Monday, July 5, 2010

Questions About Brest and the Brest Ghetto

Over the past year I've learned a lot about my ancestors who lived and died in Brest. As for many of us, there are still many questions that may never be answered. I have a couple of questions I'd like to throw out there, questions I need to ask even though I think I already know the answers. The questions revolve around the fact that I'm missing information about some of the men in the family...husbands, sons, brothers about whom we know nothing.

My gg-grandparents were Moshe-Hirsh TOKAR and Szprinca LAST TOKAR. Szprinca died in the early 1920s in Brest. Moshe-Hirsch died in the Brest Ghetto. They had 9 children: Szymon, Sheine, Hulke/Chwalysz, Frejda, Icko, Doba, Reyzl, Meyer and one whose name no one remembers.

Szymon TOKAR - married Frejda ENGIEL. They had 11 children who lived to adulthood: 6 sons, 3 daughters, and 2 whose names no one remembers. Szymon and Frejda, along with the 2 youngest daughters died in the Brest Ghetto. The other daughter Gitla was married. Her married name was MESAZNIK. She died in the Brest Ghetto with her 2 small children but I have no information about her husband. Of the 6 sons, we know that Lejzor was captured by the Germans and after serving time in the Stalag camps was transported back to Poland where he died or was killed at Lublin 7 or Majdanek. His wife Chana and young daughter died in the Brest Ghetto. Another son, Sidor, was also captured by the Germans and served time in the Stalag camps but he was transported to France (vs Poland) where he escaped. Sidor survived the war and emigrated to Argentina after discovering that there was no family left in Brest (I'm in touch with his son). Sidor submitted a Page of Testimony for his brother Saul but all he reported that was that Saul died in Brest. Saul was not in the Brest Ghetto. Neither were the other sons Meir, Leibel, and Ruben. So in this family group, we don't know what happened to Gitla's husband ?? MESAZNIK, as well as TOKAR brothers Saul, Meir, Leibel, and Ruben.

Sheine TOKAR - married Moshe SZNAJDER. These are my great-grandparents. They emigrated to America with all of their children in the 1920s.

Hulke/Chwalysz TOKAR - married Szaja-Wigdor LEJBZON. I found them on the Biala Podlaska (Poland) 1939 Census with their 5 sons. I know that the 2 sons who escaped to Russia in 1940 survived the war and emigrated to Israel. We can only guess at the fate of the rest of the family. The story is that Szaja-Wigdor boarded the train to Russia with his 2 sons but then decided that he was too old for the journey and got off the train.

Frejda TOKAR - married Icko CHAZAN. Died in the Brest Ghetto with her 4 children. Icko was not in the Ghetto.

Icko/Itsko TOKAR - married to Bejla. Icko, Bejla, and 3 children died in the Brest Ghetto.

Doba TOKAR - married to Berko MILNER. Died in the Brest Ghetto with 1 son. Berko was not in the Ghetto.

Reyzl TOKAR - married Chaim KRINSKY. They emigrated to Israel with their infant son in 1933.

Meyer TOKAR - died as a teenager long before WWII.

It would be wonderful if I could figure out what happened to the men who were likely still living in Brest at the start of the war but never made it to the Ghetto. I regularly check the Polish War Victims website at in the hopes of seeing posts for these missing men. The website hasn't been active long and new information is still being added. It is very possible that most of the younger men enlisted in, or were drafted into, the Polish army. 

My questions:

1) In the book "Bashert", the author mentions a couple of times that there were 500 Jews who escaped the Brest Ghetto but were later captured and murdered in a town named Motikali. I can't find any information about this town or even when this event occurred. I'm wondering if the escape took place before the Ghetto IDs were issued. Does anyone have more information about this? Was a list of the escapees every created?

2) In 1941, a few weeks after the Germans took control of Brest again, 5000 men were taken from their homes and killed. I've seen a note that the main targets of this Aktion were educated professionals. I don't know that any of my ancestors would fall into this category but who knows. Does anyone know if there is a list of these victims? Since there was a target group, the Germans must have had a list or maybe the Brest residents attempted to create one.

3) Is there any record of the 1939 Polish army conscriptions or list of volunteers? This would at least let me know if any of the missing men in my family were in the army.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information. It seems that the JG site is looseing much of it's appeal when poster's have restrictions. In addition, it's terrible when I have a like minded question but cannot see posted answers.
Thanks again a job well done.

Sharon said...

Update on the spelling of Motikali...looks like a better spelling is Motykaly.

Sharon said...

Tsarist russians listed the births of all males as they were eligible for army service at 21 years of age (born 1891-1918) at

This is for conscrition into the Russian Army for WWII, not the Polish Army before or at the beginning of WWII. No info here to help me but still an important database.