Thursday, April 2, 2015

1939-1945 : DISNA Jews fight for life at home and abroad

Earlier I had incorrectly assumed that the Alex Aronson from Bronx found on lists of members of an "immigrants from Nesvizh mutual assistance society" (a landsmanshaften) was the Alex Aronson from Vyse Ave Bronx.

The Vyse Ave Aronson family also consisted of Olga the mother and children Charles, Lillian and Samuel.

Charles was one of a pair of America's "last", whose life was saved by becoming the "first" ever in history to receive an antibiotics injection (Penicillin), 75 years ago this October 16th 2015.

To mark this august anniversary, of both the birth of our Age of Antibiotics and the re-birth of some sense of compassion for others, I am trying to retrace Charles' life.


But while the Nesvizh area Alex may share a very close birthdate with the Vyse Ave Alex, he is a different individual.

Lisa Beth Liel over at GENI lays out his family connections --- including his uncle Jeremiah Arenssen.

It just so happens that out of the ten trillion different ways to spell Aaron's son, a New York Jewish family spelled Arenssen is totally unique.

Usefully so.

Because this uncle from Nesvizh, Jeremiah Arenssen, was the witness for Alex of Vyse Avenue's naturalization process.

And these witnesses were very, very often relatives from home who had arrived in America years earlier.

So the connection, if any, between these two Alex Aronson from the Bronx still remains unresolved.

Vyse Avenue's Alex , before the old Russian Empire broke up, always said he was born in Kieff (Kiev) Russia , today the capital of Ukraine --- a great distance from either Nesvizh or Disna, which are today part of Belarus and between 1919-1939 were part of Poland.


But he is buried, along with the rest of his family, in a section of New York's New Montefiore cemetery that is set aside for members of the Disna benevolent society - of which a Sam and Lillian Aronson from the Bronx were members in 1967.

And we know these two family members were still living in the Bronx at that time and were the only family members still alive in 1967.

The wartime fate of the Jews of Disna is as dismal as that of the Jews of Nesvizh - virtually all were mass murdered in short order, with only a very few escaping to share the partisans' short and brutish lives and even fewer surviving the entire war.

The Allies could be little better : refusing to give Charles Aronson penicillin to save his life from death from endocarditis because endocarditis was deemed 'not important to the military conduct of the war'.

But one Gentile named Dr Martin Henry Dawson would not stand for that sort of downmarket Nazism.

Rescuing America's Jews, during WWII

He gave up his own life to see that that America's unwanted, blacks like Aaron Leroy Alston and Jews like Charles Aronson (and many more like them) were given a chance at life.

Dawson died tragically young (48) on April 27 1945 but he had finally succeeded in his efforts to see that the Allies' wartime penicillin was freely given to all those dying for lack of it.

Charles Aronson, after twice being cured of then invariably fatal endocarditis by Dawson, lived on six more years after his doctor died - then dying himself on October 16th 1951.

He was almost 40.

A beautiful monument is in that Disna area of the cemetery, raised up in 1964 to honor all those Jews from Disna lost during WWII.

But no monument is there to honor this young man from a family of Disna Jews who was saved during WWII ...

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