Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mr. Jankowski's 2nd letter

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a reader, James in Australia, who had purchased another letter by Mr. Jankowski. He offered photos of it to me to translate. I was thrilled to get the chance to read it, especially since it was accompanied by the envelope. This has provided me with many more details and information than I ever expected to learn about Jankowski.

Here is a quick translation of the letter, which was originally sent from Leschek Jankowski in Buchenwald to his parents.

December 31, 1944
Dear Father and Mother,
I am writing to tell you that I am healthy and to thank you for the parcel that you sent me. I ask that you not send me any more packets since it is difficult for you. My dear parents I am very happy you’re in good health.

I have hope for our reunion and believe (when it comes) that we will all be happy. Uncle Herbert has sent me letters (a letter?). I understand that Zelda had sent you a letter and made you happy, just at the new year.

I am waiting on letters from Franz, Sofi and Halinka, with each letter I get much happiness. My dear Father and Mother I wish you a New Year with everything good, health and the wish that your youngest son can come to you and give you kisses without end. I greet and kiss you all, your dearest (garbled by the censor’s stamp)
Post card from Franz I received with this.
Loving Greetings, Leschek

My initial reaction was surprise that nearly a year after the first letter was written, he was still alive and at Buchenwald. I then focused on the envelope’s address and what more I could learn from it.

His parents were Marianne Elsner born 1874 and Josef Jankowski born 1871. They married in 1894 in the Catholic Parish of Dziewierzewo. Leschek was their youngest son, born on November 28, 1911 in Hohensalza. His last address was listed as Jazewska 38 in Hohensalza. Hohensalza, (now called Inowrocław) was in the county of Hohensalza in Prussia in the province of Posen (which is now Poland). The area of Hohensalza had a predominate population of Catholics, though there were some Protestants and a small minority of Jews. 36% of the citizens were German speakers, 64% Polish speakers in the 1930’s.

Leschek was first imprisoned in Dachau where his prisoner number was 35 777 then he was transferred to Buchenwald where he was issued a new number and held until he was liberated April 11, 1945. In 1944 his parents were still living in Hohensalza.

This new information seems to confirm my initial thought that he was a Catholic Pole and an ethnic German. Much like some people in the US today are culturally Mexican (or any other ethnic group) but are US citizens.

Based on my research he would have been housed in the so-called Tent Camp that was constructed for the Polish soldiers who arrived when he did in September of 1939.

He may have been involved in the Battle of Bzura with the 26th Infantry Division or in a reserve division of the Poznan Army. He was probably captured then or in it’s immediate aftermath. This fits the date of his arrest and the general area where he was arrested in Pila (Schneidemühl in German)

We know his wife was Halinka or Zorinka and their daughter was Sofi. He had an Uncle Herbert and he mentions Franz and Zelda and Heinrich and Forenski.
He had an aunt and an older brother, (who could have been named Franz or Heinrich).

As much more information as I have gained, I’m still curious to know what happened to him. How did he manage to live in Buchenwald for 6 years? What did he do to survive? Many people died in the weeks and months after being liberated from disease and malnourishment. Since he was a soldier, and not Jewish, I expect he may have gotten treated better (more food perhaps) than some inmates. Certainly he would have tried to return to Hohensalza after liberation since his parents, wife and child were there.

Again, I invite anyone with a letter from Leschek Jankowski or any of his relatives who may have more information about his fate to contact me. I’m grateful to James for reaching out to me and sharing this second letter.

Photo of a Polish Political Prisoner patch which was worn in concentration camps to indicate the prisoner's status from from the Polish Forced Labor Collection forum posted by 4thskorpion

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Voice from the Past - Mr. Jankowski's Letter

A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to translate a letter from German into English. I always appreciate the chance to exercise my translation muscle so I accepted the task, but not without some anxiety as it was letter from a prisoner at Buchenwald concentration camp to his wife. I was concerned that I might not able able to do it justice, but felt it was important to give it a go.

It was shared with me by the letter's owner, someone who purchased it from a collector of such items with the request to translate, out of curiosity as to it's content. I have found this to be a remarkable opportunity to engage with history in a visceral and concrete way and I felt that sharing this (with the owner's permission) would be a good way to shed light for students of history and genealogy. Perhaps this person's remaining family members may even find it one day.

Here is the translation of the letter into English and my transcription of it in German below that, from Jankowski's handwriting in German. In this translation I have tried to convey the language of the letter as best I can in the hope that it is less of a transliteration and more a representation of a note to a family member.

Letter from Prisoner in Protective Custody, Leschek Jankowski
in Concentration Camp Weimar-Buchenwald
dated January 3, 1943

Dear Sofi and Zorinka,
I received your parcel with heartfelt thanks. It is hard to express my deepest appreciation and I can't describe how grateful I am.

In spite of this dear Zorinka, I ask you to please not send me any parcels.

I can understand your situation but you should not waste a single minute to send them to me, because it's really not important.

Tell Aunt and Uncle that I have also received their package and it's contents with deep appreciation.

Dear Zori! On the occasion of your birthday, I send you all my best and good wishes. I want you to stay healthy so that one day we will see each other again and then our longing for each other will be at an end. Our darling little daughter should remain the symbol of our deep love.

Happy New Year greetings to all my family and friends. I've received so many letters from you all, but as of now I have received no news from my brothers. Please also send me news of Heinrich and Forenski and send them my greetings. The next letter (I write) I will send to uncle and aunt.
Greetings, kisses and deepest longing, your dear Leschek
Here is my best attempt to transcribe his writing, some of the words I had a hard time deciphering the handwriting on. I've written it out as it appears to me, but the words may appear nonsensical to those who know German.

Lieber Sofi und Zorinka,
Sowohl euren brief wie das Pakete habe ich mit herzlichen dank erhalten. Es fallte mir schwere meine grossen Dankbarkeit mehligen aus danek nur zur verheilen, und wie wir geschmackt hat brauche ich wohl nicht zur schildern.

Trotzdem liebe Zorinka, bitte ich Dich nun sie aus keinerlei pakete zu schicken.

Ich kann mich in Eure Lage hineinstellen und Ihr sollt euch nicht von einigen Minute absparen um mir zu schicken denn es ist wirklich nicht notwendig.

Onkel und Tante teile bitte mit das ich ihre Pakete mit inhalt ebenfalls mit grösser dankbarkeit erhalten habe.

Liebe Zusier! Anlasslich deines Geburtstages wie auch des Neuen Jahres meine beste und besondere herzliche grüsse wunsche entgegen mögst Du mir recht lange gesund am Leben erhalten bleiben, auf das wir uns einst wiedersehen und unsere grosse Sehnsucht endlich gestillt werde.

Unser lieber Töchterchen möge weiter das Symbol unsere grossen Liebe bleiben. Herzliche Neujahrswünche sende ich auch meiner ganzen Familie und Bekannten. Soviel Briefe habe ich von Euch schon erhalten, aber bisher habe ich nichts von meinem Brüder keinen Nachrichten.

Bitte schreib mir auch etwas über Heinrich und Forenski die ich alle recht herzlich grüssen lassen. Den nächsten Brief werde ich weiter an Onkel und Tante richten. Verbleibt mir also alle recht herzlich gegrüßt und geküsst im grosser Sehnsucht nach Euch.
Deiner Liebe Leschek

This letter prompted some cursory research on my end to try to find more about Mr. Jankowski and the context of his situation. Perhaps with some deeper scholarship and a little luck, his fate might be learned.

Buchenwald was described as a work camp rather than designed purposefully for extermination and some people did survive it, though of course the harsh conditions and enforced labor took its toll on many. A segment of prisoners were indeed brutalized and experimented upon, but I would like to hope that Mr. Jankowski was not one of them.

The facts obvious right away are that he had a wife and young daughter, an aunt and uncle whom he was close and at least two brothers or possibly two friends/colleagues, which he mentions by name. His German seems to be that of a native speaker, but his Polish surname makes me think he could have been an ethnic Pole in Germany. Reichs prisoners were required by law to communicate with their families solely in German so this may have been a dictated letter - the hand-writing may not even been his. Minority rights for Poles in Germany were revoked by in February 1940 and their property was confiscated. Zorinka is a Czech female name, so perhaps his wife was from the Sudentenland. Jankowski is the 13th most popular surname in Poland.

As to his ethnic status, I am unaware if he was a Jew. In October 1942 all of Buchenwald's Jewish prisoners were deported to Auschwitz except for 204 essential workers, yet the chances of him being one of these is slim. Jankowski was a prisoner in "Protective Custody", a catch-all phrase used to incarcerate Jews as well as Social Democrats, Communists, Liberals, Freemasons, Jehovah's Witnesses, clergy who opposed the Nazis, members of national opposition movements, non-Germans in general after Germany began to occupy Europe, and any others whose behavior -- real or perceived -- could be interpreted as politically motivated opposition.

He doesn't mention Christmas, which would have been a few weeks prior to the letter being written. It's absence could indicate his religion as Jewish -- or not. Perhaps the New Year could have been reason enough for him to receive packages from family. It is unclear.

I think the best chance of learning more about him would be to access the records of Buchenwald since his Prisoner number 7073 and cellblock 38D, are both clearly listed on his letter. Perhaps other records would indicate his ethnicity.

The printed section on the stationary are instructions to the prisoner and recipient of the letter which I didn't spend the time translating since they didn't hold much information of interest to me. The last few sentences however stick in my mind: Der Tag der Entlassung kann noch nicht gegeben werden. Besuchen im Lager sind verboten. Umfragen sind zwecklos. Release dates cannot be given. Visits to the prison are forbidden. Requests are useless. Very Kafka-esque in it's finality.

The things that stood out for me in the content of the letter was that he indicated he'd gotten multiple letters and parcels from family members -- not something I would have expected for someone in a camp. I found his choice of words that their small daughter, who would stand as the "symbol" of their love, particularly tender and poignant. I wonder who Heinrich and Forenski were - they were clearly important enough to him to ask about. The letter had no envelope so I have no idea where it was sent to, that would have helped. I don't know the condition of the paper since it was scanned and sent to me as a PDF document.

I would like to hear from other people who might know anything of the details of this letter and it's historical context. If anyone has researched individual prisoners, I'd be interested in learning how you went about it. I don't want this man to be forgotten.

Image detail from a 1944 German postcard from the McMaster University digital collection of concentration camp correspondence.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

3 Reasons You Shouldn't use your Personal Facebook Page for Business

At work I was speaking to a client the other day who told me that he had a Facebook account already and was just planning on using that to market his business services. "OK," was my reply, "but let me send you some sample pages from Facebook for you to take a look at, just so you can see the range of what's out there." I emailed over some links and pondered how best to address this with him.

Then later today I was in a discussion group online and saw a thread that was asking the question about using a "personal" Facebook for "business. Since it seems to be in the zeitgeist these days, I thought I'd share my ideas here.

It is my belief that if you use your "personal" Facebook page for "business", you limit yourself in some crucial ways.

First of all, Facebook sets a finite number of friends you can have (5,000) as an individual.

Secondly, one cannot "like" a personal Facebook page so you will have to consistently generate content (i.e.: work harder) in order to show up in your "friend's" news feed. If someone has "liked" your page they will see your content automatically.

Finally, there are so many fantastic third party apps for Facebook "business" pages that are not available for "personal" pages. I have clients who have tabs linking to their newsletters, YouTube or any number of resources that further relate to their business. These tools are readily available, easy to implement and cost nothing but the time it takes to set up - often just a few minutes.

If you remain unconvinced as to why you should have a business page on Facebook, consider this: do you really want the public, clients and people you do business with making assumptions about you based on the content that gets shared on your wall by your kids, personal friends, college roommates and others?

Just because you know that red plastic cup you're holding in a picture has soda in it, doesn't mean someone else looking at the photo will assume that. Yes, there are some sharing controls on Facebook, but they can be difficult to locate and therefore implement.

Why risk the potential pitfalls when you can readily set up a "Business" page on Facebook which can be managed by using the Use Facebook as Page switch under the Account drop down menu?

You already have a built-in set of "fans" for your page in all of your personal friends. The "average user" has 130 of them. You can easily share your new page with your personal friends, asking them to "like" it - thereby getting you the 25 likes for the custom URL. You can have a page dedicated just for "business" - increasing your social media footprint, SEO and number of eyes on your product or service.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Women and Social Media – Playing to our Strengths

Marketers are always looking to influence women. While we (still rather appallingly) don’t earn equally to men, in many ways our spending power is greater. Why? Because we often have more influence than our spouses/boyfriends in what is purchased. Women have high influence on the purchase of groceries, home goods and furnishings, and clothing. In families, women’s choices influence children’s toys, entertainment and the petty cash expenditures that make up teen entertainment, allowances and tooth fairy money. We carry brand loyalty, we search for deals, our gender’s proclivities practically program us to be social. Combine that with shopping and you have a marketing home run. 

We are the Social Gender
Because women are by and large expert natural communicators companies have been constantly looking to engage us across multiple platforms and sectors both locally and globally. Rather than selling us something we might not need, but find attractive, now we are approached via social media to not only share our opinion but to sometimes beta-test or even evangelize for products and services before a single sale takes place.

The Good Gossip
Take for example a traditionally female market – baby products. Every new mother is looking for the best products that bring CPQ - Convenience, Price and Quality. If they have a cachet to them as well, so much the better. Who will these new moms listen to? The “Varsity” mothers, those with older children who can share their wisdom from a “been there, tried that” perspective. An entire cadre of “mommy bloggers”, our own version of 21st century “god-sibbs”, is out there sharing their opinions in real-time and building brand authority for any number of products. These days with social media, it’s not 4 out of 5 doctors recommending, it’s 4 out of 5 of the women in your child’s neighborhood preschool, at your job, on Facebook, in the pew and 6 timezones and perhaps a cultural divide away.

Leading Ladies
Because women are so driven to build relationships, we have a breadth and depth of opportunity to become social media leaders and sisters to one another. Advice driven sites on where to find the best bargains, deals, and coupons continue to grow. The addition of “gaming” techniques to deepen the engagement expands and amplifies our participation.  We have a gender-based advantage in communication and relationship understanding that can be used to effect change and create innovation by aggregating user value and harnessing the power of collective intelligence.

All Access Pass
For women who are trying to start their own businesses, the numerous free tools offered by social media are a huge boon for marketing and promotion. Social media done right is an all access backstage pass – you can build a stream to venture capital, industry experts and key players who can help along the way. Just a few years ago, this would have been much more difficult to gain without an MBA and/or a well-connected friend. A marketing campaign of Facebook, Twitter and a blog about your business costs nothing but your time. Social media enhances our relationships to one another, broadens our spheres of influence and levels the playing field. Women who aren’t using social media successfully are missing out on flexing our social muscle.

Share your thoughts. Are women better at social media than men? Are we truly playing to our strengths? Does gender have any bearing on social media success?

Feel the link love: Images courtesy of Virology,, and the University of South Florida

Monday, March 21, 2011

Follower of Fashion

I'm not particularly known as a Fashion Plate, though I do appreciate nice clothes. I have just had a wardrobe consultation with the amazing Anne Devlin and she has inspired me to look closer at clothing.

This is also exercise for my newly liberated hand...Lefty has been a bit constrained lately. Typing was suggested by my doctor as a good "work out". Snowboarding, not so much. :-(

I've seen a lot of neat fashion ideas recently and thought I would share some of them.

Wear the Shift
This is a site that was crowd-sourced on Kickstarter. Cute, A-line shift dresses that are custom made for you in vintage fabric. They run your measurements in a fancy algorithm and out comes bespoke awesomeness! I can't wait to wear mine and I promise will model it here (yes really).

QR Code wear
Check it out - you can put a QR code on clothing. Maybe this is too Geekchic for some people but I thought it would be a fun idea for All the Single Ladies to put your profile page as a QR code on a t-shirt. And clearly great minds think alike because they had that idea at Zazzle.

This company has decided to follow me on Twitter (thanks ya'll) and because they did, I'm going to give them a shout out, I am more M-E-D but it looks like fun clothes for guys who like surfing waves and snow. Right on.

Kika Paprika
I just bought some clothing from Kika Paprika to boost my fashion quotient. I wanted to achieve an updated look for "casual business" and break out of my "uniform" - those items that I repeatedly went to because they were comfortable, but somewhat outdated. This clothing is VERY comfortable! I couldn't get over how soft the fabric was, seriously, most of the pieces I tried on I could imagine sleeping in they were so soft. The fabrics are pre-shrunk, organic cotton and colored with organic dyes. The clothing is made locally in Los Angeles. How can you go wrong in clothes that look great, support a sustainable business model and that you can shop for without going to the mall?

Images from WeartheShift, Zazzle, LRG and Kika Paprika. Feel the love!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Give Lefty a Hand

A few weeks ago, I broke my left hand. The 4th metacarpal bone to be exact. I am (thankfully) right-handed, but my buddy Lefty does quite a lot to help move things along.

A few hours after. All my fingers are extended in this photo, except the broken one.

Metacarpal fractures are common injuries that account for 30-40% of all hand fractures. They most often involve the 5th (pinky finger) and/or the 4th metacarpal (ring finger) and are also known as boxer’s or bar-room fractures.

This is from the next morning. It does look like I got into quite the kerfuffle doesn't it?

Typing, Holding things, Many household chores, Bathing, Dressing, Cooking, these are all things that are slightly more challenging to do without Lefty.

How did it happen? Dog walking. The short of it is that I was not present in that moment. I had a gazillion little distractions. I was monkey-minding (something we all fall into from time to time). With a little help from Dingo the dog.

I’m fortunate in that the things I am presently committed to – work, meetings, etc. I have been able to either walk to, get a ride to or Skype myself in to. At work, my intern very kindly offers to take dictation. My clients are often surprised, “Oh no! What happened??” Sometimes I like to say, “Well, I was wrestling a wolverine…” or perhaps more believably, “I caught an edge snowboarding...”

Unfortunately they didn't offer a Carolina Blue cast...

Not surprisingly, I’ve really increased my speed and accuracy in one-handed typing. I’ve revamped my meal plans for items that are soups, casseroles and stews; recipes that can be made with pre-chopped vegetables, meat and a lot of stirring. We have feasted on paella and enjoyed a chocolate pavlova dessert. The Crock Pot is seeing more action. The stand mixer and food processor have never been busier.

Soon the cast will come off, but the lesson has been learned. Dingo reminds me, in her goofy, awkward, “ding a ling” way, that I must be present and patient in all of life’s moments. Even the seemingly mundane ones such as dog walking. I have said before, that dogs are our bodhisattvas in fur and this was revealed to me again in an eye opening (and bone breaking) moment.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Some thoughts on the Knowledge Economy

In 1969 Peter Drucker popularized the phrase knowledge economy. The idea of a knowledge economy is that knowledge is viewed as a product versus knowledge as a tool. The knowledge economy is based on the economics of abundance. I touch on this in Open Source: The End of Scarcity Means More. Information and knowledge increase through the act of sharing. The more data/information shared, the more growth in knowledge results. Knowledge flows as water, it drips then becomes a steady stream or torrent where ever there is demand and few barriers. In the knowledge economy, wealth is based on ownership of knowledge and information.

Forty-two years later Drucker’s children are the knowledge workers – the Gen X and Yers, the Millennials and Digital Natives are established or entering the workplace. As suggested in my post, What If Work Were Fun?, the worker of the 21st century is becoming a knowledge worker. Schooled in new media, the brightest of them are capable of both convergent and divergent thinking, they can be collaborative, evaluate priorities, make connections, establish and nurture relationships, and be flexible enough to both create new paradigms as well as modify existing ones.

Social media has risen in importance and currently drives the knowledge economy because communication is a fundamental component to the stream of knowledge and information. Social media highlights the importance of relational capital – one based on interactions and relationships. The act of transforming information into knowledge is the creation of value.

Just a few years ago we did business differently. The rule was - I offered a product/commodity for sale, you bought it (or not), end of transaction. It was an even exchange, a closed system. But the knowledge economy has changed that. The open sourced, new way of doing business also values expertise and the concept of “know how”. Meshing social with business creates an emotional bond. It’s about more than just selling, these relationships foster an interactive and cooperative exchange.

The old way of doing business doesn’t work effectively anymore because more social effort needs to be invested to get people to listen. Business must engage and be present vis a vis their customers who now demand openness, flexibility and a willingness to embrace change.

I have an actor friend who used to believe that once he landed an agent, he could just sit back and the jobs would come rolling in. He believed that an agent would do the heavy lifting for him, bring him work so he wouldn’t have to hustle. This didn’t happen, so he fired the agent. But once my friend realized that he was his own best representative - his career started to take off because he was creating value for himself. He was giving to get. Now he’s got several agents chasing him.

“What you give is what you get.”

I used to talk about this concept a lot when I was a fundraising executive. We rallied our board members around the Give/Get principle because we expected them to create value for the institution.

It’s not really that different in business. By giving value for the people around you, you will get value in return. Value creates thought leadership, someone who people want to know and do business with. People want to give business to those who give them business. This is not a new idea, but it’s one worth being mindful of because emphasizes reciprocity, an exchange which creates a relationship.

I try to create value everyday because I appreciate the community I inhabit. For me, it makes for a full and fulfilled work life. Who doesn’t want that?

Photos from: Wikipedia, Teamsubmarine & Mr. Cheapstuff

and that's showbiz, Kid

At the intersection of art and new media, a place where the convergence emerges.