Researching Shoah Family History

After the discovery of old photos, Meryl Frank set out to research her ancestry, crossing continents over seven years, culminating in her book Unearthed. She scoured the internet, visited international archives, interviewed survivors & scholars, and slept in her ancestral home.

As a child, Meryl Frank was the chosen inheritor of family remembrance. Her aunt Mollie, a formidable and cultured woman, insisted that Meryl never forget who they were, where they came from, and the hate that nearly destroyed them. Mollie told her about the city, the theater, and, above all, Meryl’s cousin, the radiant Franya Winter. The leading light of Vilna’s Yiddish theater, Franya, cast off the restrictions of her Hasidic family playing roles as prostitutes and bellhops, lovers and nuns. Yet there was one thing her aunt Mollie would never tell Meryl: how Franya died. Before Mollie passed away, she gave Meryl a Yiddish book containing the terrible answer but forbade her to read it. And for years, Meryl obeyed.

Unearthed is the story of Meryl’s search for Franya. Through archives across four continents, by way of chance encounters and miraculous discoveries, and eventually, guided by the shocking truth recorded in the pages of the forbidden book, Meryl conjures the rogue spirit of her cousin—her beauty and her tragedy. Meryl’s search reveals a lost world destroyed by hatred, illuminating the cultural haven of Vilna and its resistance during World War II. As she seeks to find her lost family legacy, Meryl looks for answers to the questions that have defined her life: what is our duty to the past? How do we honor such memories while keeping them from consuming us? And what do we teach our children about tragedy?

Meryl Frank is an international champion of women’s leadership, human rights, and political participation. She provides expert advice to women on effective communication, campaigning, constituent relations, and good governance, as well as strategic planning for effective policymaking. She is also a frequent speaker on gender, health, environment, and refugee issues worldwide. Frank was appointed as the United States Representative, and subsequently, as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women by President Barack Obama in February 2009.

Frank has served in the leadership of many national and international organization’s governing boards, including the President of American Jewish Congress – Women’s Division, Jewish Women International (JWI), and Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom. She was appointed by President Biden to the US Holocaust Memorial Council in May 2022 and the Board of YIVO in September 2022.

This will be a hybrid meeting. The program will take place in person at Knollwood Place Apartments, 3630 Phillips Pkwy, St. Louis Park, and also on-line via Zoom. For more information and to register go to

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December 3
1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
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Minnesota Jewish Geneological Society