Mark Rogers, my maternal great grandfather, was born in Kłodawa in 1873 about six weeks after the death of his father Tsvi Moshe who had been in the honey business. In 1879 Mark's brother Solomon was the first to emigrate to the United States, settling in Seattle after short stays in New York and San Francisco. His eldest sister Mary followed him but stayed in New York City with her mother's sister Deborah/Esther Seligman Alexander. Finally Mark and the rest of the family, mother Lena Seligman Rajewski, and sisters, Clara, Anna and Augusta joined Mary in New York in about 1883.
Download a Rogers family history.
Documents from my research can be seen here.
Monika had read that some of the grave stones had been retrieved and kept in the history room of a local school. We set off to find them. We hit pay dirt at the second school we went to -- Szkola Podstawowa Nr 2, W Klodawie.
We were in luck! The manager of the "history room," Ywona Kucharska, happened to be at the school during summer break. She took us upstairs to the history room, a small corner of her classroom brimming with old things from Kłodawa -- ancient cell phones, military uniforms, a typewriter, food grinders and other artifacts of daily life.
Before we get started, I want to point out something that I learned only after I’d arrived in Poland—that the "l" with a slash in it is pronounced "w," thus Kłodawa is pronounced "Kwodava."
Susan's colleague, Monika Rogoska-Stangret, a feminist philosopher, was our guide and translator. We drove a few hours west from Warsaw, through the beautiful countryside. In the town's square, there is the ubiquitous WWII memorial, this one a bit dilapidated. As usual, the statue commemorated military leaders and there was no mention that virtually all 1500 Jews of Kłodawa (about 30% of the town's population) had been killed in WWII.
I learned that Polish town squares were typically commercial centers and the Jews, largely involved in commerce and the trades (tailor, shoe maker, tinsmith, etc.), lived in close proximity to the squares. Both churches and synagogues were located off the square but nearby. The Jewish cemeteries were usually some distance from the synagogues, and most were completely demolished by the Nazis. Not only had they tried to annihilate all Jews, they systematically tried to obliterate all signs of their existence. The grave stones were either plowed under, or were used to build roads or buildings.
Moving to the front of the room, we saw a niche with a display about Jewish Kłodawa! In it were fragments of grave stones. In addition there was a copy of the only remaining photograph of the synagogue, or what Ywona called the "praying building." Monika was our translator. Ywona is an extraordinary person with a deep interest in teaching her students about Jewish life and the Holocaust.
While Polish schools now teach curriculum about the Holocaust (Monika told us that they learned nothing about when she was in school, starting in 1989). Ywona goes to the extra trouble of taking her students to the nearby site of the Chełmno extermination camp, the place to which most Kłodawa Jews who were not immediately killed were taken, and which now has a memorial center.
Ywona told us that the synagogue had been between the town square and the church, so we retraced our steps to see it after buying some delicious local cherries. The site is currently occupied by the local cultural center.
Ywona told us that the cemetery had been completely destroyed but that there was a memorial marker at its site. We were unable to find the cemetery but you can see a picture of it here.
Other sites about Kłodawa