It is because of the devotion of Sylvia Cysner to the memory of her long deceased husband, Joseph Cysner, that his remarkable story of survival was saved. I cannot relate any part of this odyssey without acknowledging her role in its preservation. Sylvia and Joseph were born and raised in the same German town of Bamberg before WWII. When he left Bamberg to pursue his cantorial education, she was a young school girl. It was over 15 years before they reunited and married in San Francisco in 1948. After moving to San Diego in 1951, they had merely a short 10 years together before his sudden death in 1961. His office in their home remained virtually untouched for over 40 years, until Sylvia moved to Los Angeles to be closer to her children. When she donated her husband's papers to the Jewish Historical Society of San Diego in 2003, I began the archival tasks of organizing and preserving the precious documents. I discovered that they contained a unique story of rescue and survival, a valuable contribution to Holocaust studies. I am grateful to Sylvia for her willingness to let me delve further into the story of her husband's life, but above all, I am grateful for her friendship and the association we have enjoyed. Her own remarkable story of survival during the pogrom of Kristallnacht and her escape from Nazi Germany will be preserved on this website as a transcript of an oral history I began conducting with her in 2004. Please follow the links below for more on the life stories of Joseph and Sylvia Cysner.
Click Here to Read "Sylvia Cysner Survivor," a composite of her life's story taken from oral interviews conducted in January 2004 and January 2007.
Sylvia Cysner past away February 25, 2007, after struggling to recover from a series of heart attacks just a matter of days after our last interview in late January 2007. I shall miss her very much and I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to know her and love her, and most of all to have been loved by her.
Click here to read Cantor Cysner's Story--->"From Zbaszyn to Manila"<.--This paper is a composite of two research papers I wrote for course work at UC Santa Barbara. It is a pre-dissertation paper, which will be expanded into a full dissertation. My special thanks to my dissertation advisor, Prof. Harold Marcuse, for posting it on his website.
Click here to view ---> MTSU Conference Paper "Zbaszyn"<.--- in Power Point.
This is the power point presentation I made at the Holocaust Educators Conference held at MTSU on November 7, 2007. You can download this power point presentation for viewing. Enable your sound so you can hear my narration.
Joseph P. Cysner may be the only individual of WWII to have survived both Nazi imprisonment at Zbaszyn and Japanese internment at Santo Tomas and lived to tell about them both. Cantor Cysner was part of the Zbaszyn Deportation, also known as the Polenaktion, of October 1938, when the Nazis forced 17,000 Polish Jews across the border back into Poland at gunpoint. The event precipitated Kristallnacht, The Night of Broken Glass, when the Gryznspan Family shared the horrors of their forced exodus and encampment at Zbaszyn in a postcard to their son Herschel in Paris, who in a distraught frame of mind, shot and killed the German consul in Paris as retaliation. Cantor Cysner recorded the events of that mass deportation in a memoir he wrote while in Zbaszyn. The memoir also records how he received a telegram from Manila in The Philippines, asking him to serve as cantor for the ever growing Jewish Community of Manila that was rescuing German refugee Jews at the time. Cantor Cysner's escape to Manila in April 1939 took a startling turn in January 1942 when he and all other "civilian alien" residents of The Philippines, who held passports from countries at war with Japan and Germany, were forcibly interned at Santo Tomas University by the Japanese. While some other Jewish refugees who came to Manila had experienced Nazi imprisonment in Germany, they held German passports and were not regarded by the Japanese as enemy civilians. But Cantor Cysner had a Polish passport and once again he found himself imprisoned by a brutal enemy. My PhD research into Cysner's remarkable odyssey, along with an in depth examination of the Jewish Community of Manila and its rescue of German refugee Jews, is scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2008. The last 3 years have been devoted to travel, research, and documentation of Cantor Cysner's cyclical episodes of imprisonment and deliverance as his story played out against the backdrop of the plight of Europe's refugee Jews; the Zbaszyn Deportation and Detention; the Diaspora of German Jewry; successes and failures of Jewish rescue internationally; the Jewish Community of Manila as an American Holocaust Haven; Japanese imprisonment of civilians at Santo Tomas; and the fate of post war Jewish displaced persons, even in the Philippines. (picture courtesy of the JHSSD Archives)