The Story of Mathilde Buttermilch from Jelenia Góra

Today’s protagonist is Mathilde Buttermilch – another of the seven individuals whose tombstones have been preserved in the Jewish cemetery in Jelenia Góra (Hirschberg), and whose life stories I want to bring closer. And this tale will be not only about Mathilde but also about her grandson, who gained fame at the age of 100. So, if you ever think you’re too old for something, remind yourself of Hans’s story. But first, let’s return to his grandmother.

Nagrobek Mathilde Buttermilch w Jeleniej Górze

Tombstone of Mathilde Buttermilch in the Jewish cemetery in Jelenia Góra / Photo by Marta Maćkowiak

Mathilde Buttermilch née Salisch

Mathilde died on February 1, 1920, in Jelenia Góra (then Hirschberg) in her apartment on Langstrasse, which is now Długa Street, at the age of 74. She was born in Kamienna Góra (Landeshut) as the daughter of the merchant Simon Salisch and Minna née Buttermilsch.
Akt zgonu Mathilde Buttermilch

Death certificate of Mathilde Buttermilch / Source: Landesarchiv Berlin

On September 12, 1876, she married Alexander Buttermilch, a trader from Lissa (Leszno), the son of the late Jakob Buttermilch from Landeshut (Kamienne Góry) and Colina née Gottstein, who lived in Leszno before her death. Considering that Mathilde’s mother’s maiden name was Buttermilch and she came from Lissa, there is a high probability that the spouses were related within a certain generation.

Alexander and Mathilde settled in an apartment in the tenement house at Plac Ratuszowy 34 (Markt 34), which would remain their home until their deaths. Alexander passed away first, on March 3, 1907.

Plac Ratuszowy 34 in Jelenia Góra / Source:

In the meantime though, let’s go back 29 years, to May 5, 1878, when Elsa, the daughter of Mathilde and Alexander, was born. She would live with her parents until the age of 26, when she decided to marry Max Keilson, the son of Nathan Keilson and Emilie née Mosessohn, a merchant residing in Bad Freienwalde.
They’ll make their home there, managing a lingerie shop, and soon enough, they’ll welcome two children – a daughter and a son, whom we’ll discuss shortly.
Akt ślubu Maxa Keilsona i Elsy Buttermilch

Marriage certificate of Max Keilson and Elsa Buttermilch / Source: Landesarchiv Berlin

Hans Keilson – An Extraordinary Centenarian

Hans Keilson, the son of Elsa and Max, was born in 1909. He was a doctor with a passion for writing, and in 1933, he published his first book. Unfortunately, just a few months later, it ended up on the list of books banned by the Third Reich.
Shortly thereafter, due to his background, he was deprived of the ability to practice as a doctor and sustained himself as a sports and music teacher. In 1936, Hans, along with his wife Gertrude, fled to the Netherlands, where he went into hiding while she, a Catholic, gave birth to their daughter, claiming that a “German soldier” was the father.
All three survived. Hans’ sister, who emigrated to Palestine, survived as well. Unfortunately, their parents, Elsa and Max, did not make it. The fact that Max considered himself a German patriot and was awarded the Iron Cross for his service in World War I did not save him and his wife from death in Auschwitz.
Hans never reconciled with this painful loss and dedicated his entire life to working with orphaned Jewish children suffering from post-war traumas. Meanwhile, he continued to write poetry and novels, and his efforts did not go in vain. Hans was rediscovered at the age of 100 when Francine Prose from The New York Times called him a genius, reviewing his two novels written 50 years earlier.
Hans passed away a year later in 2011 at the age of 101. He was buried in Hilversum, the Netherlands. I recommend reading interviews with Hans, the links to which can be found at the end of the article – a wonderful and sensitive individual.
And so, the tombstone of Mathilde Buttermilch, one of the handful preserved in the Jelenia Góra cemetery, allowed us to discover the extraordinary story of an extraordinary person.
Zdjęcie Hansa Keilsona

Photo of Hans Keilson / Photo by Herman Wouters for The New York Times

Hans Keilson w młodości

young Hans Keilson


  • Landesarchiv Berlin

The Story of Rosel Aptekmann from Jelenia Góra

Today is the anniversary of Rosel Aptekmann’s death, so her story will be the first in a series dedicated to people buried in the Jewish cemetery in Jelenia Góra (Hirschberg). Only a few tombstones with readable inscriptions have survived, just seven in total. Let’s learn about Rosel Aptekmann.

Nagrobek Rosel Aptekmann

The gravestone of Rosel Aptekmann at the Jewish cemetery in Jelenia Góra / Photo: Marta Maćkowiak

Rosel Aptekmann née Hirschstein

On November 23, 1938, Leo Aptekmann came to the Civil Registry Office to report the death of his wife. Rosalie passed away on the same day at the age of 46 in the Martin Luther Evangelical Hospital in Jelenia Góra (formerly Hirschberg-Cunnersdorf). Presently, the building houses a Caritas care and medical facility (located at ul. Żeromskiego 2).

Two weeks after Kristallnacht. Perhaps this event had an impact on her health.

Rosalie Aptekmann’s death certificate / Source: Landesarchiv Berlin

Dawny szpital Martina Luthera w Jeleniej Górze

Former Martin Luther Evangelical Hospital in Jelenia Góra, now Caritas care and medical facility at ul. Żeromskiego 2 / Source:

Leo and Rosalie lived at Hermann Göringstrasse 43 (formerly, before 1933, Warmbrunnerstrasse, now ul. Wolności), 600 meters from the hospital. According to available sources, it seems that the numbering of buildings has not changed.

The building on ul. Wolności (formerly Warmbrunnerstrasse/Hermann Göringstrasse) in Jelenia Góra / Source:

Kamienica przy Wolności 43 dzisiaj

The building at ul. 43 Wolności 43 in Jelenia Góra today / Photo by Marta Maćkowiak.

The Aptekmanns were married for just under two decades, having tied the knot in Jelenia Góra on August 12, 1919.

Leo Aptekmann arrived in Jelenia Góra from Ukraine, specifically from the city of Smila, where he was born on February 25, 1892, as the son of Israel Aptekmann, a merchant, and Sophie née Brodski, residents of Kiev.

Rosalie, née Hirschstein, came into the world in Jelenia Góra on December 19, 1891, as the daughter of Julius Adolph Hirschstein, a merchant, and Rosalie née Moritz, who lived in Jelenia Góra in a house at plac Ratuszowy 4.

Leo and Rosalie initially resided at today’s ul. Wolności 32, in a house adorned with David’s stars on the veranda. Today, in addition to apartments, there is a shop and a Pentecostal church at that location.

Akt ślubu Leo Aptekmann i Rosalie Hirschstein
Dom przy Wolności 32 w Jeleniej Górze
Gwiazda Dawida na budynku przy Wolności 32 w Jeleniej Górze
Wejście do budynku przy Wolności 32 w Jeleniej Górze

Building at ul. Wolności 32 in Jelenia Góra / Photo: Marta Maćkowiak

Kamienica przy placu Ratuszowym 4 w Jeleniej Górze

Tenement at plac Ratuszowy 4 in Jelenia Góra, fragment from the exhibition at the Karkonosze Museum / Source:

From Mainz to Hirschberg

Rosalie’s father, Julius Hirschstein, was a native of Jelenia Góra, while her mother, Rosalie Moritz, came from Mainz, nearly 700 km away. Their wedding took place on July 8, 1878, in Mainz. Rosalie was the daughter of Hermann Moritz, originally from Kórnik in Greater Poland, and Regine Metzger, while Julius Hirschstein was the son of leather merchant Kaspar Hirschstein and Johanna née Brann. After their marriage, they settled in Jelenia Góra, where they raised seven children.

Marriage certificate of Julius Hirschstein and Rosalie Moritz in Mainz / Source: Mainz City Archive

It is unknown whether Leo and Rosalie Aptekmann had any descendants. So far, I haven’t come across any trace of them, and it is also unclear whether Leo remarried.

However, it is certain that after Rosalie’s death, her husband lived for some time at Jägerstrasse 6 (today ul. Wyczółkowskiego) until he was deported and killed at Majdanek concentration camp.

Building at ul.Wyczółkowskiego 6 in Jelenia Góra / Photo: Marta Maćkowiak


  • Archiwum Państwowe we Wrocławiu oddział w Jeleniej Górze (State Archive in Wrocław, Jelenia Góra Branch)
  • Landesarchiv Berlin (Berlin City Archive)
  • Mainz City Archive

Jewish Cemetery in Jelenia Góra (Hirschberg)

The Jewish community in Jelenia Góra (formerly Hirschberg) was quite modest, with a peak population of only 450 people. Nevertheless, the city had two Jewish cemeteries.

Cmentarz żydowski w Jeleniej Górze

New Jewish Cemetery in Jelenia Góra on Sudecka Street / Photo by Marta Maćkowiak

Old Jewish Cemetery 

The first, so-called “old” cemetery, was established between 1818 and 1820 in the vicinity of Nowowiejska, Na Skałkach, and Studencka streets. Today, there is no trace of this cemetery. No tombstones or cemetery architecture have been preserved, and a public square now stands in its place. After the resolution to close the cemetery was adopted by the City Council Presidium in Jelenia Góra in 1957, the liquidation process began in 1961.

Map of Jelenia Góra featuring the marked location of the old Jewish cemetery / Source:

Fotografia prawdopodobnie starego cmentarza żydowskiego w Jeleniej Górze

Photograph, likely depicting remnants of the old Jewish cemetery according to Fotopolska users, year 1928 / Source:

New Jewish Cemetery

In 1879, a kilometer away, the second Jewish cemetery was established on today’s Sudecka Street. It is said to have survived the war in fairly good condition – both the tombstones and the mortuary building did not suffer significant damage.

The mortuary building

Facing the street stood a beautiful mortuary building, which was set on fire during Kristallnacht in 1938. Surprisingly, the structure survived the war, and until 1972, it was inhabited by Leon and Maria Grzybek, the caretakers of the area. The Grzybek couple, quite fittingly named (Grzyb means ‘mushroom’ in Polish), tragically died due to mushroom poisoning. The cemetery was ultimately closed almost 100 years after its establishment, in 1974. The last burial in this building took place in 1959, and at that time, the Jewish community in Jelenia Góra consisted of 20 families.

Dom przedpogrzebowy w Jeleniej Górze

Mortuary building at the Jewish cemetery in Jelenia Góra / Source: Okruchy z historii Żydów na Śląsku (Fragments from the history of Jews in Silesia), Warsaw 2014 via

Mortuary building at the Jewish cemetery on Sudecka Street in Jelenia Góra / Source:

Mortuary building at the Jewish cemetery in Jelenia Góra – building in the bottom right corner / Source:

Chevra Kadisha

In Jelenia Góra (Hirschberg), there was also Chevra Kadisha, a charitable burial association that dealt with organizing funerals and supporting mourners. In the early 1930s, Chevra Kadisha of the Jewish community in Jelenia Góra had its headquarters at Warmbrunnerstrasse 17 – today’s ul. Wolności.

The People

Today, one part of the cemetery serves as a parking lot. Along the sidewalk, likely on the site of the mortuary, there is a boulder with a commemorative plaque, and further back, you can find several well-preserved tombstones.

Seven of them have been deciphered, and each will be the subject of a dedicated article: Rosel Aptekmann, Mathilde Buttermilch, Wilhelmine Danziger, Betty Ucko, Herman Cohn, Fritz Singer, and Leon Goldgraber, a representative of the post-war Polish community.

Cmentarz żydowski w Jeleniej Górze
Cmentarz żydowski w Jeleniej Górze
Cmentarz żydowski w Jeleniej Górze

“The bitter death will not separate love” – inscription on one of the tombstones at the Jewish cemetery on Sudecka Street in Jelenia Góra.


  • Landesarchiv Berlin

The Wachtel family from Kraków

Today, another story, the starting point of which was a trace of a mezuzah found by Janka from Krakuska City Guide and secured by Aleksander from Mi Polin in a tenement house at ul. Sebastiana 19 in Krakow. Let’s see who lived there once.

Kamienia przy ulicy Sebastiana 19 w Krakowie
Kamienica przy ulicy Sebastiana 19 w Krakowie
Ślad po mezuzie w kamienicy przy ulicy Sebastiana 19

Photos by Aleksander Prugar

The Wachtels from Jarosław

One of the families living in a Kraków tenement house at ul. Sebastiana 19 was the
Wachtel family – Henryk, Helena and their daughter Maria.

Henryk and Helena, in fact, Chaim Wachtel and Chaja Baustein, got married on June 30th, 1908, in Jarosław, where the groom held the position of a private clerk. It is not known how
they both ended up in a city several hundred kilometres away from their homeland, but they spent several years there.

Henryk was born in Słotwina on August 11th, 1881 as the son of Izak Wachtel and Rywka née Gleitsman, while Helena came from Podgórze, where she was born on April 1st, 1885 as the daughter of the merchant Joshua Baustein and Malka Schudmak.

Fragment aktu ślubu Chaima Wachtela i Chaji Baustein

A piece of Chaim Henryk Wachtel and Chaja Helena Baustein’s marriage record / Source: State Archive in Przemyśl 

One and a half year after their wedding day, their first child, the daughter Maria, was born
in house number 161 on September 12th, 1909. After the next 4 years and moving into the new house at number 52, their son Osias was born on August 19th, 1913. Osias changed his
name two times – first to Oskar, and finally to Aleksander.

Sebastiana 19

In the meantime, Henryk worked as a clerk in Jarosław and Krosno. After 1914, the family settled permanently in Kraków, and Henryk started a timber business – he began running a construction and carpentry timber yard based at ul. Kamienna 22 (I found a bill from
1935 at the Internet auction!)

Rachunek Henryka Wachtela z Krakowa

Henryk Wachtel’s construction and carpentry timber yard’s bill / Source: Aleksander Prugar

Księga adresowa z 1936 roku

The address book from 1936

After the war

Henryk and Helena survived the war – the notes in the marriage certificate evidence this, according to them, in the 1950s, they officially changed their names and surnames: from
Chaim to Henryk, from Chaja to Helena, from Wachtel to Wachniewicz. After the war, they lived in Warsaw, where their son Aleksander started a new life. He buried his mother in 1964 in the Jewish cemetery on Okopowa Street. The fate of Maria, the daughter of Henryk and Helena, Alexander’s sister, remains unknown.

Zdjęcie Marii Wachtel z Krakowa

A photography of Maria Wachtel / Source: Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw

A protocol concerning Jewish inhabitants of Kraków – in the picture: Henryk Wachtel, 1940 / Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Nagrobek Heleny Wachtel

A grave of Helena Wachtel buried at Jewish cemetery in Warsaw on Okopowa Street / Source: Foundation for Documentation of Jewish Cemetries in Poland


  • State Archive in Przemyśl
  • Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.
  • Foundation for Documentation of Jewish Cemetries in Poland

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Czasem konkretny dokument może zostać nie odnaleziony z różnych przyczyn – migracji do innych wiosek/miast w dalszych pokoleniach, ochrzczenia w innej parafii, lukach w księgach, zniszczeń dokumentów w pożarach lub w czasie wojen.  Cena końcowa w takiej sytuacji nie ulega zmienia, ponieważ wysiłek włożony w poszukiwania jest taki sam bez względu na rezultat.

Raporty mogą się od siebie mniej lub bardziej różnić w zależności od miejsca, z którego rodzina pochodziła (np. dokumenty z zaboru pruskiego, austriackiego i rosyjskiego różnią się od siebie formą i treścią).


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Warto pamiętać, że im więcej szczegółów podasz, tym więcej rzeczy mogę odkryć.

Podziel się ze mną:

  • Imionami i nazwiskami przodków (wszystkich, o których wiesz)
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  • Legendami i historiami rodzinnymi

I najważniejsze – jeśli masz niewiele informacji, zupełnie się tym nie martw, w takich sytuacjach także znajdę rozwiązanie.