Day 1: Experiences at the Victims and Resource Center:
By taking the metro on a Sunday morning, I was able to acclimate myself before the busyness of Monday morning rush hour might distract me. When I arrived at the museum before 10 o’clock, I wanted the guards to know my purpose was not the same as a museum visitor. The computer I carried provided that explanation, and I became the first person at the head of the line.
The second floor Holocaust Survivors and Victims Center was smaller than I imagined, but quiet. The most adept volunteer quickly acclimated me to their system and explained how to look at two areas in the database: the middle section and the bottom section with additional information. I also learned about an exact and a “fuzzy” search. She made me feel welcome and no question was too simple for her.
I started with my printout of 50 Spurgat names and worked methodically through each name. I penciled in the notes quickly so I could review them and make a computer entry in the evenings as I planned my work for the next day. I wasn’t finding as much as I had hoped and penciled in DNFs (Did Not Find) very quickly.
Here is a sample:
RESULTS OF SEARCH FOR AUGUST, JOHANN, LUDWIK, AND OTHER SPURGATS IN INTERNATIONAL TRACING SERVICE RECORDS May 2016
|1. 1903 Adam Spurgat (relationship unidentified) was living in Essen. JOHANN||DNF|
|18. Grete Spurgat Sister of Eduard Spurgat born 1897.||Do not know married surname|
I was not finding any of the names of the Spurgats who had lived in Essen, but I did have the copy with me of the one Essen record from August 2014. Why was Adolf Spurgat the only Essen name in the ITS collection?
I asked the volunteer: How could I find the source a particular record from Essen? She referred me to the two gentlemen who would be there the next day. The rest of this story will be the subject of Posts 4 and 5. Stay tuned!
The volunteer told me that Fanny Aizenberg, a 99 year old Holocaust survivor came to the Victims and Survivors Resource Center every Sunday at 1’ clock. Would I mind taking a few minutes from my research to visit with her? Would I ever!!!! She arrived with her guardian, who brings her in a wheelchair from a taxi. What a privilege it was to meet her, if only briefly. She is the first one on the list of Volunteer Survivors listed on the website. Later that day I would see my Spurgat aunt, also 99. What a day to be in the presence of such gracious ladies!
By mid-afternoon the area was quiet, and I was completing my 50some Spurgat names with many DNFs. I was adding several new Spurgat names in the blank spaces, especially records relating to the children of Anna Spurgaitis/Ona Surgatiene whom I had written about in
I did not stop to copy those 15 records as I had my story about Anna, and I still did not know the relationship. I would come back to them if I had extra time.
The volunteer offered me hot tea and some cookies during her break. She could not have been nicer!
With the Spurgats completed for the moment, I turned to my maternal line, the Hutop family, where I had listed about 30 names with extra space for any new names. I found a gold mine, exactly what I was looking for! These results will be the subject of Post 3 so stay tuned!
The next several posts will describe the rest of the research trip which on Day 1 had already taken an unexpected turn.
A Final Note for Researchers
The massive databases in the ITS collection are most impressive. The volunteers who know this collection are impeccable. For the experienced researcher, the search is promising. I prepared as best as I could. However, there is one thing that I would do differently if I were to return. Each part of the collection is labelled as a series of number (i. e. 22.214.171.124.) There may also be a folder number. Some records provide an image, some do not. As a researcher, I do not know what the source of records each sequence of numbers represents. The staff and volunteers do. For follow up questions and easy access, the volunteers would, I suspect, like to know the number sequence. I wish I had written it down for all the records I copied and notes I took. So if you go, make a table that has a cell for the ITS record number.