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Neugass KIRZNER Ancestors
morduch and family
Motel Kirzner and his family. Kletsk, 1937

Our great-uncle, Motel Kirzner and his family. (The letter below refers to him as Morduch Kirzner.) The names of his family, with the exception of his eldest daughter, are not preserved.

Morduch's two brothers Yaseph Kirzner (later known as Joseph Smith) and Liebe Kirzner (later Louis Capp) emigrated to the U.S. around 1900. No other siblings are known.

It is said that Morduch's mother, Simka, delegated him and his family to stay on the Kletsk area family farm in case the troubles in Eastern Europe blew over. As warning signs accumulated, Joseph Kirzner later made some attempts through the JCA to rescue his brother and the family. These were unsuccessful.

Of Simka, and her husband, Avram, only this story survives: Liebe married a local young woman, Rachel, and brought her home to the farm, where her in-laws treated her as a servant. After enduring this mistreatment for an unknown period of time, she told her husband something to the effect, "I'll see you in America," and she went home live with her parents. She later joined her husband in Minnesota.

The documents on this page are the only known records of the existence of these people.

family reverse
In memory, to my Brother and Sister-in-Law,
Family Kirzner, 1937

On the reverse of the above photo, Morduch Kirzner wrote:

In memory, to my Brother and Sister-in-Law, Family Kirzner, 1937

His brother, Joseph Kirzner, added nothing. Later notations by two more generations of his descendents are attempts to preserve the memory of this family, of which no further word was heard after 17 August 1939 -- two weeks before the start of WWII.

The photographer, W. Kurnos, had a shop at 2 Slonimska in Kletsk. At least one other local Kirzner was photographed by Kurnos.

Fruma [or Suma] Kirzner

Morduch's eldest daughter would have been about 20 years old at the time she was murdered by the Nazis.

daugher reverse
In memory, Fruma [or Suma] Kirzner,

On the reverse of the above photo:

In memory, Fruma [or Suma] Kirzner, 1938

Joseph's daughter Ruth later added: Cousin, died in camp.

JCA letter
17 August 1939

Jewish Colonization Association

Paris, 17 August 1939

Mr. J. Kirzner


Dear Sir:

In response to your letter, we would like to inform you that the candidacy of your brother, Morduch Kirzner, has been accepted and the formalities for obtaining an entry permit for Argentina are in progress.

The duration of the formalities does not, unfortunately, depend on us; we can not therefore indicate to you how much time exactly your brother will wait for his departure.

Sincerely yours,


Yaseph Kirzner

Yaseph Kirzner, became Joseph Smith sometime around 1910, when he took over a photographic studio (The Modern Studio) in Lower Manhattan, New York City, from a man named Smith. He was born in Kletsk circa 1882.

This enigmatic man may have been haunted by his failure to rescue his brother and his brother's family. In some accounts, he, not his parents, encouraged his brother to stay on the family farm until it was too late.

in garden
Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith in later life. Most of his portrait photographs were taken in a studio. This photo seems to be in a lush park or backyard garden. Did he set up this photo and pose himself? No others in the family are known to have had such skills.

Joseph Smith died on August 11, 1958.

louis capp
Liebe Kirzner

Liebe Kirzner, in America known as Louis Capp, and his wife Rachel (Ruth), at the wedding of their son Martin ("Marty") Capp. Rachel was born a Kusnetsov, apparently in the area of the Kletsk farm of his parents, because --when she fled their cruel treatment-- she jumped in her horse-drawn wagon and drove herself home.

He arrived in the U.S. in 1902, spent some time in ill health in the New York City area, and headed west when he was advised that he had better seek a more healthy environment. His daughter reports that there was no physical resemblance at all between her father and her uncle. Though quite different personalities, and in spite of friction due to Joseph's lengthy stays with the Capp family, they were devoted to each other.

His daughter, Sylvia, says "No", as her father in his youth had blonde hair and grey eyes.

Liebe Kirzner

Liebe Kirzner, Louis Capp, in later life. Taken at his son Marty's farm in Minnesota.

Simka Kirzner?

Probably: the mother of Liebe (Louis) and Yaseph (Joseph). Her name was said to be Simka.

(This likeness was found cut from a larger photo, which has been lost. The jagged cuts have been removed and a synthetic neutral blue background provided. It was apparently hand-colored; the appearance of the red pigment was degraded and has been repaired in the central part of the photo.)

Avram Kirzner?

Probably: The father of Liebe (Louis) and Yaseph (Joseph), Simka's husband, name said to be Avram.

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