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 Postcards from Home 



Kalisz, Poland
cir 1935


Berl Braun, the grandfather of survivors Felix, Joseph and Harry Braun -- also known by their Yiddish names, Fischel, Yusef and Hirshel -- is the central figure in this large family gathering of 1935.  Bearded and garbed in Orthodox Jewish dress, Berl was the oldest of a number of brothers, and at least one sister.  His wife, Sarah Rozen Braun, who grew up Lodz, could not attend this party.  Berl ran a shop that was located in Mszczonow or Amshinov, Poland (a small town between Lodz and Warsaw), cleaning and curing cow intestines for non-Jewish butchers and sausage makers.  Several of his brothers appear in the photograph, along with various in-laws, aunts, uncles and cousins standing beside and among them.  Levi Braun, one of Berlís nine children, is the balding gentleman at the table dressed in a suit to our right. Like his father, he owned a similar shop or factory in Kalisz, Poland, but it operated on a larger scale.  

The family portrait with various members of the Braun family may have been taken at Leviís home in Kalisz.  He is believed to have organized the banquet to celebrate the emigration of Berlís brother and family to the promised land -- Palestine.   

Below the proud Berl sits the guests of honor: twelve year-old Tova Braun along with her parents to our left.  Her brother, Yitzach, sits sandwiched to our left between two people, a woman (who may be his mother) and an an older relative wearing glasses and sporting a grand, bushy moustache.  The family members who relocated to Israel, later settling in Ramat-Gan, survived the Shoah but lost contact with other survivors thereafter.  

Standing at the extreme right of the photograph is a pale, serious young man dressed in a suit and tie -- he is Leybish Braun, one of Berlís grandsons.  He is posed just behind a young seated pair ó a teenage boy, and a smiling girl with curly, light brown hair (they remain unidentified).  Leybish was the son of Noach, another of Berlís sons.  He was the eldest brother of Fishel, Yusef and Hirshel, who were all too far away to attend the gathering.  At the time of the party, Leybish was about eighteen years old and just finishing high school.  A very talented student and artist, he went on to study mathematics at the University of Warsaw and work for another relative who was an international industrialist (and the son of yet, another of Berlís brothers).  When war broke out, Leiby safely escaped to a town in the Ukraine behind the new Soviet Union border, and found work as an accountant.  

Rumor suggested that he returned to Warsaw, hoping to rescue his parents. They decided to relocate their small textile shop to Warsawís Jewish District from Mszczonow, when the local economy began to flail several years before.  Noach and Ita Braun, along with other relatives, became entrapped within the Ghetto.  In desperation, they had just managed to smuggle out their youngest son Yusef to Russia.  Leybish, arriving in Warsaw, supposedly became involved in an underground plot to blow up the crematoriums at Auschwitz.  His fate was never ascertained, but what is a fact is how he disappeared after leaving the Russian republic. Tragically, he was never heard from again, nor were his parents.

Aside from the relatives who left for Palestine soon after this banquet, the majority of the family members who appear here along with their loved ones are believed to have become ensnared in the hands of the Nazis.  After Polandís liberation, Fishel returned from the far mountains of Russia to his hometown of Mszczonow to search for survivors.  Instead, he found the town in rubble, and learned of Berlís death from a lung condition related to his work shortly before the German occupation. His grandmother Sarah, as the others in this photograph, vanished in the blistering frenzy of the Holocaust.  

Two of Fischelís three brothers survived and were reunited after the war.

Family today are still trying to identify the names of the other relatives appearing in this photograph.

 In Memory Of
Harry (Hirshel) Braun (c. 1921-1999) &
Joseph (Yusef) Brown (aka Braun) (1923-2007)




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