Alti Rodal:

I was born in Czernowitz in October 1944, where my parents spent only one year after surviving the camps in Transnistria.  They then moved to Suceava (Roumania) where we lived until 1950, when we immigrated to Israel, and then to Canada in 1954, encouraged by siblings of my parents.

I grew up speaking Yiddish and Hebrew, and received my early education in Israel.  I have a degree in French literature from McGill University and a graduate degree in Jewish history from Oxford University.  My professional experience includes university teaching in Jewish history (eight years full-time at Concordia University in Montreal and part-time at universities in Ottawa), research, writing, and varied work for the Canadian government, including several commissions of inquiry.  I was director of historical research for the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals in Canada (the Deschnes Commission) in the late 1980s and authored the report "Nazi War
Criminals in Canada: The Historical and Policy Setting from the 1940s to the Present" (the Rodal Report).  I am currently working with the internal consulting group in the federal government of Canada, evaluating programs offered by various government organizations and providing advice on collaborative arrangements with the private and not-for-profit sectors.

In the summer of 2001, I returned to Czernowitz for the first time on a project sponsored by the Ottawa Jewish Genealogical Society to digitally record the tombstones (of which there are some 55,000) in the Czernowitz Jewish cemetery. Over a period of six weeks, I was also able to find and photocopy all the burial registries for the cemetery, and as many of you may know, these have now been entered into a database and work is under way to match the burial registry names with the digital images of the monuments.

The six-week experience in Bukovina was many faceted, intense and emotionally overwhelming  I described it in some detail in an article I wrote in 2002 for Avotaynu, the magazine on Jewish genealogy (Bukovina Cemeteries, Archives and Oral History).  The journey also turned out to be a personal pilgrimage to two small adjoining villages, Kisilev and Borivtsi, located about 38 km northwest of Czernowitz, where both my parents were born and where most members of their families were massacred by local Nazi collaborators in July 1941. 

Within a half hour of arriving in the villages, 60 years after these terrible events, I was quite shaken when I was led by a local woman to a small valley that is the site of two unmarked mass graves, where lie three of my grandparents and many other members of my family.  Over the next five weeks, I re-visited the villages a number of times with a view to somehow marking the site of the mass graves and learning what I could about both the 1941 events and prewar life of the family I never knew.

In the course of these visits, I video-taped several elderly local people who were eyewitnesses to the 1941 round-ups and massacres, some of whom remembered my family.  Before returning to Canada, I managed (with the help of Rabbi Kofmansky of Czernowitz), to put up a monument at the site of the mass graves, in the presence of the local mayor and villagers.

My maiden name is Feder-Prostak.  Other names in the family are Preminger and Vidman.  I greatly appreciate the Cz-List and highly commend Bruce Reisch and Jerome Schatten for their excellent work as facilitators/moderators.  I would also like to commend Mimi Taylor for taking a leadership role in advancing a clean-up and restoration of the cemetery  I would have liked to (but was not able to) participate in the recent reunion-trip, walk through the streets of Czernowitz in the company of people who have lived there, and meet some of you in person.  I still look forward to meeting some of you on other occasions, and, in the meantime, to see photos from the trip and read your stories.