Nisman cousins found – and cousins lost

Earlier this week I was contacted by someone who found me through the JewishGen Family Finder. This is a wonderful resource that allows you to list the names and places that you’re interested in, so other researchers can find you to share notes.

Her query was “I am searching for Nisman family from Parichi. I can go back to my 4 time G grandfather Haim Nisman.” I was pretty sure from this that we were related, and there is a Hayim Nisman in our tree. He was married to Haya Nisman who was the daughter of Ari’s 4x great-grandfather, David Nisman. My notes told me that Haya and Haim were cousins, but I didn’t know who Haim’s father was.

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David Nisman

Further discussion and a sharing of names and stories helped me work out that Hayim’s father Iosif (or Yosel) Nisman is likely to have been the brother of David.

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What we know about David is that he was the son of Girshev Nisman. He was born in Belarus in 1854, married Sarah Volfson in about 1873, and died some time before 1919. (This is based on the fact that his grandson David was born that year and would not have been named for him if he was still alive.)

In 1907 David was recorded in the Belarus Duma Voters List:

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According to his daughter’s marriage certificate he worked as a wood merchant or general merchant. Both Nisman families lived in Parichi, Belarus. Many Jewish people there worked in the timber trade, taking advantage of the abundant forests and the river for transport.

After the two cousins Haya and Hayim married, they had six children – three boys and three girls.

As a result of the new information from my new third cousin once removed, I now know the names of many more relations from Parichi, and some of their stories. But some of the information is so terrible that it’s hard to find the right words.

What happened to the Nismans in Parichi on 18 October 1941 can be seen in the records of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Database:

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From https://yvng.yadvashem.org/

These are all relations whose names come from a “List of Jews from Parichi who were murdered near Vysokii Polk, 18/10/1941”. For example, Riva was born in 1935 to Iosif’s son Godal and his wife Sosya. According to this evidence, she was shot at this murder site along with her family, aged just six. The list contains 18 pages and 840 names.

The entry for Parichi in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Life says that “In 1939, the Jewish population was 1881. The Germans occupied Parichi on 5 July 1941, murdering about 140 Jews in August. Subsequently a ghetto was established and on 18 Oct, 1700 were murdered at the nearby village of Vysokii Polk.” (p. 969)

An article by Wila Orbach called “The destruction of the Jews in the Nazi-occupied territories of the USSR” (East European Jewish Affairs, 6:2, 14-51, DOI:
10.1080/13501677608577241) gives some of the background:

“In many Ukrainian and Byelorussian urban centres Jews accounted for 25-80 per cent of the population. The outbreak of the war and the unexpectedly swift German advance caught the Jews as much unawares as the Soviet command. There was practically no escape for the Jews living in Byelorussia and the Ukraine west of the River Dnepr. Many Jewish families who had attempted to flee eastwards on their own, found themselves, even after having covered several score kilometres, overtaken by the Germans and returned home.” (p. 15)

“Many Jewish families, including for the most part women, children and old people, did not attempt to escape for fear of the hardships of the flight and the uncertainties of life in unfamiliar places. Some of the older people believed that the occupation would not differ greatly from that which they had experienced in World War I. Not even rumours of ghettoes in Poland perturbed them.” (p. 16)

“The Germans began to liquidate the ghettoes as early as the autumn of 1941. … By the end of that year the majority of the Jewish communities ceased to exist.” (p. 28)

It seems that Haya was evacuated to Tashkent (Uzbekistan) and lived there until her death in the 1970s. This is a photo of her with her children:

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There is a database of these evacuation record cards that I need to search (see https://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Holocaust/0136_uzbek.html). Other newly found Nismans ended up in Baku (Azerbaijan), Ekaterinoslav (Ukraine), and New York. So I have some more work to do …

Ari, this is how you are related to David:

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Sarah Volfson

Sarah Volfson was Ari’s 4x great-grandmother.

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This photo shows Sarah with her husband David Nisman and son Chaim (Hymie), who was born in 1888.

According to Sarah’s daughter,

My perents acquired a smal part of land, my mother and father worked very hard, and also my brothers were working on the land. After about two years we were ordered out of that vilage as Jewish we could not live in a village and we must not possess any land. So, at this time that small town being rebuld, my father bough a small house and a very big garden.  We had grown moust food for aur aun need.  We also had chickens and geese, ducks, and I used to take them to a swamp near aur garden, I loved to do it.  

Sarah must have been born in about 1855, probably in Belarus, and married in about 1873. I have no records of these events. We don’t know who her parents were.

So what do we know about her?

She had at least six children, with the oldest, Shmuel (Sam), being born on 31 May 1874 in Parichi, Babruysk, Belarus. Sam emigrated to New York in 1904 and worked as a carpenter, owning a furniture repair shop. There were two daughters, Haya, born in about 1879, and Freida.

Another son, Kofman, was born on 9 May 1879. He was also a carpenter and also emigrated to New York in 1904, where he had several children. Confusingly, he sometimes used the name Joseph, which was also the name of his younger brother who stayed in Russia. Joseph’s son Israel told us this, in a letter to my great-uncle Lionel:

My father Joseph/Yossef Nisman who stayed in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine was born in 1882 and died in 1942 during the war. My father had 5 children: Gregory, Anna, Dora, Michael and myself.  My sister Dora stayed in touch with your brother Bernard through the letters. And even your mother in 1936 or 1937 wanted to come to us with your brother Bernard in order to make a shidech. My family was in touch with your mother until probably 1937 (when started repression period in Russia) and we tore up all the letters and photos of your family because they were very afraid that somebody will find the letters so the communication stopped. However my sister Dora kept two pictures of your mother and your brother Bernard. 

The youngest son, Chaim (Hymie), was a furrier and emigrated to New York in 1922. According to his naturalization petition, he was born in Ekaterinoslav, Ukraine.

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Hymie married and had four daughters.

We know from Freida that Sarah came to London some time after her grandson Harry was born:

Harry was a lovely baby.  After one year we moved to a larger flat, and then, after a few month I had a still born babe.  My mother came to visit me from Rusia and stayed with us for three months.  I was so happy to see her, and Meyer loved her he thought she was a lovely lady. 

We also know that Sarah had died by October 1935, when Freida made a donation to the Jewish National Fund in her late parents’ memory.

Ari, this shows how you are related to Sarah:

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Freida

Another of Ari’s ancestors was his 3x great-grandmother Freida (Fannie) Dovidova Nisman, who was born in Parichi, Babruysk, Minsk, Belarus on 22 Apr 1887. She had an eventful life, described in her own words in a little notebook. FannieMemoir1

The photo below was taken in 1909.1909 Grandma (Fannie Loshak)

Below is her birth certificate (Ministry of Internal Affairs, Settlement Parichi, Babruysk Region, Minsk Province, dated 6 June 1907, certifies that in the Book of Records of Jews born in Settlement Parichi, for the year 1887, on April 22 the Middle Class Citizen Dovid Girshev Nisman and his wife Sarah gave birth to a daughter named Frieda. Signed by the Parichi Public Rabbi). Fannie Nisman Loshak_birth

Ari, this shows how you are related to Freida:

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