Postcards and contemporary newspapers have been significant among the manifold sources I have drawn on during my study of family history. In my first book I described how a postcard written in 1916 from the Eastern Front by Austrian army doctor Abraham Loew to his cousin Regina Griffel opened up a trail that led from Vienna via London to New York and Chicago, back to Strasbourg, and finally to Tarnobrzeg in Austrian Galicia. It was only in this roundabout way that I managed to locate the family of my maternal grandmother Chawa Wahl and, in due course, scores of cousins of the Griffel, Loew, Taube, Safier, and other related families (Edward Gelles, An Ancient Lineage: European Roots of a Jewish Family, Vallentine Mitchell: London, 2006).More recent discoveries of old postcards and other ephemera have revealed much about paternal first cousins of whose very existence I had been unaware. These sources are also shedding new light on the life of my grandfather, Nahum Uri Gelles, who was Chief Rabbi of Solotwina, near Stanislau (Stanislawow). He succeeded his father-in-law in that post in 1884 and held it until his death in 1934. It now emerges that he spent much time away from Solotwina visiting other Galician communities. More importantly, he stayed in Vienna for about ten years after the outbreak of World War I and played a prominent role in its Orthodox community.
From the archives of The Galitzianer
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