My paternal grandmother was one of eight children, and I have innumerable second cousins. I’ve never got to know many of them. But during lockdown, several of us shared a similar idea to research family history. We are all descended from my great-great grandfather Yaakov, who was born in Poland in the mid-19th century.
Our explorations have sparked some novel family reunions on Zoom. Linda, my second cousin once removed, has efficiently organised these Goldberg gatherings. She has been trying for some time to discover more about her roots.
Alte Zeida Yaakov
Last year, Linda and her husband Lester went to Poland. They had never visited Auschwitz and were committed to making this trip, so significant for the Jewish collective memory. Linda also hoped to find out about her great-grandfather Yaakov. Talking to cousins in the USA descended from Yaakov’s brother Moshe, Linda learnt that her Alte Zeida came from Dlugosiodla, a village between Wyszkow and Ostrow Mazowiecka.
Driving to Dlugosiodla
Linda and Lester arrived in Poland three days before their Auschwitz tour. They commissioned a taxi driver to take them to the place where they’d heard Alte Zeida was buried. After driving for two hours, they entered a dense forest. Following directions, they eventually arrived at the Jewish cemetery, 2.5 km north-west of the village of Dlugosiodla on a hill near the village of Bosewo.
All that marks the cemetery is a stark sign stating that 1,000 Jews were buried there. No headstones remain. Between 1941 and 1946, the cemetery was desecrated and destroyed by local Polish people. They used the headstones to pave dirt roads.
With no chance of finding Yaakov’s grave, the couple spent some quiet moments reciting psalms, and left. They continued to Dlugosiodla and saw some old wooden huts. It was impossible to tell where he had lived.
Life in Dlugosiodla
Hearing Linda’s story, I wondered what life had been like for the Jews of Dlugosiodla when Yaakov was born. The first Jewish people came from the nearby towns and shtetls to settle there in the early 19th century. After their arrival, the village grew into a centre of business for the local farming communities, with a weekly market and an annual fair. Many Jews worked as tailors, shoemakers and blacksmiths, producing goods for market. Some were pedlars, taking their wares around the villages to sell. On market days, Jewish traders set up stalls to sell textiles, utensils and other goods.
Yaakov Goldberg became a successful businessman, who owned a linseed factory. We found evidence of this from a list of businesses in Dlugosiodlo from 1929 to 1939, which includes an oilery owned by J. Goldberg.
Shtilkayt iz golden (silence is golden)
Most Jews were Hassidim, following the strict Orthodox tradition. The men wore long coats, big fur hats and long peyos – the traditional curling side locks. At first, Alte Zeida was a follower of the Worker Rebbe, nicknamed the ‘silent rabbi’ because he used to sit in silence for long periods of time. As the family liked to say at the time: ‘Silence is Goldberg’.
Yaakov was clearly a man of means, who was able to help finance the emigration of his children. His son Mordechai married Miriam Leah Imber in 1898 and they departed for the UK in 1900. Mordechai later brought his siblings Moshe and Bessie to the UK, while his sister Rifka made her way to the USA.
By World War II, it seems nearly all of the Goldbergs had left Dlugosiodla. Those who remained in Poland would face persecution and annihilation at the hands of the Nazis. According to Yizkor to Jewish Dlugosiodlo Poland, one Goldberg – Liba – perished in the Holocaust; she was murdered by the Nazis in Treblinka in 1942.
It appears most of the Goldbergs got out in time. If they had stayed in Poland, it is unlikely any would have survived. And numerous Goldberg descendants in the USA, UK and Israel would never have been meeting on Zoom in 2020.
 Gover, Meir Halevi (2019), Yizkor to Jewish Dlugosiodlo Poland, Online Third Edition, SECOND GENERATION publication, p. 40
 Yizkor to Jewish Dlugosiodlo Poland, p. 114
[5 Gover, Meir Halevi (2019), Yizkor to Jewish Dlugosiodlo Poland, Online Third Edition, SECOND GENERATION publication, p. 8