Shoah Field Research and Raising Voices

This is my great-grandmother. Isn’t she beautiful? I’m sure her siblings were just as lovely.

But I’ll probably never know. The picture below is the only physical representation of my great-grandmother’s sister that I have ever seen, and it did not exist until August 2018. It is a plaque called a Stolperstein, or “stumbling block,” laid in a sidewalk in Pitten, Austria. This stumbling block is what substitutes for my great-grandmother’s sister’s tombstone.

Photo by Steixidy, Wikimedia commons

I didn’t even know about Rosa Rebecca’s existence until I was contacted by Ruth Contreras, a woman from Rosa’s hometown in Pitten, Austria. Ruth currently lives right next door to the building Rosa Abeles called home before she was taken by the Nazis and eventually sent to her death in Treblinka.

Stolpersteine embedded in the sidewalk of a public school in Pitten, Austria

There are four Stolpersteine in all in my great-grandmother’s hometown of Pitten. Each plaque represents one of the four Pitten residents taken against their will and sent to their deaths as part of Hitler’s “purification” pogrom during the Shoah.

The Stolpersteine are just part of the work Ruth Contreras has been doing to revive the memories of the people who lived in the Bucklige Welt and Wechselland regions of Austria before Germany annexed Austria in 1938. In April of this year, a new museum exhibit in the neighboring town of Bad Erlach, called “With – Without Jews,” will be opened commemorating my family and their former neighbors who once thrived in the area.

Raising Voices

I have been inspired by Ruth’s efforts to raise awareness of racism and marginalization in Austria, and have decided to create an American extension at Stories From the Past, with the working title, Raising Voices. The first article in the project, titled American Slavery in Kentucky, was posted on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2019.

I am honored to have received a personal invitation to participate in the inauguration of the museum exhibit in Austria. It is a wonderful opportunity not only to do personal family research, but to do the more important service of researching stories for Raising Voices in Europe. This is a very expensive venture, and my family simply cannot afford the trip at this time, so I have created a GoFundMe fundraiser. You can click here to donate.

Click here to donate

Your Donation will Make all the Difference

Extra funds will be put back into Stories From the Past to extend the Raising Voices project,  open Stories From the Past as a non-profit organization, and to recruit researchers/writers.

8 thoughts on “Shoah Field Research and Raising Voices

  1. When we were in Germany, we saw Stolpersteine everywhere we went. Smaller cities and large ones alike. It is always a shock and heartbreaking. We saw quite a number for distant relatives of mine. Is Ruth Contreras working to have them installed in this area of Austria? I know that the artist Gunner Demnig is the one who started the overall project back in 1992. There’s more about the history and the artist at
    So glad you are doing this new project. I look forward to reading your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is heartbreaking, but so important to remember. I’m so glad to see that they are appearing everywhere.There are Stolpersteine for other groups as well. One of the four Pitten blocks is for a disabled woman. Ruth was researching victims in just her area of Pitten, and possibly other towns close by. I am hoping that I will get the opportunity to meet with the neighboring town of Wimpassing to see if a block can be laid for my other great aunt Rosa Daniel ( I have seen the website for Gunner Demnig, and I know that the artist Ruth was working with was a friend of hers. I do believe he is the same artist that did the Pitten blocks.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great project, and I did go to the book link and start reading the slave narrative you posted. It is a great read, and I’m sorry such things every happened, both to slaves here and to Jews and others in Europe, as well as many other places around the world, even now. I cannot donate until after the first, but I’m leaving that page up so I don’t forget to go. I don’t have a lot, but I would like to help some.


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