The Cyngel Family
Pesa and Froim Cyngel raised six children in Lubartów. How can the lives of various members of the Cyngel family from Lubartów be retraced, from the interwar period to the ghetto, the Soviet Union, and up through the emigration of surviving members to North America? No family member left an account or correspondence, but documents dispersed across multiple archival centers bear the trace of their passage, and can help reconstruct their life journeys. The account of their experiences draws on a range of archives, and demonstrates the possibilities offered by the reconstitution of biographical journeys as proposed by the Lubartworld project.
A Jewish Family from Lubartów During the Interwar Period
The pages for the Cyngel family in the Lubartów population register initiated in 1932 show that the eldest, Fejga-Perla, was born in 1901, followed by Abram in 1906, Dawid in 1908, Szlama in 1911, and the twins Laja and Naftal in 1914. In 1932, the family was registered under the name Ciengiel for the father, and Cyngiel for the children.
The spellings Cingel, Zingel, and Zyngel would also later appear. However, in the rare documents they left in the archives, they all signed Cyngel. In 1932, the mother Pesa passed away, and Abram had already left the household to settle with Ruchla Hochberger, with whom he had three children. All of the family’s children worked: Abram was a shopkeeper, Dawid a saddler, and Szlama an agricultural worker, with Laja “taking care of the house.” The father Abram, who was 57 years old at the time and was declared a widower, apparently stopped working and was dependent on his children.
The War and the Holocaust
Most of the family’s members were trapped in Lubartów during the German invasion in 1939. Abram Cyngel’s name appears, still living at his home, in the property list established by the occupier in 1940 with a view to the despoliation of Jewish property. That same year he secured assistance from the Jewish Self-Help (ŻSS), the only self-administered body that the German occupiers authorized to provide aid to Polish Jews, which was essentially financed by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Abram Cyngel received food assistance for four persons, which was interrupted in March 1941 with the official constitution of the Lubartów ghetto. David Silberklang, Gates of Tears: The Holocaust in the Lublin District, Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, 2013
In 1942, Froim and Abram and his family were deported to an extermination site, Belzec or Treblinka, and killed with the Jewish population interned in the Lubartów ghetto. The deportations of 1942 did not produce files including the names of those who were in the convoys destined for Belzec or Treblinka. The town’s memorial book published in Paris in 1947 nevertheless lists some of the victims of the two deportations from 1942, and includes the names of Froim and Abram.
Dawid and Szlama were able to escape at the very last moment, and took refuge with peasants in the surrounding countryside. They spent two years in hiding, until the Red Army freed the Lublin area in July 1944. Dawid and Szlama were once again registered in the Lubartów population register on August 1, 1944, and still respectively declared as a saddler and agricultural worker. In the spring of 1945, Dawid married Dora Wasersztrum, the cousin of his prewar neighbors, who also survived by hiding in the area surrounding Lubartów. When she was added to the population register on April 8, 1945, it was in her spouse’s name.
Pages from the 1943 register © APL, 35/43/0/7/49/72 & 74
Dawid and Szlama’s names also appear in the lists of survivors present in Poland compiled by the Central Committee of Polish Jews (CKŻP) in late August 1945. The objective of CKŻP registration was to count the Jews present on Polish territory, in order to best dispatch the little aid available, as well as to notify close relations of their survival. Registration cards also provide brief mentions of the survivor’s war experience, informing us that Dawid, Dora, and Szlama spent the end of the war in the surrounding countryside.
Cover of the Register of Jewish Survivors © USHMM
Naftal was the only one who avoided the Lubartów ghetto. The register records his departure “for an unknown destination” in the fall of 1939, at the time of the German invasion, a destination that we know—thanks to Central Committee of Polish Jews documents constituted after the war—was Soviet territory in the east, from where he returned in 1946. While less than 50,000 Jews survived in what was interwar Poland, nearly 200,000 fled to the East like Naftal, and spent the war in the USSR under conditions that were sometimes extremely difficult. Laura Jokusch, Tamar Lewinsky, “Paradise Lost? Postwar Memory of Polish Jewish Survival in the … Continue reading
However, there is no trace of Laja. Did she follow her twin brother to the Soviet Union, never to return? Or was she exterminated in Poland? Despite efforts by survivors to find their loved ones and document the fate of victims, that of Laja remains unknown.
From Liberation to Emigration
The Cyngel family only stayed a few months in Lubartów after the war. Their departure was noted in the population register with the date of March 11, 1946. Dawid, Dora, and their very young daughter Chawa, who was born of February 5, reached Berlin along with Szlama in August of the same year, where they reunited with Naftal, who had returned from the Soviet Union. They all registered with the Jewish Community of Berlin, which facilitated the procedures for placing them under the protection of the International Refugee Organization (IRO), whose archives are conserved in Bad Arolsen. They spent five years in various displaced person camps, initially in Berlin and later in Bavaria.
Card for the displaced person Chawa Cyngel, born in 1946 (front and back) © Arolsen Archives, ITS, 188.8.131.52
The organization required migrants who wanted to be placed under its protection and receive its assistance to retrace their journey and situation since 1935, as well as the reason for their departure. The Cyngel family emphasized the fate of Dawid and Dora in the administrative process. Their migration file mentions the ghetto and then, beginning in 1942, the fact that they survived “in hiding,” and fled Poland from fear of “persecution,” while Szlama’s Soviet experience was kept quiet.
CM1 for the Cyngel family © Arolsen Archives, ITS, 184.108.40.206, Germany
The IRO’s officials did not limit themselves to retracing the Cyngel family’s journey before and after the war, as they continued to record their advance through German territory, from their entry in 1946, when they were granted the protective status of “displaced person,” to their departure in 1951. The family’s various members struggled to emigrate. Dawid and Dora successively considered going to Palestine, the United States, and Australia, and ultimately left Europe for Canada in December 1951. Szlama and Naftal were able to embark for the United States that same year. Their departure is mentioned in the family migration file before it was permanently closed with the departure of Dora and Dawid, with passenger lists allowing us to follow their embarkation in Bremen for New York, under IRO supervision.
In order to reconstitute the various trajectories taken by members of the Cyngel family, and for many other inhabitants of Lubartów, sources of a diverse nature must be combined. Documents from the war period are more rare, for unlike other major ghettoes, the one for the town of Lubartów did not leave many archives, although the traces were not totally erased, and increased after liberation. Taken in isolation, these documents sometimes offer little information, but when connected with one another they make it possible to follow the family’s progression step by step through Poland and Europe on their way to the United States and Canada.
Summary of Sources
State Archive in Lublin (SAL):
- 35/43/0/7/42/180-181 & 35/43/0/7/45/24-25, Lubartów population register, 1932, pages for members of the Cyngel family
- 35/43/0/7/49/72-74, Lubartów population register, 1943, pages for members of the Cyngel family
Archive of the Jewish Historical Institute (AŻIH):
- 210/454, Archive of the Joint Distribution Committee and l’Entraide juive for Lubartów
- 303/V/425, Central Committee of Polish Jews registration cards (CKŻP) for Dawid Cyngiel (C3279), Naftal Cyngiel (C3280), and Szloma Cyngiel (C3281)
Arolsen Archives, International Tracing Service:
- 2.1.1, C-3235 & Z-5111, migration files opened in Germany for members of the Cyngel family
Archives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM):
- Database of displaced persons registered with the Jewish community of Berlin between 1945 and 1949
- Database of Jewish survivors in Poland compiled in August 1945 by the Central Committee of Polish Jews
Les Amis de Lubartów (Friends of Lubartów), Hurbn Levertov: A matseyve Levertov un Levertover kdoyshim [The destruction of Lubartów: A memorial for Lubartów and the Martyrs of Lubartów], Paris, Association des amis de Lubartów, 1947.
Thomas Chopard, “Post-Holocaust Migrations from Poland to America: An Exercise in Microhistory,” S.I.M.O.N. Shoah: Intervention, Methods, Documentation 7/1, 2020, p. 13-25
|↾1||David Silberklang, Gates of Tears: The Holocaust in the Lublin District, Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, 2013|
|↾2||Laura Jokusch, Tamar Lewinsky, “Paradise Lost? Postwar Memory of Polish Jewish Survival in the Soviet Union,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 24/3, Winter 2010, p. 373-399; Mark Edele, Sheila Fitzpatrick, Atina Grossman (eds.), Shelter from the Holocaust: Rethinking Jewish Survival in the Soviet Union, Detroit, Wayne State University Press, 2017; Lidia Zessin-Jurek, Katharina Friedla (eds.), Syberiada Żydów polskich. Losy uchodźców z Zagłady, Warsaw, Żydowski Instytut Historyczny, 2020|