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  • Writer's pictureJessica Feinstein

Mindel (Millie) Gross from Kalisz

One of Ari’s 4x great-grandmothers was Mindel or Millie Gross, the mother of Grandma Raye. Her Hebrew name was Mindel Bat [daughter of] Shlomo Zalma Halevy.

I don’t have a photo of her.

Mindel was born in about 1868 in Kalisz, Poland, which had a big Jewish community going back to the twelfth century. The city was famous for its lace and other textiles. In 1827 a Jewish quarter was established. In 1881 the Russian authorities expelled the Jewish residents of Kalisz who lacked Russian citizenship, but I think Millie had already left by then.

“The Jewish neighborhood of Kalisz was in the northwest area of the central city, along the main boulevard – Nowa Street. Nowa and adjacent streets were the site of the Great Synagogue and the House of Study. Along its expanse were the offices of Jewish organizations and clubs, as well as many Jewish shops ranging from large stores to small shops to tiny holes in the wall: bookstores, taverns, shops selling Hebrew and Yiddish newspapers, butchers, fish stores, and boutiques.”

“In 1939, on the eve of the German invasion, the Jewish population of Kalisz numbered over 20,000. There is no Jewish community in Kalisz today.” (Holocaust Encyclopedia)

More information and photos of Kalisz can be seen here.

According to her grandson Michael Arkus, Millie was orphaned in Poland at the age of 4 and was brought to England by an uncle called Peter who settled in England after being captured when fighting against the British in the Crimean War. I have been unable to find out who this uncle is.

My big breakthrough with Millie came when I was able to order her daughter’s birth certificate, giving me her maiden name of Gross. I could then find her marriage certificate. She married Yehudah (or Jacob) Cohen on 13 August 1889 at the Great Synagogue in London.

The marriage certificate gave me the new information that Jacob was a widower, and that Millie’s father was Solomon Gross (deceased), a general dealer.

I now also have the marriage authorisation for the couple. This mentions her uncle, and gives her address before marriage as 12 Hutchison Avenue, Gravel Lane, Houndsditch.

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I checked the census to see who else was at this address, and found the family of Jonas Barnett, also from Kalisz. I am hoping that this will lead me to other family members.

In the 1891 census they were living at 24 Green Dragon Yard, in Whitechapel, and her name was given as Amelia. In 1901 her name was given as Minnie. By the time of the 1911 census she was a widow, aged 42, living at 10 Fremont Street in Hackney. In addition to four of her children, there were two boarders: Cyril and Leo Krantz, aged 12 and 11, from Australia.

Millie and Jacob had six children: Rachel (Raye); Morris (Maurice), who became a journalist and film producer and married the glamorous German dancer and actor Lore Sello; Annie Rosa who died as a baby; Jacob (Jack), who was killed in action on 5 August 1916 aged 21 and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France; Solomon (Sidney), who owned a rag trade factory; and Esther (Hettie), who married an East End tailor whose family were also from Kalisz, Jack Arkus.

Millie died aged 64 on 20 July 1932 at 12 Anson Rd, Cricklewood. The cause of death was “myocarditis, arteriosclerosis, infarction of the lung”.


Millie’s gravestone at Edmonton Cemetery

Ari, this shows how you are related to Millie:

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