Saturday, December 8, 2018

Letter from Bergen Belsen

My great-uncle, Izzy Joshowitz, was my grandmother's older brother.  He was born in what was then Czechoslovakia (and is now Ukraine) and came to America when he was 7 years old.  During World War Two, he was an officer in the Army Air Corps.  As the war ended, he was sent to Bergen Belsen, where he met some cousins (who he had never before met in person, as they were born in Europe after he left to America) who had survived.

Recently, his daughter Randi went through some old boxes in her mother's attic, and she found the following letter:
Letter from Bergen Belsen

This letter is Yiddish, but is written in Latin letters.  Thanks to Paul Work on the Genealogy Translations Facebook group and Yiddish Translator on Twitter for this translation.

Bergen Belzen
December 9, 1945

Dear Cousin!

Just today did I have a good day with what I received from you. I am still in the same camp, unfortunately miserably alone. I was very happy with seeing that I also have ?? from our family. I would very might like it if I could speak with you personally. Dear Cousin, if you can, come visit me. With this, I end my letter. Heartfelt greetings and kisses from me, your cousin Rifke Mindl Katz, who awaits a personal answer from you.

Also in this box was a letter in English, which likely was sent along with this letter, send from the "Jew Relig. Cong., Adath Sheerith Yisrael, Camp Belsen."

(Note that Sheerith Yisrael translates as "Remnants of Israel" which would be appropriate for the Jewish congregation of survivors in Bergen Belsen..)

Mr. H. I. Joskowitz, 0581921
818 Chemical Co., Ste. 139 Apo 559. c/o PM, Ny

According to your request is (sic) your letter we searched for your cousin Miss Regina Katz.  We found her and we send in enclosure the letter she writes to you.

Yours truly
1 encl.

Rifke Mindl Katz (aka Regina Katz) was Uncle Izzy's (and my grandmother's) first cousin.  She married soon after the war (to Lazar Kupfer--later known as Larry), and their son Sam was born in Europe.  With Uncle Izzy's help, they emigrated to America; in fact, his address in McKeesport (and that of my great grandmother) was their intended destination on their 1949 ship manifest.
Kupfer Family Ship Manifest, 1949
Years later, my brother was in yeshiva in Israel, and my parents came to visit.  He introduced his friend, Moshe Kupfer.  My mom asked who his father was; Moshe was Sam's son.  My brother was friends with his third cousin and neither of them realized!

You can now like my page on Facebook:

or .

Want to get future blog posts emailed to you automatically?
Enter your email address:


  1. What a story. Amazing. Must be relations of mine because of the McKeesport reference, no?

    1. By marriage. Regina is related to my grandmother. You're related to my grandfather, who moved to McKeesport from Pittsburgh when he got married.

  2. This is an amazing, heartfelt story. The timing (considering the season), couldn't be better. You must have been thrilled with this find!