October is American Archives Month. To celebrate, we are highlighting our staff around the country and their favorite records from the holdings in the National Archives.
Today’s staff member is Elizabeth Burnes, an archivist at the National Archives at Kansas City. Her favorite record is the Alien File of Miosche Slodovnik. Here’s Elizabeth’s story:
Researchers sometimes have the ”more is more” mindset as they track down documentation on their ancestors, but there are occasions where a single document can provide amazing insights. The Alien File (A-File) of Moische Slodovnik (A6316522) is a prime example.Moische’s great-niece, French journalist Annie Anas, had been researching her family history for about 15 years before she learned of his A-File. Growing up, Annie had learned that her grandparents died in the Auschwitz concentration camp and believed that the whole extended family met a similar fate. In 1973, Annie’s family by chance learned that Moische and two of his four children had successfully escaped the ghetto in Radun, Poland, after hearing that the Nazis planned to liquidate the ghetto on May 10, 1942.
Annie was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to meet Moische’s children, and during the visit she learned that Moische had traveled into the United States following World War II. This fact would come into play many years later when Annie began researching her genealogy and ran into difficulties tracking down information about her family, specifically her great-grandmother’s maiden name. After extensive research, finding records of Moische’s immigration to the United States seemed like the only possibility to locate the family name. Her searches had produced very little about Moische until she came across an entry for his A-File in the National Archives Online Catalog.
The six pages of Moische’s file included an Application for Immigration Visa, on which Moische listed his parents, Yehuda Slodovnik and Yahka Goldberg. Success! Annie now knew her great-grandmother’s name and had a list of prior residences. Born May 10, 1898, in Radun, Poland, Moische had spent his life until World War II in his hometown. He then moved to the ghetto at Radun for a year, fled to hide in the woods of Poland for two years, and eventually spent time in Berlin, Germany, and a displaced persons camp at Eschwege, Germany, until National Refugee Service, Inc. paid his passage to the United States. Annie had no idea how Moische had survived or what became of him at the end of the war.
Annie wrote to me: “I was very excited to receive copies of the file. I wanted to get your answer very quickly because I supposed it was the last chance to get the family information I had been seeking for so many years. Since most of my family died in the Shoah, it is not easy work. Learning my great grandmother’s name, finding out about Moische’s life, and obtaining his photograph are all very important for me because there are not many testimonies of what happened during the Shoah in little shtetles.”
Though Moische lived only one year in the United States before he passed away, his A-File remains, holding clues to the struggles he and his family faced during the Holocaust and providing new leads for family historians like Annie to continue their research.
A-Files were created beginning April 1, 1944, by INS to record the experience of aliens as they passed through the United States immigration and inspection process. The files hold a wealth of data including visas, photographs, applications, affidavits, correspondence, and more. The National Archives at Kansas City maintains over 450,000 A-Files for individuals born 1910 and prior. Each A-File available through the National Archives is name searchable in OPA. To learn more about the A-Files and the record request process visit: http://www.archives.gov/research/immigration/aliens/a-files-kansas-city.html.