My Trochenbrod Roots

This pic I found online looks so familiar, will have to check with my aunt if my father is in this photo.

I am very excited to share that a feature length documentary is coming out soon, it is in post-production regarding Trochenbrod, the small Polish town (shtetl) my father is from.  It no longer exists today as it was annihilated by the Nazis during WWII.  All but 33 of the 5000 inhabitants were murdered.  My father, his sister, Betty, and parents, Ely and Rivka, all escaped, survived and made it to America.  My dad’s one brother wasn’t so fortunate.  While my mother would tell us that she was in two of the concentration camps set up by the Germans, Aushwitz and Bergen Belsen, my father told stories of his family going into hiding.  At one point, they hid in the woods.  They had dug a long, narrow hole in the ground, and hid there for I don’t know how long.  At other times, they would ask the local gentiles if they could hide in their barn.

Betty Gold, my aunt, shares her experiences, traveled back to Trochenbrod, and is part of the documentary soon to be released. (My grandmother is pictured on the wall above her head.)

This one particular time, my father told me, a farmer refused them refuge, and they continued on foot for quite a long distance.  That night they heard a big commotion in the distance, and learned the next day, that the Nazis had been to that farm and demolished the barn and killed everyone on site.

My father told me that he joined forces with the Russian rebellion; he was just a boy at the time.  He did come to this country, speaking fluent Russian, and Polish and Yiddish.  Presently, the only remaining survivor from Trochenbrod in my family is my Aunt Betty.  She traveled to Trochenbrod site, which for a while became part of the Soviet Union but presently is now part of Ukraine.  She is in the documentary.  She is wearing a blue shirt and red and white scarf around her neck.  Later on, she is wearing a khaki hat.

Watch the trailer.  It says that Trochenbrod was the only all Jewish town to exist outside of Israel.  Seemed like a very special place, with everyone knowing everyone else.

When I was in college one year, I traveled with my mother to Israel to attend an International Holocaust Survivor’s Reunion.  We stayed with an older couple, perhaps related, that was also hiding out along with my father’s family.  One day, the Nazis were coming when they were in someone’s house.  Everyone, including all of the children were jumping out the back window and running for the woods. My father, his sister and parents made it to safety in the woods, however, this couple from Israel, their three children didn’t make it and were gunned down.  After the war, they immigrated to Israel.  After so many years of being asked by people if they had children, at some point, they began saying, no, they never had children.

I found a blog entry someone posted regarding my aunt giving a presentation to students at Malone University.  She shares more details about her experience in that post.

The film Everything is Illuminated is based on Trochenbrod.

I read some differences of opinion regarding this film, but I liked it.

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16 Responses to My Trochenbrod Roots

  1. Doreen Wittenbeerg says:

    My mother-in-law (of Blessed memory)Elka Cooperschmidt Wittenberg was from Trochenbord. We have a street map of the town given to us by Avrun Schteinberg , Israel. A cousin. My husband and I are originally from Phila. Pa. and somehow are related to a Potash family. Do you have family in Philly? We now live in Atlanta, Ga. Hope you wiill contact us.

  2. deborah says:

    Arlene – I’m
    Deborah Potash Brodie — I’ve met your aunt — she took my breathe away – she looks so much like my Aunt Betty z’l – whose name was Basya. All Potashs are related. My grandfather was Nathan Potash and he married Trina Bulmash – my grandmother — both from Trochenbrod. He went to Argentina and sent for her but then the came to Baltimore where my father and two aunts were raised (another brother Paul died during flu epidemic). We will actually be at the Shaker Heights Craft Festival mid-June – — would love to meet you! d:)

    • Marjorie Lasky says:

      My great-aunt Trina Chait Balmash was born in Trochenbrod. However, I believe she died in the Holocaust. There were numerous Balmash families in Trochenbrod, but I would sincerely like to hear from you as we might be able to find a link between the two Trinas. My e-mail is

  3. Eddie Seiler says:

    My name is Eddie Seiler (from Rockville, MD). My parents live in Netanya. My mother’s maiden name was Rochelle Potash. Her grandfather (Mordechai Potash) left Trochenbrod and moved to Manchester, UK in about 1890. He was following an older brother (that my aunt thinks was named Nathan) to the US, but didn’t have enough money – so he was supposed to work in Manchester and follow on – but he met his wife in Manchester and stayed there. I, his great-grandson, made the move (that he didn’t) 20 years ago when I came to study in the States and met my wife (from NY).
    I would love to be in contact to learn more. My email is
    Thanks, Eddie Seiler

    • deborah says:

      Zojirushi Premium Thermal Carafe

    • deborah says:

      oops– the wrong thing sent. i live in rockville too — my grandparents were both from trochenbrod. natan potas went to argentina to be with his brother pedro (pinchus), sent for my g/mother trina bulmash. they stayed — i think a short time and then came to baltimore. my father was born in baltlmore. he didn’t learn english until he went to school. my father was joseph norman – nachum yosef —

      i sent you an email as well.

  4. Bob Bulmash says:

    I did a brief webpage about Trochenbrod at:
    The link at the top of that page will take you to Trochenbrod’s (Sofyovka’s) Yizkor book
    Start on page 612 and work backwards for the English translation.
    On Yom Kippur, 2011, NPR aired a 1-hour feature on Trochenbrod and the fate of it’s people.
    You can hear it at::

    Be Well,
    Bob Bulmash

  5. Golda Potash says:

    My father in law, Harry (Herschel) Potash was born in Trochenbrod, around 1900. His family left before the war, and settled in Philadelphia, later settling in Buffalo, NY. My husband, Michael (Emanuel) Potash was in touch with a Potash from Israel and also London. He unfortunately is nifter, but would surely have loved to know that Trochenbrod was all Jewish (except for one gentile), and that all the Potashes in Trochenbrod were related. We have no Potash men to carry on our segment of the family. He would have so enjoyed finding a family connection. My daughters are all married, living in Florida, Illinois, and Melbourne Australia. I live in Long Beach, California.

  6. Daniel potash says:

    My grandfather is a trochenbrod survivor his name is david potash I have a family picture , he mentioned family members moving to argentina, and after reading the posts was wondering if there is any relation

    • deborah says:

      Hi Daniel. Send me your email and i will send you the tree my father z’l made many years ago. My g/parents first emigrated to Argentina and then came to Baltimore. The brothers and sister stayed in Argentina. Eventually the sister Reizeh emigrated to Israel. We are in contact with that part of the family. The rest of the family has mostly intermarried. Would love to see family picture as well. All Potash’s are related. Where do you live? Please send me your email — I will send you the tree.

  7. arlenepotash says:

    My grandfather, grandmother, father and aunt (one uncle did not survive) all settled in Cleveland, Ohio, and I was never aware of extended family settling elsewhere. There was a huge cousins club when I was growing up, but no one had the Potash last name. Cone to think of it, I never asked if my grandparents had siblings, they must have.

    • Deborah says:

      Were you related to betty gold. She looked so much like my aunt betty. I don’t know how we were related. Didn’t know much from my father’s side… no potash… porter… nsme changedd. I live in maryland outside of dc.

    • deborah says:

      my grandfather was natan potash. his siblings were chaim, pedro, moshe bear and reizeh. chaim potash had a son harry (changed to porter) and sarah – harry lived in philly.. moshe baer married sylvia and had esther and faye. we knew very few relatives..

  8. jamie leventhal says:

    deborah, arlene, others…i’m jamie leventhal from boston – my grandmother was evelyn potash (she married harry levine) – and her father was isaac potash. isaac, my great grandfather, brought my grandmother, evelyn, here to the U.S. when evelyn was a small child. they settled in worcester, ma. i know for certain that the family is from trochenbrod, and before my grandmother passed she told fairly vivid stories of trocenbrod and even the home they lived in there. i’d love to see deborah’s family tree and any other info that any of you have. you can email me at or message me here and i’ll reach out to you directly. thank you!

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