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  • Writer's pictureJessica Feinstein

A reasonable mistake to make: the story of Jehudith

Sometimes when you discover a discrepancy and realize that you’ve made a mistake in your tree, it’s instructive to look back and piece together where the incorrect information came from.


I have written before about Jehudith Kuritsky, who married my grandmother Rose’s first cousin Yankel Michelson, and whose Holocaust escape story was passed down to me.



This morning I found their gravestones at Kiryat Shaul Cemetery, Tel Aviv, and Jehudith's parents are Rafael and Gitel, which didn’t match the Gershon Kuritsky I had in my tree as her father. So what was going on?


I searched the records on JewishGen for Rafael Kuritsky, and found this marriage record from LitvakSIG:


These names were familiar to me, because Tema (Tammy) was the sister of Yankel, and I knew from Granny Rose that she had married Jehudith’s brother.


You can see from the record that Rafael and Gita are the parents of Tammy’s husband, Oszer Szutan, and Gita’s surname is Kurycka, which is pronounced Kuritsky.


Had Rose given me the wrong surname for Jehudith when she told me the story? I went back to my original notebook where I’d written the story, and this is the tree I’d drawn:


No mention of a surname for Jehudith.


So then I turned to her own story, to see what she had said about her family (see https://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/svencionys/sve0575.html#Col599), and noticed this:


“Suddenly, like something sprung out of the earth, an old peasant appeared with an axe on his shoulder. He approached us and asked who we were and where we were going? When he discovered that I was a family member of the Kuritzki family, he invited us to his home until the war ended. … We found out this peasant was called Zeike, and he worked for my uncle, Gershon Kuritzki as a chauffeur for 40 years. He brought us to his house right away and hid us in his attic.”


Except in my version, the one passed down from Rose as a typed story, it says “He told us that the old Gentile’s name was Chaika, and that he had worked for my father Gersohn Kuritsky”.


So Gershon must be her mother’s brother, and I can now put her in the right family.


Her father Rafael Szutan is listed as a peddler, living at Koltynianska 35 in the village of Svencioneliai in December 1921. In January 1941 he is at Kaltanenu 33 on the electoral list for Svencioneliai, and the record shows two daughters, Doba (born in 1902) and Feiga (born in 1912).


The following year, Rafael is recorded in the Mikhalishki ghetto list of 27 May 1942 with one of his daughters, Feiga, and her family, and they were murdered soon afterwards. (Only 30 Jews out of 1500 in the ghetto survived until the end of the war. See https://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/pinkas_poland/pol8_00420.html.)


Jehudith left pages of testimony for all of her murdered family at Yad Vashem.


By Аркадий Шульман - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52239440


I feel bad when I see other trees where people have copied my incorrect information, but that’s another lesson!

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