I?  What is My Name? Part I – Pnina, Otwoc, and the Kaczmareks

Part II: Who Am I? What is My Name? Part II – Pnina, Wolfgang, and the Warsaw Ghetto

Part III:  Who Am I? What is My Name?  Part III – Gertrude and Sonia Spyra

Part IV:  Who Am I, What is My Name? Part Wolfgang & Adele’s Eyewitness Account

Part V:  Who Am I, What is My Name? Gertrude and Sonia’s Escape

Part VI:  Who Am I, What is My Name? Our Search for Gertrude Spiro

Posted in Holocaust Project, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Who Am I, What is My Name? Part III – Gertrude and Sonia Spyra

Gertrude Spyra and Charlotte Rebhun, Warsaw, about 1942

Gertrude Spyra and Charlotte Rebhun, Warsaw, about 1942

A mystery within the mystery of Pnina’s identity is the fate of Gertrude Spyra and her daughter Sonia. As the parties responsible for smuggling Pnina from the Warsaw Ghetto, Gertrude and Sonia may have left behind clues about Pnina’s parents. Perhaps the Spyras wrote letters to their family members, as did their friend Charlotte Rebhun. Perhaps a co-worker overheard something they said about how they saved a baby during the last days before the Ghetto Uprising.

According to “the story”, Pnina’s parents approached a German soldier about smuggling their daughter out of the Warsaw Ghetto in late 1942-early 1943.  The soldier was the sweetheart of Sonia Spyra, Gertrude’s daughter.  The story relates that Gertrude was already hiding Jews, and that she did not have the resources to help anyone else, so she asked her friend Charlotte Rebun if she could take the baby in as her own.  Gertrude and Charlotte were Christian women who had been married to Jewish husbands. Both couples had been deported to Warsaw, the Rebhuns from Berlin, and the Spyras presumably from somewhere in Germany. Both husbands were arrested or “disappeared” in the early 1940s.  Charlotte agreed to take in the child, and sometime later Pnina was delivered to her apartment in a white baby carriage with a note indicating her name was Barbara Wenglinski.

Over the last year, we have discovered much about Gertrude Spyra and Pnina’s parents that has answered some questions. But so many others have been raised.


Missing Identity Homepage

Our team of researchers now includes Pnina Gutman, Eva Floresheim, owner of the website, myself, and two new members:

Cate Bloomquist – Forensic genealogist, colleague, and friend whom I have known through my Forensic Genealogy website and Facebook page, and

Hania Allen – Researcher and friend of Polish background living in Scotland. After the war, Hania’s parents immigrated to Scotland, where she was born.  I became friends with Hania when I helped her find long lost cousins George and Betty, whose family had gone to America before the War.


Our much-needed breakthrough came when Cate discovered Gertrude and Sonia Preiss- Spiro on a transport from Pawiak Prison in Warsaw to Auschwitz on 24 August 1943.  This was just a few months after the Ghetto had been destroyed during the Uprising in April and May of that year.  Approximately 100,000 men and 200,000 women passed through the prison, mostly members of the Armia Krajowa (the Polish resistance movement), political prisoners, and civilians taken as hostages in street round-ups.  An estimated 37,000 were executed and 60,000 sent to German death and concentration camps.

According to the list found on the prison’s website

Name                                                               Date                                            Prisoner Nos.
Piss-Spiro (Preiss-Spiro), Gertrude             24-8-1943                                  55778-55918
Piss-Spiro (Preiss-Spiro), Sonia                    24-8-1943                                  55778-55918


In Danuta Czech’s Auschwitz Chronicles, there is a mention of the transport arriving at Auschwitz the next day, 25-8-1943.  There is no mention of prisoners dying during transport, or a selection upon arrival, giving us hope that Gertrude and Sonia arrived alive and may have survived, at least for a while.

Gertrude’s name was recorded as both Piss-Spiro and Preiss-Spiro.  We have concluded that the name was probably Preiss-Spiro, with Preiss being the German part of her name, and Spiro being the Jewish part. There is still a question about why her name was hyphenated and which name was her married name and which was her maiden name.

Cate’s initial discovery led us to many others that have allowed us to fill in more of the story of Gertrude Preiss-Spiro. The General Government Telephone Directories for Poland from 1941 and 1942 list Gertrude Spiro, Verk. v. Spirit. und Zigaretten (liquor and cigarette saleswoman), with her shop located at 2 Nowinarska St.,  and her residence in 1942 listed as 48 Tamka St, Warsaw.  This is the address that Pnina remembers for “her” Gertrude Spiro.

Researching other Polish directories has led us to further revelations.  In the 1938 Polish Companies, Industry, and Trade, Cate discovered a Gertruda Spyra who was a partner in Poniecki, Meisner & Co., a wine and spirits manufacturing company in Chorzów near Katowice in southeast Poland.  This must certainly be the same Gertrud, as the chances are slim that there were two different women with the same name (although with different spellings), who were both in wine and liquor sales.


Poniecki, Meisner & Co. Poster, c 1935

A further clue is provided by the 1934 and 1936 directories, where the partner in the Poniecki company is listed as Dr. Jan Spyra, also listed as a medical doctor residing at 4th of May St. No. 3.  The change in the name of the town from Krolewska Huta in 1934 to Chorzów in 1936 occurred as a result of one of several political reorganizations of the area between the early 1920s and the mid-1940s.   

Following several uprisings, the eastern part of Silesia, including Chorzów and Królewska Huta, was separated from Germany and awarded to Poland in 1922. In 1934 the industrial communities of Chorzów, Królewska Huta and Nowe Hajduki were merged into one municipality with 81,000 inhabitants. The name of the oldest settlement Chorzów  was given to the whole city.  On the day of the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, Chorzów was annexed by Nazi Germany and promptly re-incorporated into German Silesia.  At the end of World War II, Chorzów, along with the rest of Silesia, was re-incorporated into Poland. 

The change in hands of Chorzów between Poland and Germany could account for much more than the change in name of the town. It could also explain why the Rebhuns referred to Gertrude as German, and why she apparently left Chorzów for Warsaw in 1939-1940. Beginning in October 1939, as part of their “Germanization” plan, the SS began to expel Poles and Jews from the Polish Corridor (including Chorzów).  If Gertrude’s husband was Jewish, he may have been deported to Warsaw, which was a part of the General Government district, and she would have undoubtedly accompanied him. Although he was apparently taken away or disappeared not too long after they arrived there, Gertrude may have been allowed to remain and to live on the Aryan side of town because of her German heritage. 

So who was Dr. Jan Spyra?

According to the Polish medical directories from the 1920s and 1930s, Jan Spyra was a medical doctor born in 1869, who received his medical degree in 1896.  He appeared in the city directories as early as 1906, when he was listed as Hans Spyra, the town was known as Königshütte, and 4th May St. was called Kronprinzen St.:

Koenigshutte 1906_07


          1906/1907 through 1913
          Spyra, Dr. Hans, Arzt (doctor),                        Kronprinzenstr. 4, tel #1095

Jan Spyra’s obituary appeared in the Polonia newspaper, 22 July 1934, p. 6. Roughly translated, it reads:

Polonia 24 July 1934 - Jan Spyra Death NoticeIn Chorzów died on 22 July 1934, a member of the local medical community, Jan Spyra, doctor, physician of Chorzów.  The medical community of Chorzów has lost a diligent employee and a good doctor.  May he rest in peace!  Chorzów, 22 July 1934

Gertrude is subsequently listed in the 1938 Polish Directory (excluding Warsaw) as Gertrude Spirowa, wdowa po lekarzu, (widow of a doctor), Mikolow, Jamny 13.  Note the name Spirowa is a variation on the name Spiro that indicates a widow.

1938_Poland_Dir._(excl._Warsaw)_-_- Spyras - d756 - Gertrude is Listed as a Widow Cropped

Dr. Jan’s death in 1935 explains why his widow Gertruda assumed his position as a partner in the liquor company in late 1935-early 1936.  If she is “our” Gertrude Spiro, she married a man who was much older than she was, who died before she left for Warsaw in about 1940.  Other possibilities are that the Gertrude listed with the liquor company was the mother or the mother-in-law of the Gertrude who had the liquor and tobacco shop in Warsaw.  It is hard to believe that there could be two unrelated Gertrude Spyras in the liquor business at the same time. 

The directories also provide information on other members of the Spyra family. Herman Lotar Spyra first appears in the 1936 Polish Medical Yearbook listed twice – once in Myslowice (another name for Mikolow) near Katowice, and a second time with an office at the address on 4th May St. in Chorzów  He was born in 1905, and received his medical degree in 1932:

1936 Directory of Doctors, Herman Lotar Spyra, (1905, 1932), og., ul. 3 Maja 4, tel. 411-01

1936 Polish Medical Yearbook
Spyra, Herman Lotar (1905-1932) og., ul. 3 Maya 4, tel 410-95 

Note that the last four digits of Herman Lotar’s telephone number are the same as Dr. Jan’s.  Undoubtedly, he worked as his father’s assistant until his father died in 1935, at which time he took over his practice.

Two other Jan Spyras with medical backgrounds appear in various directories:

– Jan Spyra, b 1906, received his degree in dentistry in 1934; his office was located at 3 Kopernika St., Katowice, and

– Jan Albin Spyra, b 1907, received his degree in medicine on 19 Mar 1937; his office was located in Bielszowice, Katowice.

We have not been able to link these two Jans to Gertrude’s family, although we believe they may be related.


While we are researching the fate of Gertrude and her daughter Sonia after they arrived at Auschwitz, we have discovered what happened to Herman Lotar Spyra, giving us hope that we will be able to locate surviving Spyra family members.

Lotar Spyra m Maria Focjik in late 1947

Lotar Spyra m Maria Focjik in late 1947

Their daughter Gloria was born in late 1947.

Their daughter Gloria was born in late 1947.

After the war, Lotar moved to the UK, where he married Maria Focjik in late 1946 in Romsey, Hampshire, England. They had a daughter Gloria, born in mid-1947.

Three months later, the family were listed on the passenger manifest for the ship Empire Bure, sailing from Liverpool to Tobago, with an ultimate destination of British Guyana.  There were quite a few Polish refugees on board the vessel who were sent out by the British War Office, but the Spyras seem to have been traveling separately from the group.  It is doubtful that they traveled on the ship, since their names are struck through and they appear two weeks later on November 15, 1947, on the passenger manifest for the Almanzora, traveling from Southampton to Bermuda via Jamaica and Trinidad.   Their ultimate destination was again listed as British Guyana.

Whether the family arrived in British Guyana or whether they disembarked in Tobago and sailed for another destination is not known.  They do not appear in the passenger arrivals for New York.  The last known record of Lotar, Maria, and Gloria is a US Department of Justice notice stating that the family was detained and deported from the US on 2 January 1951. They departed from New York on Pan American Flight 2o5 bound for Georgetown, British Guyana via Puerto Rico.

Lotar, Maria, and Gloria, Spyra dep'd to Georgetown after being detained in NY, 2 Jan 1951We have contacted the Guyana Archives in Georgetown, hoping there may be records of what happened to the Spyra family. Perhaps Gloria is still alive and she can relate to us what she was told about her aunt(?) Gertrud Spyra.  Perhaps she has letters that she has kept for decades as a remembrance of her family who were killed in the war. I’ve also written posts on the Guyana Then and Now blog that is popular among English-speaking people who grew up there, and who might remember a middle-aged Polish doctor with his young Polish wife and daughter.  Perhaps someone on the blog went to school with little Gloria.  But so far, no one has responded to my queries and nothing more is known about the whereabouts of Dr. Lotar Spyra and his family.


Perhaps the most important clue to how Pnina was smuggled from the Ghetto is quietly hidden in all the facts we have unearthed in our pursuit of the fate of Gertrude Spyra.

There is a significance of alcohol and tobacco in war time.  They are the primary currency of the Black Market.

Our search for the fate of Gertrude Spyra and her daughter Sonia has led us from Warsaw to Chorzów, to the UK, to New York, and finally to British Guyana via San Juan, Puerto Rico.  We must now return to where we started in the Warsaw Ghetto.

To be continued…

Part I:   Who Am I, What Is My Name? Pnina, Otwoc, and the Kazcmareks

Part II:  Who Am I? What is My Name? Pnina, Wolfgang, and the Warsaw Ghetto

Part III: Who Am I, What is My Name? Gertrude and Sonia Spyra

Part IV:  Who Am I, What is My Name? Wolfgang & Adele’s Eyewitness Account

Part V:  Who Am I? What is My Name?  Gertrude and Sonia’s Escape

Part VI:  Who Am I? What is My Name? Our Search for Gertrude Spiro

Posted in Finding Birth Parents, Holocaust Project, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments