Monday, July 11, 2016

Personal Research Projects Seeking Information and Participants

Usually the projects I write about are posted on public Web pages, often by organizations rather than individuals.  These, however, are smaller scale, people who sent messages to e-mail groups I'm in.  I checked with each of them beforehand to see if a little extra publicity about the projects might be helpful.

The Dora
Joke Stans is a graduate student at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, currently writing a Master's thesis about a Jewish refugee ship named the Dora.  This ship sailed from Amsterdam (with a stopover in Antwerp on 17 July 1939) to Palestine and arrived on 12 August 1939 at Sheffaym Beach.  The research is on the passengers who embarked in Antwerp and on the organization of the illegal Zionist undertaking (from the Belgian perspective).

The hope is to find more information concerning contacts between the Belgian authorities/leaders and the Palestinian, British, and Dutch embassies (a lot of organization on account of the Dutch Jewish Committee) or other representatives in the case of the Dora.

Perhaps information exists about contacts between Belgian Jewish committees (Belgian Zionist Federation, Jewish relief committees in Antwerp and Brussels) and governmental authorities or between different Jewish organizations (Hagana, which organized the trip; HICEM; Mossad l'Aliyah Bet; the Joint; Dutch Jewish committees).  So far five pages have been discovered in the State Archives in Brussels, but that is all.

The Belgian government offered assistance for the trip but denied its part in the undertaking to British emmissaries.

It is unknown so far who took the lead in this in Belgium, but perhaps Max Gottschalk had a role in the organization of the trip.  In addition, the Torczyner and Kubowitsky families were involved in one way or another.

Joke is also searching for databases and information about the places where the passengers on the ship prepared for the trip (hachshara).  Already known is a database for training farms in Germany.

Some people did their hachshara in Villers-la-Ville, Belgium.  Because a lot of the passengers on the Dora came to Belgium from Austria and Poland, they might have done their hachshara in Poland and Austria, so a list of those locations would also be helpful.  Probably the majority of the passengers did the hachshara somewhere, but this is not definitely known.

If you know of any information which could be helpful to Joke's research, please contact her at

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The father of SFBAJGS board member Preeva Tramiel created a shelter for Jews to hide in toward the end of World War II, somewhere near Munkacs or Kaschau or in between.  She is looking for names of and information about people he saved.  Does anyone have parents who escaped the camps by hiding in a building used by the Germans to repair vehicles?  Or have you heard a story about the shelter?  If so, please contact Preeva at

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Stephen Ankier is conducting research on the massacres in Słonim, Belarus during World War II.  He would like to hear from anyone who was a witness to the massacres in Słonim, who has relevant reliable information or documents about those events, or who has information about events that occurred in Słonim prison.  He is particularly looking for documents and photos that can be shared showing the names of any voluntary auxiliary policemen who worked for the Nazi SS in Słonim — in the prison or transporting prisoners from the prison to the death pits or active executioners — during the period 1941–1944.

Any assistance is appreciated, as even one small fragment of information can often lead to others.  If you can help, contact Stephen Ankier at

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Michael Waas, a Master's candidate in Jewish history at the University of Haifa, is looking for individuals to participate in a study of Western Sephardi paternal DNA lineages.  Thanks to a generous grant, testing kits will be provided at no cost to participants.  Eligible men are those who are direct paternal-line descendants of the Western Sephardi community.

What is the Western Sephardi community?  The Western Sephardim were arguably the original transnational people in the age of Imperialism and Colonialism, transcending religious boundaries and empires.  Western Sephardim had significant communities in Amsterdam, London, Livorno, Venice, Bordeaux, and Southwest France and their daughter communities in the New World in Curacao, Suriname, and North America.  Western Sephardim also went to the Ottoman Empire, most notably to Izmir, Salonika, and Tunis.

Anyone who is of direct paternal descent from those communities is eligible.  Michael himself is part of the testing cohort, representing the Vaz Lopes family of Bordeaux and Amsterdam.  As part of the testing, he will also need an accurate paternal genealogy, with as much information as each participant can provide.

The goal of this project is to try to shed light on the origins of the Western Sephardi community and to establish a strong dataset of DNA results, grounded in strong archival research and results that could lead to further intensive studies of Sephardim.

The aim is to have at least 50 men tested for the project.  It is planned to publish the results of the study.  Participants' privacy will be protected.

Please contact Michael if you are interested in participating or know someone who might be eligible.  He is happy to answer any questions!  His e-mail address is

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