I was about to make a call on my landline when my cell phone rang. The number was not one I recognized, and I hoped it was someone calling me for a job interview. I answered with hope. As soon as I heard the caller's European accent, I knew it was something else. The woman explained that she was calling from the Red Cross. In March, I had filed paperwork with the Red Cross International Tracing Service, hoping to find out more about my grandfather's mother (Pesa or Pesel), sisters (Estera, Tema, and Doba), or niece (Beila). I balanced on the edge of the couch and held my breath while Francoise explained that they received information about Pesa and Estera.
As she read me their biographical information, Maurice (the hamster who runs on the wheel that powers my brain) went ballistic. Pesa, Francoise explained, was born in Staszow in 1868 to Zelman Schmeiser and Bronia Goldman. Now I knew my great-grandmother's maiden name. I could barely focus on what Francoise said as she continued. I heard her say something about Wilno and Lodz. Estera Reisman, she said, was born in 1911 to Hersh and Pesa. She arrived with Pesa at the DP Camp Fliegerhorst on September 17, 1946. They emigrated to Israel in December 1948.
Maurice came to a dead halt. My grandfather's mother and one of his sisters had survived the war after all. I gagged, thinking about the time they lost. But Maurice began running again and I realized something did not make sense. Grandpa was also born in 1911, in October. So unless Estera was his twin sister or he was an "Irish twin" (i.e. - conceived not long after his sister was born so they shared a birth year), this was not the same Pesa and Estera.
"Where did you say they lived before the war?" I asked in a shaky voice.
"Lodz," Francoise said. "Is something wrong?"
"I don't think this is the right Hersh, Pesa, and Estera Reisman," I said. I fell back against the couch cushions. "Is it possible for me to come in and look at the documents?"
Long story short, I packed the few documents I have from my grandfather and the results I received from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum's research on Doba and Beila Srodogora, and I went down to the Red Cross. Francoise and I compared all of the documents and concluded that these cannot be the people I seek. She said that she will contact the main office and reopen the case.
On my way home, Maurice trotted on his wheel. The paperwork said that the Reismans (really Rajzmans, according to their signatures, but the Americans typed it as Reisman - just like my family) had a son named Zalman. What if my grandfather was Zalman and he changed his identity for some reason? No, that would not make sense. Zalman was also at the camp and went to Palestine in 1948. I called Husband who confirmed that it was far more likely that these were just the wrong people, which made me feel better.
I am curious what, if anything, will surface next. (Yesterday while I was at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum's library, I found a photo of Doba's building in a book of photos from the Warsaw ghetto.)