Leo’s father, Adek*, was born on December 10, 1889, in Warsaw. His parents were Max (or Maks) Hurwicz and Sara Lea (or Sara Leja), whose maiden name was Frydland (also spelled Friedland).

As a student in Warsaw, Adek was involved in the political and social ferment building up to the Russian Revolution, and was even jailed briefly as a result of a student demonstration during the Revolution of 1905. (I remember him telling me that he shared a cell with a doctor who taught him how to fake heart problems to potentially get early release or be assigned to less onerous physical duties.) Adek’s leanings were towards the Menshevik revolutionary faction, as opposed to the Bolsheviks who ultimately dominated the Russian Revolution.

For three years, from about age 18-20, Adek attended the Sorbonne in Paris, where he got a degree in law. The picture below, on a postcard which he sent to relatives in 1910 just days after his twenty-first birthday, shows him already emanating the proud and authoritative, not to say formidable, spirit that he manifested all his life.

(The message that Adek wrote on the postcard, which is in Russian, is translated elsewhere on this page.)

When I was perhaps 19 or 20, I told Adek that I thought the definition of a true friend was someone I could talk to about whatever I was feeling. He was horrified. He said, “I have had many friends in my life, and I never felt any need to talk with them about my feelings!”

As Klara Samuels said of him (“God Does Play Dice,” p. 31), “Adek was a difficult man, loved but also feared in his home.” She also said, “Adek was by far the best-informed man I knew, perhaps because everything interested him.” She describes how, when she visited with her mother, he would invite her for a “promenade” in the hall, and how he would both learn from her and instruct her during these little walks. This was before World War II, so Klara would have been no more than 12 at the time.

Sol Kotzin had this memory relating to Adek:

The owner of the house, it was a Polish man, and he owned a big dog. They came over to us while we were eating cake that mother gave us, and the dog was waiting to get a piece of cake. The kids, who probably never saw a dog or knew how to handle a dog, began teasing the dog, and the dog grabbed for the cake and bit off part of my cheek. My mother called the doctor immediately, and the doctor was stitching it up. My cousin Adek was living in Ostrof at the time. He was married to Zina who was a teacher, and he was teaching, too. He held me and somebody asked me, did it hurt? And I said yeah, it hurt very much. They said well, why didn’t you cry? I said Adek told me not to cry. He was like the boss of the family. The way he was with me, that’s the kind of man he was. He told me not to cry, so I didn’t.

After returning from Paris, Adek could not practice law immediately.

As Leo explains, “At that time my father had a degree from the Sorbonne in law. I think he had also gone through a process of what I think is called ‘nostrification’ for practicing law in Russia.”

Henry, in his testimony for the Shoah Foundation, said that he thought Adek completed his legal education at the University of Kiev, in the Ukraine.

Continuing with Leo’s account: “But then he came to Poland, and that required another kind of validation. The process was really internship, two years of clerkship to a judge, and three years of internship or assistantship to an attorney. After each internship there were examinations, certainly oral but I think partly written. During this period he couldn’t support himself as a lawyer, so he was teaching history at a Jewish school, conducted in Polish, called chinuch [חינוך]. When we visited in Israel in 1966 on the way back from India, which is the first time that I was in Israel, I met some people who were my father’s students from chinuch. He was always interested in history, as I think is our family interest.”

Adek married Sophie “Zina” Salamon, perhaps around 1913 or 1914, after he completed all the requirements to practice law. They were brought together, Adek told me, by his alarm clock. Adek would set an alarm, but apparently it didn’t wake him up. However, it did rouse Zina, who would knock on his door, come in and turn off the alarm. Thus, they became acquainted. This was probably in Łomża, where Adek went on vacation, and where Zina’s father owned a mill. Perhaps the family rented a room to Adek?

Adek had a playful and humorous side that came out with us grandchildren. Even when he was supposedly being stern with us, he often did it with a half smile and in a language we didn’t understand – which somehow took most of the sting out of it. I remember him giving us money – I suppose on birthdays – probably just coins when we were very little, then bills when we were older. We didn’t see him often as children, since we were in Minneapolis and he and Zina were in Chicago.

He was also a raconteur, joke-teller, and often a charming and wonderful presence at a party or dinner. I have a picture of him after World War II in a club, and I can very much see that side of him in that picture.

* His given name was Adolf Abraham Hurwicz. As a child, I don’t remember being aware that his first name was “Adolf” or knowing that “Adek” was a nickname for Adolf. Even on official documents, I remember seeing “A. Abraham Hurwicz.”

(Click below to expand images.)

Adek had two brothers and four sisters. (Click here for a picture of the parents and sisters.) The brothers were Stefan (1887-1949) and Solomon (called “Monjo”). Monjo died in 1920 at around age 25, perhaps of encephalitis or meningitis. Stefan was the grandfather of Ari Kolbar, now living in Israel, in Tel Aviv. The sisters were Rachel (the oldest), Gala, Helen (“Helenka“) and Felicia. (See “First Hurwicz Family“.) There was also a sister, Dorothy or Dorotka, born before Rachel; but Dorothy died young,.
Adek’s family (including Zina) fled into Russia during World War I, likely around July 19, 1915, when the German army advanced to a position just west of Warsaw and the authorities called for a general evacuation. Early in 1919, as the war was winding down, Adek and Zina returned to Poland, with Leo, who had been born in Moscow. (It is reasonable to assume that Stefan returned with them or around the same time. However, Leo was not certain that Stefan was in Moscow with the rest of the family.) The rest of the family remained in Moscow, probably at least in part because conditions (later described by Leo as “marauding Bolsheviks”) made it dangerous for the girls to travel, and perhaps also because Max preferred to stay in Russia due to antisemitism in Poland. It must have been a difficult decision, since Russia’s economy was collapsing, with hyperinflation of the ruble bringing on a mostly-barter economy, and reduced agricultural output plus drought bringing widespread famine and an estimated 3 to 13 million deaths from starvation. Monjo also did not go back to Poland on a permanent basis. (He did return briefly to Poland as part of an Armistice Commission.) Then by the time it was safe to travel, the borders were closed and they could not leave Russia. When emigration was allowed from Russia in the 1970’s, Helenka came to the U.S. with her daughter, Svetlana (still living in St. Paul, Minnesota) and granddaughter, Masha (also in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, though not in touch with the family). They arrived in 1973.

In “God Does Play Dice,” (p. 17) Klara Samuels says, “In 1921, my father escaped from the continuing chaos in Russia and arrived in Warsaw with his mother, Keila*, and enough money for eight trips on the tram. His father had died sometime during World War I. Fortunately, his younger sister Zina and her husband, Adek Hurwicz, were by that time settled in an apartment and supported by Adek’s law practice. Zina was my father’s only full sister and much loved by him. Zina eventually became my favorite aunt, and both she and Adek would prove to be instrumental at many points in my life.”

(Klara’s father, Moses Salamon, was Zina’s brother. His wife, Roza, whose maiden name was Salman, was not with them, because Moses and Roza didn’t meet until 1924.)

On September 17, 1939, the Russians occupied Poland up to the Bug River. The next day, the Germans began shelling Warsaw. On September 27, Warsaw formally surrendered and the German army entered Warsaw.

Adek, Zina, Henry, Klara and Roza escaped in late October. Klara describes the beginning of the journey:

A truck pulled up in front of the house, and Adek, Henry, Zina, and my mother and I got in, each carrying a little suitcase. Last tearful kisses were exchanged with my father, as well as admonitions to be careful, all in a hurried manner since we were breaking the curfew. Then we were off.

Henry, on the other hand, said in his testimony for the Shoah Foundation:

So anyway he [Moses, Klara’s father] somehow arranged to get a taxi cab, a 1938 Chevy. And they had an exposition of them in Lake Arrowhead, and I was going to show it to Lois: it was right there, the same car.

Both descriptions have a specificity that lends credence to them. I believe that the version I heard accords with Klara’s description: that they were smuggled out in a truck, I believe a military truck of some sort. This also makes more sense to me, since they would be hidden in a truck, and a military truck would probably be allowed to break the curfew.

Moses remained behind in Warsaw temporarily, with the goal of smuggling their cash to Vilnius, Lithuania, which was the immediate destination envisioned by both the Salamon and the Hurwicz families. (Klara’s maternal grandfather, Isaac Salman, was in Vilnius, as well as “Uncle Solomon.” Because Vilnius had been recently returned to Lithuania by Russia, it was now “part of a non-Communist, neutral country, from which it might be possible to travel to Palestine or to America.” – God Does Play Dice, p. 50)

There were many difficulties, as one might expect, in getting from Warsaw into Russia in 1939. Their initial destination was Białystok, where they had relatives. (See “God Does Play Dice” for more information about this part of Adek’s life.)

They managed to get across the Bug near the village of Sarnaki. (Henry and Klara tell slightly different versions of an incident having to do with soap, which insured their safe passage across the Bug.)

After Białystok, Adek, Zina and Henry took a different paths from Klara and her mother and father.

Klara and her family hoped to get to Vilnius, in Lithuania, but this proved impossible.

As an interesting side note: Both Klara and Henry describe how the Russian authorities made people fill out a questionnaire and choose one of three options: 1) Return to the German-occupied zone in Poland, 2) leave Białystok and settle in a town of less than 100,000 people in western Belarus or Ukraine, or 3) go into Russia proper and work. Both Klara’s family and my family (Adek, Zina, Henry) chose to go back into German-occupied Poland. Although this seems crazy knowing what we do today, at the time nobody could forecast the Holocaust. In addition, they hoped to get to Vilnius before they could be deported back to Warsaw.

Henry explained that they didn’t want to go into Russia proper, because they felt they would get separated from Leo. And they didn’t want to live in a small town. “So you figure, well all right, maybe they’ll send us to a concentration camp or what, but we’re still going to be on the western side, not on the eastern side.”

Luckily for my family, the Soviets did not honor their request, and sent them to northern Russia instead. Klara’s family actually ended up changing their minds and accepting Russian passports, but then nevertheless did end up, of their own volition, going back to Warsaw, into the ghetto. Her book tells the rest of the story.

Adek, Zina and Henry spent the war years in Russia, first in Białystok, then under much harsher conditions, in northern Russia (not actually Siberia, though people telling the story sometimes referred to it that way). Klara Samuels describes (p. 63) how they came to be deported from Białystok to northern Russia in 1940. (At this point, Klara’s father was already in prison, and she and her mother were still in Białystok.)

“Early in the summer rumors about impending deportation to Siberia began to circulate. My mother and I took to spending the nights with local friends, while Adek scoffed at the danger. Finally one night the rumors came true.”

Soviet soldiers came came to the apartment and picked up Adek, Zina and Henry. Based on Adek’s description of the place they were taken to, I thought of it as a kind of “prison village.” Their huts were small and rustic. Food was not plentiful or good. I think it may have been Henry who told me that anyone in the village who had anything of value quickly traded it with some local peasant for food: A prisoner might trade a gold ring for an egg. Henry worked as a lumberjack, Zina as a telephone operator. There were many rules, including that you could not speak to more than a certain number of people (I think three) at a time. (The authorities didn’t want any leadership to develop among the prisoners.) On the other hand, in many ways, they were pretty much left to live their lives. Most of the time, they only occasionally saw guards circulating around the perimeter of the village on horseback.

The village was on Lake Lacha, near Kargopol. This table from Wikipedia shows what the weather there tends to be like. Not the sub-zero temperatures (Fahrenheit) that I think of when I hear the word “Siberia,” but still colder and snowier in the winter than Minneapolis, where I grew up – which means … too snowy and cold.

Climate data for Kargopol
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) −9
Daily mean °C (°F) −12
Average low °C (°F) −16
Average precipitation days 28 23 22 18 17 17 16 18 18 23 27 29 256
Source: Weatherbase[10]

Klara says (p. 74), “By now, we had heard from Zina and knew of her family’s hardships. When they got to Siberia, Adek was arrested for reasons unknown, and was sent to a prison camp there. [Actually, there was at least a suspected reason. More on this below.] Zina and Henry were free to arrange their own lives, but forbidden to leave the area–this was called free exile. Henry worked as a lumberjack and Zina had lost so much weight that one day her skirt fell off in spite of the string she kept it up with. She had to carry water to the hut they shared from one kilometer away. In the winter, the hut was so cold that her eyelids froze together at night. Food was hard to come by, and sanitary facilities non-existent. We did what we could, sending food, clothing and soap to them. Fortunately, after Germany went to war with Russia, their status changed abruptly from ‘hostile capitalists’ to ordinary people, and they were allowed to move to the Caucasus, where the climate was more benign. There Henry supported his mother by driving a truck. His love affair with automobiles dates from that time. Eventually, Adek was released from prison and joined them. They were able to get in touch with Adek’s sisters in Moscow and, through them, with their son Leo, already in America at that time. Right after the war, Leo was able to bring them to America.”

(Actually, Adek, Zina and Henry spent more than a year in the city of Łódź in Poland. See “A Postcard from Zina.”)

Clearly, living conditions in northern Russia were much more primitive and harsher than in Białystok, and they had no idea what the Soviets had in store for them next. They felt the move as a disaster. As it turned out, a year or so later, Białystok was occupied by the German Army (June 27, 1941, during the Battle of Białystok–Minsk). Until 1944, it was the capital of Bezirk Białystok, a region in German-occupied Poland. During that period, most of the Jews in Białystok perished at the hands of the Germans. So being deported to northern Russia was anything but a disaster: It probably saved their lives.

However, much worse was to come for Adek. One day, one of the prisoners started saying that there were so few guards, the prisoners could all just walk away from the village. Adek said that was ridiculous, that they were hundreds of miles from anywhere they might find shelter. A guard must have observed Adek addressing the small group that had gathered, because that evening the guards came to his hut and said that the commandant wanted to speak with him. As they started to take him away, Zina handed Adek his coat. The guard assured her that he would not need his coat, that he would be right back, but she insisted.

The guard’s assurance turned out to be quite false. Adek ended up in a labor camp near Archangel, close to the Arctic Sea. It was very much a dog-eat-dog place. For example, no prisoner had anything he would willingly part with. So two men would gamble for another man’s coat. Whichever one lost the bet had to try to get the coat and give it to the winner.

Any sign of weakness was a death sentence, since others would immediately start choosing you as their victim. This meant that Adek, who was five feet tall and an intellectual – not a muscle-builder – often had to fight, whether he wanted to or not.

An example: The inmates slept on wide planks, with several men on a plank. The best position was on the outside edge of a plank, where you had some freedom of movement, at least on one side. On one occasion, such a position opened up, and Adek claimed it.

Another prisoner, a huge, powerful man, demanded the spot. Adek wanted nothing more than to give it to him, but that would have been a sign of weakness. So he loudly refused. The big man basically picked Adek up and threw him across the room. But other inmates saw that Adek would put up a fight, no matter who his adversary might be.

I remember, when I was around 18 or 19, I was telling Adek that I thought a person could be happy under any circumstances, if they had the right attitude. He thought for a moment, then told me he didn’t remember seeing any happy people in that camp.

On the other hand, on another occasion after Adek had described his time in the camp a little bit to me, I said, “That must have been the worst time of your life.” He answered quickly, “The worst problems are always the ones you have right now.”

Though these labor camps in northern Russia were not death camps (prisoners were not deliberately killed in large numbers), the conditions were harsh, the work dangerous (often felling trees, though in Adek’s case, perhaps because of his age, he was given the job of straightening nails), shelter minimal and food inadequate. About a third of the prisoners in these camps died every year.

Looking up weather statistics for Archangel, I find that average highs in January are around 15°F, average lows around 3°F. Lows of -20°F are not unknown. However, Archangel is near the water, which moderates its climate. The U.S. Army “Survival Handbook” says this about the subarctic climate of that region as a whole: “Subarctic summers are short with temperatures ranging above 50°F, and occasionally reaching 100°F. Subarctic winters are the coldest in the Northern Hemisphere, ranging to extremes from -60°F to -80°F in North America and even lower in Siberia.”

During this time, Adek started smoking again. He had quit because of a promise he made to his father on his deathbed. (At least, I thought I had been told this. Now it occurs to me that Max died in Moscow in 1927, and Adek would have been in Warsaw at the time. Perhaps Max expressed this wish as he died and others passed it on to Adek? Or I may have unknowingly added the “deathbed” part myself.) In any case, Adek considered that he was almost sure to die in the camp eventually: Smoking would make no difference.

Then, on June 22, 1941, the Axis invaded Russia. Adek had been in the camp about a year. He weighed 89 pounds. I saw the ID that was issued to him at that time: His face is sunken, skeletal. I remember Svetlana looking at this picture, nodding her head, and saying, “Yes, he looks like a Zek.” (Zek is Russian slang for forced labor camp inmate.)

Here’s a description by someone who saw a train full of Zeks:

“There was not a normal looking face to be seen. They were either very thin, the colour and texture of yellow parchment, or bloated and shapeless like the face of a drowned man. Their eyes were sunken and either completely lifeless or glowing feverishly. They all looked old and shrivelled although some of them, at least, must have been young.”
(From the “The Unsettled Account,” by Eugenia Huntingdon, p. 196)

Adek was only about 52, but he looked 80.

Russia wanted the help of the Polish Army (much of which had fled into Russia and ended up in some form of detention) to fight the invading Germans. The Polish government in exile agreed to help, but one of the conditions was that all Poles be freed from the camps.

Adek wanted to go south, of course, but it wasn’t safe to go due south. The Germans invasion was rolling quickly eastward, so Adek went southeast, ending up in Fergana, Uzbekistan, a distance of about 4500 kilometers (2800 miles). (See map below.)

During that whole journey, the only provisions he had with him was a bag of dried olives. He had very little money and couldn’t afford much. He chose the dried olives because it was so unappetizing that he thought no one would bother to attack him for it.

In Fergana, he didn’t have money for food or lodging. He was standing on the street corner and made a motion to a passerby asking if he could spare a cigarette. The passerby approached him, stared at him, and then addressed him by a respectful Polish term of address used when addressing an attorney. (I made an unsuccessful attempt to find out what this term might have been.) It turned out the passerby was one of his law clerks.

The law clerk took him in, fed him, and basically nursed him back to health. He also gave him money to send a telegram to Leo in Chicago asking “Where is Zina?”

It turned out that when Zina and Henry were released, they were able to head south to Georgia, in the Caucasus, then a part of the Soviet Union, near the Black Sea. Eventually, Adek was able to rejoin them in Kutaisi, Georgia, a journey of around 3800 kilometers – over 2300 miles. (See map below.)

Henry says in his testimony for the Shoah Foundation: “We eventually went to Kutaisi and we sent a postcard to my brother in Chicago – who ended up in Chicago – he didn’t come to Warsaw. He ended up in Portugal and he went by boat from Portugal to United States, and he stayed with our cousins in Chicago. We sent a postcard to him; my father sent a telegram from Fergána which I think is Kazakhstan [actually Uzbekistan] to him and then we got the telegrams and we sort of found where we were, and eventually he came to go to Kutaisi.”

Adek taught French in a teachers’ institute. Henry, however, was the main support of the family. After a number of other jobs, he eventually got a job as an assistant truck driver. Although the pay for truck-driving was not great, he also served as an informal bus service. Fuel was scarce and expensive, so people were often hitchhiking instead of driving. In his testimony, he particularly mentions transporting peasants who made a certain kind of excellent wine. (“French carafe”? I have confirmed that Georgia is famous for its wines, but have not determined what “French carafe” might refer to.) Henry would pick them up and they would give him a little money, some of which he would pass on to the truck driver he was assisting. The police also got a cut.

Henry also says, “When my father finally came back, he actually became a delegate of the Polish government for Georgia. Because by that time we were presumably friends again, okay? That really wasn’t very good for me because then they became not such friends of Poland, so they called me from work to the – not the police, the militia – and they started interrogating me. It wasn’t a colonel or maybe it was an NKVD general. GPO – that’s just like Gestapo, okay?”

This was near the end of the war, perhaps Spring of 1945. The Russian authorities wanted Henry to take a Russian passport, but he said he didn’t want a Russian passport and refused to sign anything. He insisted he was a Polish citizen. They also wanted to put on the passport that he was a Polish Jew, but he refused to say he was Jewish. He said he had no religion. They asked his father’s religion. He said his father had no religion (emphatically true) and his grandfather had no religion (probably also true).

I remember my father mentioning this episode to me. He told me that the interrogators told Henry that Adek had accepted a Russian passport, but that Henry knew that Adek would never do that. My dad also told me that this interrogation inspired them to leave Russia as quickly as possible, since they were afraid that ultimately, if the Russians wanted to find a way to force them into Russian citizenship and thus ultimately keep them in Russia, they would find a way. The family was particularly determined not to stay in Russia, because they feared that if they did they would never see Leo again.

In any case, they did give Henry a Russian passport, and he travelled by train with a friend back to Poland. He initially ended up in Równo, in the north of Poland. (There is a map of this journey of over 4,000 kilometers here.)

Eventually, however, the family (Adek, Zina and Henry) settled in Łódź, Poland, until they were able to emigrate to the U.S. in 1947.

They may have chosen Łódź because it was a city that sustained relatively little damage during the war. It was a popular destination at that time according to Wikipedia:

At the end of World War II, Łódź had fewer than 300,000 inhabitants. However the number began to grow as refugees from Warsaw and territories annexed by the Soviet Union migrated. Until 1948 the city served as a de facto capital of Poland, since events during and after the Warsaw Uprising had thoroughly destroyed Warsaw, and most of the government and country administration resided in Łódź.

The collection of Leo’s papers at Duke University includes correspondence, most of it in Polish, between Leo and his family. The collection also includes a postcard from Łódź, written in English by Zina in September, 1945.

In his testimony for the Shoah Foundation, Henry describes a train journey taken without his parents, which ends up in Łódź. It seems that he went to Łódź first and his parents joined him there. He seems to have been living separately from his parents in Łódź: “And I think we went to Łódź and there were some people we were very friendly with in Kutaisi, so I stayed with them.” (Notice “I” — not “we”.) That arrangement ended when the fellow Henry was living with fell in love and got married. Henry then moved in with a friend, Edgar Aftergood. Henry also attended school in Łódź, including the University and the Polytechnical Institute, which was temporarily in Łódź before moving back to Warsaw. His studies may explain why Henry stayed in Europe longer than his parents.

Adek and Zina came to the United States, sailing from Gothenburg, Sweden, on a ship named Gripsholm, on January 31, 1947, arriving via Ellis Island. Zina is on the passenger listing as “Zofia”.

Click here to see a letter from the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in Poland to the JDC in Stockholm, asking for Swedish transit visas, so that they could board the ship.

Although the JDC was making arrangements for all three of them, Henry actually came later in the year, on an American ship named Marine Tiger, sailing from Le Havre on September 25, 1947, also arriving at Ellis Island.

I was told that at some point, while separated from his family, Adek made a vow that if he ever saw his whole family alive again, he would stop smoking. To whom or what he made this vow is unclear, since Adek was a devout atheist. Nevertheless, the story as I had it my head, was that when, from the deck of the boat, he saw Leo on the dock, he crumpled up the pack of cigarettes in his pocket, threw it overboard, and never smoked again.  However, as I investigate the process at Ellis Island, I don’t think that relatives could wait on a dock.  Instead, the immigrants went through a lengthy process, after which they reunited with their relatives inside the Great Hall.  Nevertheless, I do believe that Adek made that vow and did stop smoking.  Perhaps he discarded his cigarettes in a waste basket in the Great Hall?

They came initially to Ames, Iowa, where Leo was an associate professor at Iowa State College (now Iowa State University).

Leo went to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in 1949, but stayed only two years: He resigned in 1951 in protest over McCarthyite persecution of a dean at the University. Leo ended up going to the University of Minnesota, where he remained for 50+ years. Adek went to Chicago, where he had obtained a position teaching Russian language and literature at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Above: Adek’s listing in the Roosevelt University Faculty Directory (p. 32) – click to enlarge

Considering his age (58), Adek integrated quickly and well into American society, getting the position at Roosevelt and teaching there and living independently for the next 20 years or so. I was told that he was fiercely determined to learn English. When he first came, I believe all he could say was, “Thank you very much, you are very kind.” But apparently at first he refused to speak anything but English (even though of course Polish was much easier when communicating with Leo). In later years, he did use Polish when he didn’t want us kids to know what he was saying to Leo, and sometimes when he was cursing. When speaking English, he had a thicker accent than my father, but his English was excellent, all things considered.

In many ways, however, he never adjusted to “modern” life in America. For instance, I don’t think he ever learned to drive. Even in Poland, he was not known as a “hands on” guy. Henry notes, for instance, that he did not know how to cook or make a bed.

I’m not sure how comfortable he ever got with technology. There Is a story from when Adek first moved to Chicago: My parents bought him a record player and unpacked it for him, but for some reason did not stay to actually get it working. Several days later, they called him from Minneapolis and asked him how he was enjoying his new record player. He told them he had not used it yet. The reason: The cord didn’t reach the outlet.

The picture below shows Zina, Adek, Sarah and me in Minneapolis, June 20, 1953, probably in front of the Hurwicz family home at 1054 14th Avenue SE.

I believe in the early 70’s (best guess: 1972, based on the fact that the Roosevelt University staff directory lists him as emeritus starting in 1973) Adek accidentally combined medications that should not have been combined, and ended up in a coma in his apartment in Chicago for two days. Luckily, a friend became concerned and found him before it was too late. He was brought to Minneapolis, where he was hospitalized for an extended period of time.

I remember holding his arm so he wouldn’t fall as he walked around the hospital. He was very weak from not having walked for a long time, but he was determined to get his mobility back, which he did. He recovered but never moved back to Chicago. Initially, he stayed with Leo and Evelyn, then got his own apartment not far from them. **

Adek had been bar mitzvahed, but he was not at all religious. Neither Leo nor Henry was bar mitzvahed. In Poland, the Hurwicz family did celebrate Passover every year (though according to Henry they always went to relatives) and there was a tradition that there had been 14 generations of rabbis in the family, but really Leo’s nuclear family was pretty much indifferent to anything religious. However, when he came to the United States, Leo decided (perhaps encouraged by Evelyn?) that he did not want to let Jewish traditions die out entirely, and he got a book titled “Your Neighbor Celebrates” to learn how to celebrate Passover and Hanukkah. When Adek was in Minneapolis, either visiting or after he moved there, he was naturally invited. However, having been raised with these ceremonies, he knew – particularly as regards Passover – that Leo was not doing it right! So he took over. His Hebrew was excellent, and he could rattle off prayers and texts at high speed. Both he and Leo were, of course, interested in the historical aspects of these traditions.

Adek died on August 1, 1981, in Minneapolis, at the age of 91.

* “Keila” is spelled “Kejla” in the family tree below.

** Leo and Evelyn were at 3710 Thomas Avenue South, just south of Lake Calhoun. Adek and Helenka were at 3421 Dupont Avenue South (as shown on Adek’s death certificate), around a mile and a half east of Thomas Avenue and just a few blocks north. The building was owned by a Jewish relief agency of some sort, so they got reduced rent there. (I lived in Minneapolis from around 1969-1975, and again from 1980-1985, and visited both the Thomas Avenue house and the apartment house where Adek and Helenka resided many times.)

Adolf Abraham (Adek) Hurwicz
b: 10 DEC 1889
d: 4 AUG 1981
  • 10 DEC 1889 - Birth - ; Warsaw
  • 4 AUG 1981 - Death - Y ; Minneapolis, MN
Tobiasz Tuvya Kocyn Kotzin
1831 - May 7, 1874
Maks Mojzesz Hurwicz
1862 - March 7, 1927
Adolf Abraham (Adek) Hurwicz
10 DEC 1889 - 4 AUG 1981
Sara Lea Frydland
1862 - May 6, 1934
Family Group Sheet - Child
PARENT (M) Maks Mojzesz Hurwicz
Birth1862Shavlany, Lithuania
DeathMarch 7, 1927 Moscow
Marriageto Sara Lea Frydland
FatherTobiasz Tuvya Kocyn Kotzin
MotherElka Razajczyk
PARENT (F) Sara Lea Frydland
DeathMay 6, 1934 Moscow, Russia
Marriageto Maks Mojzesz Hurwicz
FatherCheskel Frydland
MotherMiriam Batszeva Kocyn
MTobjasz Stefan Hurwicz
Birth22 AUG 1887Poland
Death13 SEP 1949Warszawa, Poland
Marriageto Chaja Ejdla - Helena Minc
MAdolf Abraham (Adek) Hurwicz
Birth10 DEC 1889Warsaw
Death4 AUG 1981Minneapolis, MN
Marriageto Sophie Zina Salamon
MSolomon Monjo Hurwicz
FDwojra Dora Hurwicz
Marriageto Nachum Zacharin
FRachela Raya Hurwicz
Marriageto Naum
FHelen Hurwicz
Birth9 MAY 1905Poland
Death6 MAR 1998Minneapolis, MN
Marriageto Shura Shavzin
FFelicia Hurwicz
Marriageto Yakov Abramson
Family Group Sheet - Spouse
PARENT (M) Adolf Abraham (Adek) Hurwicz
Birth10 DEC 1889Warsaw
Death4 AUG 1981 Minneapolis, MN
Marriageto Sophie Zina Salamon
FatherMaks Mojzesz Hurwicz
MotherSara Lea Frydland
PARENT (F) Sophie Zina Salamon
BirthJune 12, 1893Stawiski, Poland
DeathFebruary, 1956 Chicago, Illinois
Marriageto Adolf Abraham (Adek) Hurwicz
FatherSchlomo Lazar Salamon
MotherKejla Kacanowska
MHenry Hurwicz
Marriageto ?
Marriageto Lois (Kohout) Hurwicz
MLeo Leonid Hurwicz
Birth21 AUG 1917Moscow, Russia
Death24 JUN 2008Minneapolis, Minnesota
Marriageto Evelyn Jensen
Descendancy Chart
Adolf Abraham (Adek) Hurwicz b: 10 DEC 1889 d: 4 AUG 1981
Sophie Zina Salamon b: June 12, 1893 d: February, 1956
Henry Hurwicz b: 1922 d: 2010
Leo Leonid Hurwicz b: 21 AUG 1917 d: 24 JUN 2008
Evelyn Jensen b: 31 OCT 1923 d: 22 NOV 2016
Ruth Hurwicz b: 25 MAY 1951
Prof. David Markovitz b: 25 FEB 1954
Lara Markovitz b: 1983
Adam Markovitz b: 13 FEB 1987
Michael Mike Hurwicz b: 18 JAN 1949
Linda Cheryl Bryant b: 2-8-53
Maxim Hurwicz b: 5 SEP 1953
Roxanne Blanco b: 14 Jun 1959
Roxanne Blanco b: 14 Jun 1959
Nicole Blanco-Hurwicz b: 13 Nov 1982
Sarah Hurwicz b: 7 DEC 1946
Jon Kogut b: 17 MAY 1945
Sophie Kogut b: 23 AUG 1967
Brian Ashley Judd b: 5 JAN 1968
I am indebted to Zina Santing, a first cousin of Ari Kolbar from his father’s side, for helping with the meaning of the postcard shown on this page. I take responsibility for any errors in the way that meaning is expressed. Thanks also to my cousin Ari Kolbar for serving as an intermediary between myself and Zina.

The postcard, dated December 14, 1910, was written in Russian by Adek, near the end of his law studies in Paris.

Why was the postcard is Russian? Probably because the people he was writing to lived in Belarus, which at that time was under the control of Russia, which had a policy of suppressing national languages and identities other than Russian. Anna Abramovna, mentioned at the end of the postcard, was the wife of Favii (Fabian) Kagan-Szabszaj (?). Anna and Favii were the parents of Sophia Fabiovna Kagan-Szabszaj, who married Boris Friedland, the son of Chaskel Friedland and Mere-sheva Kotzin. Boris was a “provizor” (pharmacist, with a degree from the University of Warsaw) in Szkłów (or Shklow) in the Mohilevska Gubernia (or Mogilev region) of Belarus. Boris and Sophia had two sons: Misza (or Misha) and Adolph (also called Adia, but referred to here as Adelka, probably a diminutive). [All this is based on information that Adek Hurwicz shared with Leo Hurwicz. It also appears to be consistent with information on p. 8 of “20 years of Kotzin Genealogy Research.”]

My father and grandfather communicated occasionally in Polish, but not that I recall in Russian. For instance, I remember Adek and Leo using Polish when they were arguing or exchanging heated words. I actually learned a few words of Polish in this way, include “tak” (yes) and “tatusiu” (dad). I also remember Adek using the Polish expletive “Psa krev” (literally “dog’s blood”). Leo also said that the family spoke “with the same ease Russian and Polish” and in some cases Lithuanian. (See interview.)

However, at the time that Adek wrote this postcard, Poland had not existed as a separate political entity since 1795. It had been entirely annexed to Russia for well over a hundred years, and would not regain its status as a separate country until after World War I.

“The Austrian, German and Russian administrations exerted much pressure on the Polish nation (during the 19th and early 20th centuries) following the Partitions of Poland, which resulted in attempts to suppress the Polish language …” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_language)

So it may be that the family in Belarus spoke Russian even at home. Or perhaps it was safer to use Russian in correspondence that might be seen by the authorities?


Here is the meaning of the postcard:

Paris, 14/12-1910

My dears,

Here is the third year and possibly the last year of (my) being in Paris. As you already know I am studying at the law school (a three-year program), so I finished (my) education this year. I have a lot of work to do in comparison with the previous time, but there is no danger of fatigue. I spend my time quite monotonously. Most of the day I spend in the library. I attend lectures in the morning. Now I have a Christmas vacation, which means that I can get up about 2-3 hours later. In general, I feel very good. Please write me, how are you, how are doing? Do you have any news? How is Adelka, his brother Misha? I have not received any news from you for a long time. Do not be frugal this time … write at least some words. I wish you health and my respects to (literally “bow from me”) Anna Abramovna. Yours Adec.

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