The Business Directory of Poland and Gdańsk (Danzig) from the years 1926 and 1930 are available online. My Mac can’t read the djvu format the documents are in, but fortunately I was able to view them at the university library.
I found some interesting listings—tiny fragments that support bits of information from other sources.
I found a store in Warsaw selling “składy apteczny i perfum,” pharmacy ingredients and perfume. The business is listed under “S. Cytryn,” which was my grandmother’s sister Nunia’s husband’s name. Further, this fits with my mom’s description of Nunia as “something like a pharmacist.” The business was listed again in the 1930 issue. If this is Nunia’s husband Stanisław Cytryn’s business, it supports the family story that she maintained the business on her own after her husband died in 1927. The address listed is Leszno 113.
And here I move deeper into the realm of speculation: According to Google Maps, several apartments blocks sit where this address used to be. This is at the intersection of ul. Młynarska, after which the street takes on a different name, both on historical and contemporary maps. In what is likely a coincidence, a pharmacy, Cefarm, is right across the street at Leszno 38. Could the address numbering have changed? Google Maps doesn’t seem to list street address numbers beyond the 50s. In a map I found at http://warszawa.fotopolska.eu, showing prewar photos, I don’t see any listing for 113, either—in fact, the highest I saw was for #54. Still, a photo taken outside Leszno 43 was inside the Jewish Ghetto, while Google Maps pinpoints #113 about three blocks outside of the ghetto. The photo seems to show a child curled up on the sidewalk (sleeping? Ill? Dead?) being ignored by pedestrians who walk by or grin into the camera; one woman is glancing over her shoulder, but she too might be looking at the photographer and not at the prone child.
Outside Leszno 43, May 1941 in the Warsaw Ghetto (photo from fotopolska.eu)
Other Warsaw listings include the Lourse “fabr. czekolady i cukiernie” (chocolate factory and pastry shops). In 1926 the addresses are Krakowski Przedmieście 13 and Senatorska 23, Teatr Wielki. The comment (dawne Semadeni; formerly Semadeni’s) is in parentheses after the second address. Here are more clues that fit with family stories. As my mom described, one Lourse Café was located in the Europejski Hotel at the corner of Krakowski Przedmieście nearest the Old Town while the other was in the Teatr Wielki. She also described how Papa (her stepfather) was first in business with the “great Semadeni family,” known for their sweet confections since the beginning of the 19th century. Later, he bought them out. In the 1930 business listing, a third address is added, Leszno 64, the same street as Nunia’s pharmacy.
I also looked for listings for other family surnames—Winawer, Kolski, Piwko, Rotblit—and other towns—Brześć Kujawski, Gdańsk, Skierniewice, Włocławek, Żychlin. I found three entries worth exploring:
- In Warsaw H. Winawer is listed in 1930 as “fabr. knotów do lamp,” factory of lamp wicks at ul. Chłodna 43 in Warsaw. Cousin Joan, whose maiden name was Winawer, sent me the following account in November: “My father told me that his parents had a millinery factory. His father “studied” and his mother ran the factory. He had a governess and went to gymnasium. One of his brothers worked in the factory. He never spoke of grandparents. He had very pleasant memories of his childhood. From all the conversations I always got the feeling that there was a great deal of money. If my father’s story was true (not just memories that got changed) there might even be a record of the factory.” This week, she added, “My father would say that he was from Warsaw, but cousin Herbert (Melodie’s father) said that they were really from Lodz. He might have been correct.” While I would like to think the owner of the lamp wick factory is a relative, by 1930 most of the Winawers in the family were in the US. Two of my grandmother’s sisters married Winawers. Liba married Jacob; their sons were Natan (Nusen), Sol (Saloman), Max, and Morris. Sarah married Saul; their sons were Nathan, Milton (Mordko), and Stanley (Samuel). No one had a name starting with “H.” It can’t be Max’s son Herbert because Herbert was born in New York in 1929. So I still need to search for “our” Winawers’ factory; it probably wasn’t this one.
- In Włocławek in 1930, Natan Kolski is listed as a seller of “farby,” paint, at ul. 3 Maja 28. Pinkus Kolski is listed as a seller of “farby, szczotki, tapety, i chemiczne prod.,” paint, brushes, wallpaper, and chemical products at ul. Tumska 3. Pinkus is also listed in 1926, though Natan is not. Could this be the husband and son of another of Babcia’s sisters? Regina married Pinkus Kolski, but died giving birth to Natan in 1905. Another sister, Rachel, married Pinkus, adopted Natan, and had four more children including Naftali (Maniek). This branch of the family lived in Włocławek, but moved to Israel. I am visiting Maniek’s son Pini later this month. Pini has written to me that his grandparents lived on ul. Tumska. Pini just got back to me about this:
Yes that is my grandfather; they had a store in Tumska 3 (I was there) but the store was handled by Rachel Piwko Kolski-she was the manager. He was a big business man who imported from Brazil and other places from all over.
Natan Kolski left Poland in 192?? to Israel with his wife and 2 daughters (Sara & Judith ) to run Pinkus Kolski business and lands that he bought in Israel (1912-1938). He was the first son that came to Israel, then Abrash and my father came in 1932.
The house in Tumska 3 in Worzlavek is still there (next to the big Church and the Vistula River).
- In the 1930, but not the 1926 Gdańsk listings, under samochody, automobiles, is an ad for Jacob Rotblit’s Ford dealership in Zoppot—the Baltic Coast resort town of Sopot. Sopot is between Gdańsk, which was the free city of Danzig between the world wars, and Gdynia, the industrial city that grew up across the Polish border. I’ve also found ads for this dealership in Gazeta Gdańska from 1935. My mom remembers visiting Rotblit, her biological father, at the Baltic Coast when she was about 13 (so around 1935). Aunt Pat has in her notes that Rotblit sold jewelry, and then automobiles. The business directory listing could well be another sign of my elusive grandfather—the one my mother and her brothers tried to forget.
Rotblit Ford Ad, Gazeta Gdańska 1935
Business Directory of Poland and Danzig 1930: Jacob Rotblit’s Ford Dealership in Sopot