I first became aware of the Austrian branch of the Schmatnik family courtesy of a member of the Czernowitz-Ehpes research listserv.

In 2016 I reached out to the new-to-me-then list in an email,  explaining my relation to Czernowitz and my search for surviving cousins. I was pleased to get several kind responses from distinguished list members.

The very first response I received was from Professor Benjamin Grilj, of the  Institute for Jewish History in Austria. I was very lucky, as Prof Grilj is a scholar on antisemitism and the Holocaust focused specifically on Czernowitz and the Bukovina region.

Prof Grilj recommended I extend my search beyond Bukovina as he knew of a Mordechai Schmatnick, son of Joel and Schlima who lived in St. Polten, Austria, fifty miles from Vienna.

Max Ahron Schmatnik

Mordechai is my great-uncle, born Max Ahron Schmatnik on June 7th, 1890. His father Joel Schmatnik was a merchant, who later owned Galanterie Schmatnik, a dry goods store located on General Zadik #4 in Czernowitz.

In the 1890s,  Joel and wife Schlima Apfel were a young couple living at House #232 in Sadagora, just north of Czernowitz, and Max was their first child. Shortly, Schlima died of dystentery. Joel, a 24-year old widow, soon married Rosa Ohlgiesser or Engler, who was just twenty-two in 1892, and the couple had eight more children, half siblings to Max Ahron, including my grandfather, Samuel. Max is my great-uncle.

St. Polten, Austria

Part of St. Polten is built over the site of the ancient Roman city of Aelium Cetium. The name of the town is derived from Hippolytus of Rome – then Sankt Hippolyt, evolving eventually into the name St. Polten. Starting in February 1941, after Austria was annexed to Nazi Germany, deportations of the Jews of St. Polten to transit and concentration camps began. After the Holocaust, the majority of the former residents emigrated to Palestine. Three families returned to the town and recovered as much of their property as possible.  To learn more about the Jews of St. Polten, visit www.juden-in-st-poelten.at Wikipedia will give you many important facts on the history of the town plus some very minor details, such as the fact that a twin city of St. Polten is Altoona, Pennsylvania. However,  the Wikipedia entry makes no mention of the large Jewish community that once existed in St. Polten.

Mordko Schmatnick and Ernestine Rosenstingl

On April 18, 1915, Max aka Mordko A Schmatnik married Ernestine Rosenstingl / Rosensthangl (b. 13 Sep 1895)  in Vienna, about 50 miles from St. Polten. Ernestine was the daughter of Moritz Rozenshtingel and Zäzilie Löwinger. Their address in Vienna was Nussdorferstrasse 4, now the site of a maternity store called “Be Mom”, and a tobacco shop (click here to view on Google Maps).

It is unknown to me when the family located in St. Polten, but both of their children were born there, Elfriede in 1915 and Leopold in 1919.

Asset Transfer and Deportation to Opole

On April 26th, 1938, Max’s name appears on a list of victims of the Holocaust whose property was seized by the Assets Transfer Office of the Nazi-era Ministry of Commerce and Transportation. This document requires all Jewish citizens in Vienna to report their total domestic and foreign assets exceeding 50k RKKS.

Three weeks later the transfer of these assets to Aryans began.   (view list description at USHMM).

Jews had to move to Vienna, where deportations began. I believe that at this point Mordko and Ernestine doubled up with other relatives in their Vienna address, as four different Schmatnik relatives listed Max’s Vienna address as their own on the deportation lists.

Eichmann’s Deportation Map – on display at the Vienna Jewish Museum

In February 1941, Mordko was deported to Opole, with wife Ernestine. According to the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance www.doew.at, there were two deportation transports with 2,003 Jewish men, women, and children that left the Viennese Aspang station with the destination of Opole, a small town south of Lublin.

The Memento Vienna website reports of this transport, “On February 15 and 26, 1941, two deportation transports with 2,003 Jewish men, women, and children left the Viennese Aspang station with the destination of Opole, a small town south of Lublin. Opole had a traditional Jewish community, at the beginning of the war lived here about 4,000 Jews, which corresponded to a Jewish population share of almost 70 percent, a proportion that increased after the war by forced immigrants from other parts of Poland on.

By March 1941, about 8,000 Jews had been deported to the ghetto, now in Opole. The accommodation of the new arrivals took place partly with local Jews, partly in mass neighborhoods such as a synagogue and in newly erected barracks.

In the ghetto, the freedom of movement of the inmates was not restricted, there were no barriers, but leaving Opoles was prohibited without official approval on sensitive penalties. The control of the ghetto took over the security service of the SS (SD), gendarmerie and, according to testimonies to close, also German Wehrmacht members. In terms of subsistence, the ghetto inhabitants were essentially dependent on themselves. As of May 1941, about 800 able-bodied men were used for forced labor in Deblin.

Already in the spring of 1942 began the liquidation of the ghetto of Opole. On March 31, 1942, a transport to the Belzec extermination camp took off, and in May and October 1942, deportations to the Sobibor extermination camp followed.

Of the 2,003 Viennese Jews, 28 survivors are known.

Yad Vashem testimonials report that Max died at Auschwitz.

Max and Anna’s children, Leopold Jude Schmatnik and Elfriede Shulamith Schmatnik Neumark emigrated to Israel.

Sabina + Daughter Transport to Riga

There were two other Schmatnik relatives in their home at Nussdorferstrasse 4 along with several other citizens — Max’s sister Sabina / Schewe Slata – aged 42 at the time, and her daughter Malka or Malvina, aged about 20 at the time.  Malvine and Sabina were both deported to Riga in Transport #16 from Vienna to Riga, Latvia on February 6th, 1942.  Sabina was married to a Schmatnik cousin named Sigmund who was born in Sulica, Romania. Later, Sabina died at Auschwitz.

The Memento Vienna website reports of this tranport “On December 3, 1941, on January 11 and 26, and on February 6, 1942, transports with a total of 4,200 Jews left Austria and reached Riga after an eight-day journey. The deportees were sent to the ghetto or forced to work in the Salaspils camp. Due to the terrible living conditions, the mortality rate of interned in the ghetto victims, especially in weakened people, but especially in older people and children rose sharply. When in February 1942 the last transport from Vienna to Riga arrived, at the reception at the Skirotava station those trucks, to whom the mile-long march to the ghetto seemed too cumbersome, were lorries – in fact they were camouflaged “gas cars” – for driving into the ghetto offered. Of the 1,000 deportees from Vienna, only 300 people reached the ghetto on foot.

Only about 800 of the 20,000 men, women and children deported to Riga survived the selections, the ghetto and the various concentration camps, including about 100 Austrian Jews.”

Memorial in Vienna

In 2021 the first public memorial listing the local victims of the Holocaust was created. Among the names are Josef and Emanuel Rosenstingl. Photo courtesy Josef’s grandson Thomas Nagata.