Family History




Thoughts of Home

Eliezer brought his family to Australia because life was so terribly  hard in Szczuczyn. He wanted to give his children a better future, but that never meant that he forgot about his parents and where he had come from. Right from the time he left Poland, Eliezer and his father wrote to each other regularly in Yiddish. Then, in 1941, the letters stopped coming. Even before that, the letters were telling Eliezer how the Jew's situation in Szczuczyn was deteriorating. He knew that his father and mother were barely surviving and many of his friends were also writing and telling of tough times. Still, it is safe to assume that when the final letter arrived from Eliezer's only brother Nison, it was a terrible shock.

Standing left to right: Yehudit and Rachel Rozental
Seated left to right: Only Zelda Rozental is indentified, far right.
Unidentified women may be Zelda's sisters or half-sisters,
Szczuczyn, Poland, 1928.

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In fact, Eliezer was so devastated when he found out what had happened to his friends and family in Szczuczyn, he wouldn't speak about any of it at all. Our family never really knew what had become of Eliezer's parents - we thought they had died of starvation in the Szczuczyn ghetto. Any time anyone asked Eliezer about Szczuczyn or the family he had left behind, he would start to cry. When he died  in 1988, we thought the stories of  his life in Szczuczyn, his parents, his brother and his friends, had died with him.

Zelda had died earlier, in 1963, and although she left us with photos of her family and friends, the photos were largely uncaptioned, and many of the people in them unidentifiable.

Because of this, much of our family's history was a complete mystery...until March 2001. On March 11, 2001 a very special photographic exhibition opened at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park, New York. Called "Lives Remembered: A Shtetl Through a Photographer's Eye", the exhibition showcased many of the photographs of Zalman Kaplan, Szczuczyn's resident photographer. On that night, many Kayman relatives met for the first time and learnt that there is a huge extended family spread all over the world.

Through the exhibition we found our cousin,  Carolyn Kaiman Rosenstein, a retired sociologist from Los Angeles, California, who had been tracing the Kayman family tree. Carolyn found records of Kayman ancestors all the way back to Chaim Kajman/Kayman, who was born around 1757 in Szczuczyn. That's 7 generations back!

The now enormous interest in Szczuczyn and the Kayman family makes these letters even more important, to even more people. As for the letters themselves, they have survived silverfish infestation a brush with an avid stamp collector and many years in a damp garage. They were finally rediscovered and rescued in 2003, and lovingly translated by Israel Kipen. We thank him for his generosity and for the sensitivity with which he has unearthed our family treasures. And we thank Melbourne's Jewish Holocaust Museum for archiving and protecting the letters for our family, our community, and our future generations.

--Norman Kayman and Selina Kayman Joseph
   June 2004

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Copyright 2007. Museum of Family History.
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