Raising Voices of European Jews Before 1938

Hello! My name is Marianne Kwiatkowski, owner/storyteller at StoriesFromThePast.com  , a blog dedicated to reviving the stories of people who died without putting their unique stories into writing. 

The cover photo is my great-grandmother. Isn’t she beautiful? I’m sure her siblings were just as lovely. 

But I’ll probably never know. The picture below is the only physical representation of my great-grandmother’s sister that I have ever seen, and it did not exist until August 2018. It is a plaque called a Stolperstein, or “stumbling block,” laid in a sidewalk in Pitten, Austria. This stumbling block is what substitutes for my great-grandmother’s sister’s tombstone.

I didn’t even know about Rosa Rebecca’s existence until I was contacted by Ruth Contreras, a woman from Rosa’s hometown in Pitten, Austria. Ruth currently lives right next door to the building Rosa Abeles called home before she was taken by the Nazis and eventually sent to her death in Treblinka. 

There are four Stolpersteine in all in my great-grandmother’s hometown of Pitten, Austria. Each plaque represents one of the four Pitten residents taken against their will and sent to their deaths as part of Hitler’s “purification” pogrom during the Shoah. 

The Stolpersteine are just part of the work Ruth Contreras has been doing to revive the memories of the people who lived in the Bucklige Welt and Wechselland regions of Austria before Germany annexed Austria in 1938. In April of this year, a new museum exhibit in the neighboring town of Bad Erlach, called “With – Without Jews,” will be opened commemorating my family and their former neighbors who once thrived in the area.

Raising Voices

I have been inspired by Ruth’s efforts to raise awareness of racism and marginalization in Austria, and have decided to create an American extension at Stories From the Past , with the working title, Raising Voices . The first article in the project, titled American Slavery in Kentucky, was posted on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 2019.

I am honored to have received a personal invitation to participate in the inauguration of the museum exhibit in Austria. It is a wonderful opportunity not only to do personal family research, but to do the more important service of researching stories for Raising Voices in Europe. This is a very expensive venture, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

My family simply cannot afford the trip at this time.

Your Donation will Make all the Difference

My goal of $3,000 will not only help pay for the trip, but will allow me to extend the trip beyond Austria to the neighboring countries of Slovakia, Poland and Germany where I will research the stories of the Rothsprack, Lietka, Kempa, Kwiatkowski, and Szadlowski families as well. I have been told that the Lietka and Kempa family names were completely wiped out during the Shoah.

In the event that I raise too much, remaining funds for will be used to extend research for the Raising Voices project,  open a non-profit organization, and to recruit researchers/writers for more storytelling.

If cannot raise enough for the museum inauguration, I will continue my fundraising efforts for a future trip where I will visit the museum and neighboring  towns and villages where my ancestors lived, collecting stories along the way. 

Thank you in advance for your donation! I will not be able to make this trip without your help.

Donors are invited to contact me at Stories From the Past, where I will happily and gratefully work with  you to put together your family story for publication on Stories From the Past, and possibly include it in the Raising Voices project.


Marianne Kwiatkowski-Yee
Covington, KY

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